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The Thorns of Life

Title: The Thorns of Life
Materials: Digital painting
Artwork by: Jessica Wang
Description: Have you ever felt far away from God’s love? Sometimes as humans, we can easily feel locked up in all thorns and difficulties of this life that we forget about God, who is our Friend. We forget His unique love for us.

 

When we are going through trials in our lives, we may feel stuck, lost and alone. However, He is with us; in fact, He is closer than ever. Although we may not see Him physically, His presence is always with our lonely souls as we struggle in this world. Every day, He waits patiently for us to see Him and turn to Him.

 

Life can be likened to a rose. It is beautiful to look at but has thorns that can prick us. Such thorns are like the struggles and difficulties that God allows us to go through. But thorns have their unique purpose—to prevent the rose from being harmed. In the same way, God uses our difficult circumstances to protect us by strengthening our faith and helping us grow.

I am Loved, Really?

Written By Jacelyn C, Singapore

“Useless.” “Stupid.” “Good-for-nothing.” These are words and phrases some of us may identify with. Even though I know that I am a child of God, there are times I still label myself with these words.

I’ve always struggled with viewing myself as someone who is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. When I look at myself, I am reminded that I can never be like my friends. Compared to my fashionably dressed peers, I dress and look like a prepubescent child. And with my sub-par grades, it never fails to amaze me how I managed to scrape through Singapore’s grueling education system.

As I began university, my fears were amplified. Will I be able to make friends? Will anyone accept me for who I am? Will I be able to cope with the academic rigor of university? I shared with one of my close friends that I was fearful and anxious about starting university, and we had a meaningful talk.

But instead of being thankful for the friendship we shared, I found myself doubting if my friend really cared about me as I lay on my bed that night. I am so stupid and ugly. I do not deserve her love and attention.

I regretted being honest and vulnerable with her. What if she didn’t really want to meet me in the first place but was just too polite to turn me down? I was so afraid that she would reject me, thinking that I’m a loser. What if she makes better friends in university and decides that she no longer wants to be my friend?

I struggle to see why others would befriend and want to hang out with me. It’s not like I have a good fashion sense and can provide tips in that aspect. My grades are not stellar, so I am not a useful friend to seek academic advice from. Such insecure thoughts filled my mind that night.

I tossed and turned, struggling to fall asleep. Eventually, I gave up; I needed to occupy my mind with something. My Bible study homework seemed like a pretty good idea since I was lagging behind.

The passage that day was Ephesians 3:14-21, and it spoke of God’s love—that Christ did not come just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. His love was for all, whether Jew or Gentile.

When I read it, it immediately struck me: I am loved. It’s not that I didn’t know that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. However, this reminder from God to me—a broken, insecure and crying young adult—was so timely and encouraging.

Here are three fundamental but important truths about God’s love that I was reminded of:

1. His love for me is immeasurable

In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul describes God’s love as one that surpasses knowledge and is wide, long, high, and deep. It shows how great His love for us is, and that it is difficult to quantify. In fact, God’s love for us is immeasurable.

Even as I struggle with loving myself and believing that I am enough, reading about God’s immeasurable love for me reminds me that He still loves me as I am.

 

2. He loves me enough to send His Son to die for me

In fact, God loves us so much that He didn’t want us to perish eternally. He gave up His Son to endure and resist temptations and, ultimately, suffer painful crucifixion just to restore our relationship with Him (John 3:16).

To think of how the Creator of everything still yearns and cares for us! I do not know a greater love than this.

 

3. I can now love others with His love

As we understand how the Lord loves each and every one of us, we’re called to reflect the same love to those around us.

1 John 4:7-8 reminds us that God is love, and tells us that only those who love others are born of God and know God.

Being in fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ further helps us to experience God’s love, and gives us opportunities to practice loving others, even when it is tough.

It dawned on me that friendships are perfect opportunities for us to reflect the unconditional love Christ has shown us, and to be recipients of unconditional love from people around us.

 

I was very encouraged by these truths and they helped me to see His love for me even in my weakness. Although my fragile self-esteem might be seen as a weakness, I know for certain that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God will help me to see that in His eyes, I am enough.

I do not need to be perfect; I don’t need to be like someone else. Even before I was born with all my flaws, God had already loved and accepted me for all that I am. My only response is to be thankful and to live out a life that pleases Him.

How God Taught Me to Give

Written By Ching, Singapore

I am surrounded by giving people. Their tireless generosity is inspiring to me, and I want to emulate their giving spirit.

My mum and her siblings are some of the people who have showed me what it looks like to give often and consistently―they exchange gifts almost on a weekly basis! They remind me of Romans 12:10, which teaches us to love our spiritual siblings affectionately and to “outdo one another in showing honor”.

I also have friends who painstakingly craft handiworks with love, spending much time and effort in doing so. I know others who buy gifts consistently and make it a discipline to give often. There are also people working in the social sector who give so much that it hurts, even though they are sometimes repaid with scorn and complaints instead of gratitude.

I have also met churches, led to be generous by their leaders, that often give and bless their fellow church members and the immediate community that they love, serve, and reach out to. The beauty of generosity on a broader scale is magnificent. I have peers in Thailand that have shown me what hospitality looks like by receiving me with sacrificial love. I have mentors who have modeled for me long-term generosity over decades, and I have seen their long-suffering.

Yet despite having so many examples of generosity in my life, I have still found it difficult to live out this generous lifestyle. I learn all I want, but still end up never doing anything, nor wanting to. I wasn’t much of a giver; I was more of a taker.

In 2014, I decided to experiment with giving often.

Throughout that year, I found myself wavering between extremes. There were days when I did not want to give at all, and I became self-indulgent and “gave” to myself. Other times I gave out of selfish motives. What began as an experiment to try being more generous, revealed how selfish I was. I began to realize that generosity was not a natural human instinct. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we are simply not able to give freely. Through my selfishness, I saw how truly our hearts need Christ.

As I began to comprehend the amazing grace Christ gave us―even dying on the cross for us―I began to understand that we are called to be a part of His mission and, as His representatives here on earth, to exhibit His generosity. Generosity comes only from the Holy Spirit’s work within us, Christ’s life in us, and the love of God our Father overflowing in our lives. In short, generosity is a work of God in our lives.

In 2014, I slowly learned to be more generous. God helped me learn lessons from people around me. He also gave me a workplace with a very generous culture.

I began giving random presents to colleagues and friends. Then I started intentionally treating friends on their birthdays. Then I was modeling generosity, week in and week out, for those I shepherd. Soon I realized that my generosity needed a more intentional effort, and that planning was required.

I began budgeting. The principle of “Give, Save, Spend” helped me become more intentional in generosity. From small, spontaneous trinket-gifts, I moved on to slowly saving up and giving consistently so that others can be blessed over a longer period of time. A group of friends and I combined our resources so that we could help fund the school fees of one of our friends who was studying to go into full-time ministry.

Generosity has become a part of my lifestyle. I was giving consistently and intentionally. But I also realized that sometimes we give without love.

In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul says “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Even if we give away everything, but do it not out of Christ’s love, we gain nothing.

Nothing.

Serving in the helping profession, there have been moments where I failed to show empathy and genuine concern for the people I had been tasked to care for. Instead of giving out of love, I found myself giving because I wanted to be validated, which ultimately led to disappointment and guilt.

Our generosity needs to be an overflowing of Christ’s love for us, and also an intentional message about our Father’s love.

You might be thinking, “But I am no Mother Teresa,” “I am not rich,” or “I am not some noble helper”. But the people who have inspired me by their life of generosity were from all walks of life, from the very poor to the very rich. Being generous is a consistent intentional lifestyle.

A beggar I’ve met in a subway station once shared with me how every day of the week, a different Christian will befriend him or cook him dinner or speak to him. He also told me how some of them have even become his friends, and visit him as often as they can.

Christian generosity must be different from what everyone else does. We have the message of a very rich King who emptied himself and became poor, died, and rose again, so that we can be adopted into His family.

Get to know your daddy God intimately. Knowing our identity as a child of God, we can then reflect our Father’s generosity to all.

What Love Really Means

Title: What Love Really Means
Materials: Hand Drawn Type
Description: I read somewhere that the word “love” has lost its meaning in today’s culture. It’s true. We use this word so casually these days that we make light of its true meaning. To understand again what love really is, I went back to God’s Word to see how it’s been used and described.

There are many verses that talk about love in the Bible and each of them sheds light on a different aspect of it. As such, I decided to make a lettering piece which combines these verses about love to form the word “love”. This is what love really means.

 

Here are the verses used:

 1 Corinthians 13:4-5Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 John 4:19We love because he first loved us.

Matthew 22:37-39Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Ephesians 4:2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

1 John 3:1aSee what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 4:7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Psalm 18:1I love you, Lord, my strength.

Matthew 5:44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Proverbs 10:12Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Romans 13:10Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 8:38-39For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16-17 : For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

1 Corinthians 16:14Do everything in love.

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