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My-Awful-Baptism-Story

My Awful Baptism Story

Written By Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Holding a sunflower stalk, I waited at the foot of the stage. That day, my cell group member was getting baptized. When the pastor congratulated her with a hug, a huge smile spread across her face as tears streamed down her cheeks. Everyone stood up and clapped. I followed the rest of my cell members to surround her and handed her the sunflower. As I put my arms around her, I started to tear as well.

Since returning to God just a year ago, I had witnessed many touching baptism ceremonies. The joy written on each of the candidates’ faces never failed to move me. On some occasions, I would even feel envious. If only I had experienced the same joy during my own baptism as a teenager!

Growing up in a Christian family, I attended a traditional church when I was young. At the time, it was like attending a social gathering; it was an opportunity to meet up with and mingle with friends. The Bible stories I heard at church sounded like fairy tales to me, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. I also had a superficial understanding of the Bible: although I heard about Jesus, I wasn’t really interested to find out who He was, and I didn’t think He had anything to do with me. I used to wonder how one could believe in or rely on a God who was invisible. Slowly, I stopped going to church whenever there was an opportunity to skip it; I went only when I didn’t want to face my mother’s incessant nagging.

In my church, you could be baptized once you turn 15. So my mother and Sunday School teacher signed me up for baptism classes. However, I was clueless about the significance of baptism; the classes were a mere formality to me.

On the day of my baptism, I didn’t feel particularly joyful or happy. Instead, I was hoping for the ceremony to end quickly. To make matters worse, a fellow brother-in-Christ who was supposed to be baptized on the same day suffered a spiritual attack. As a result, I was afraid to attend church for several days following the episode. As far as I was concerned, being baptized made no difference to my life.

Some years later, I stepped out of the comfort of my home for the very first time to pursue an education overseas, in Taiwan. I was immediately drawn to the glitz and glamor of the outside world. At the same time, being alone in a foreign land, I was insecure and unfamiliar with my surroundings. So, when I finally made friends with a fun-loving group of individuals, I became very reliant on them and would follow them everywhere, including to karaoke outlets, pubs, and night clubs. Over time, however, a sense of emptiness crept in. I also felt it was unsafe going to those venues and having to return to my accommodation on my own every night. Yet, despite not enjoying those outings, I continued to go with my friends for fear of losing them if I stopped.

At the time, one of my seniors who was a Christian would invite me to attend her church every week. I went a few times, but found the service too boring, so I ignored her subsequent calls. It was only when I felt I could not continue living this way, that I started to think about church again. I contacted my senior and told her I wanted to attend church. However, nothing much changed when I did so. I still had my doubts about the faith, so I didn’t attend church regularly.

One day, my senior invited me to watch a play organized by the church. It was about a girl who used to have a close and joyful relationship with God, but was later enticed by worldly temptations like money, desires, and beauty. She started to drift away from God, unaware that God was calling out to her. But God didn’t give up on her. When the girl decided to break free of the temptations, God pulled her back to Him.

I was deeply convicted and moved by the play; I felt as though I was the girl and God was using this play to reach out to me. By the end of the play, tears were streaming down my face. I felt disappointed with myself. As my senior accompanied me back to my accommodation, I kept sobbing throughout the journey. For the first time that night, I prayed a very long and solemn prayer, asking God to forgive me and to help me break free from all the worldly things that were unsettling me. I prayed that I would get to know God intimately and return to Him wholeheartedly.

That was my turning point. From that point onwards, I felt as though God had woken me up spiritually. I wanted to attend church, be a part of a cell group, and rebuild my relationship with God. Amazingly, I also felt more at peace and was able to turn down invites to the places I used to visit. I no longer felt insecure and tempted by the things of the world. I started to attend church regularly and serve actively in various ministries. The more I got to know God, the more joyful, peaceful, and secure I felt.

Looking back now, I can see clearly how God’s love remained true despite my awful baptism experience and my years of rebellion. Although struggles and challenges didn’t disappear from my life, they prompted me to draw near to God and rely on Him more. Through each difficult moment, God’s tender love has never failed to guide me through. I have finally understood what it means to have faith and trust in a God who is unseen.

Me-Before-You-Is-Dying-Ever-Justified

“Me Before You”: Is Dying Ever Justified?

Written By Soo Yi, Malaysia

Some time ago, one movie caught my attention. It was the romantic film, “Me Before You”. I first saw the trailer on Facebook, and was particularly intrigued by the scene where the male lead tells the female lead, “You are pretty much the only thing that makes me wanna get up in the morning.” I remember thinking to myself: What could one be going through that causes him to make such a statement?

While I don’t really like watching romantic films, this statement fascinated me so much that I decided to get my hands on the novel.

In a nutshell, the story revolves around an ordinary girl, Louisa Clark, who becomes a caregiver to Will, a once-promising entrepreneur who had become a paraplegic due to an accident. Depressed by his disability, Will loses his will for living and is set on ending his life after six months. When Louisa learns of Will’s plan, she tries to change his mind by engaging him in a myriad of activities, which include watching horse races and going on holidays. Through the course of these activities, they develop feelings for each other.

At this point, I was convinced that Louisa would be able to change Will’s mind and inspire him to continue living. Little did I know that the ending would be the complete opposite (spoilers ahead). Not only is Will adamant on undergoing euthanasia, he even changes Louisa’s attitude to life.

When I finished reading the book, I was upset for an entire day.

The novel got me thinking seriously about suffering and the sanctity of life, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Job in the Bible. Like Will, Job used to own a lot but suffered immense personal loss when everything he had—his loved ones, wealth, and health—was taken away from him. Job was in such deep agony that he cursed the day that he was born and wished he was never born (Job 3:11). He even cried out to God and questioned why God put him through such difficult circumstances. Despite all that he faced, however, Job never gave up on God. Eventually, Job recognized that God was in ultimate control and God blessed Job with more than he had at the start.

At this juncture, let me qualify that I’m not trying to compare the degree of misery and suffering faced by Job and Will because I’m not in either of their shoes. Just the thought of what they went through sends shivers down my spine. But one lesson I think we can learn from both of them is that what we value in life will affect our perspective towards life. If we place our meaning in life on material and secular things, we can easily lose the resolve to go on when these things are taken away from us. Perhaps that is one of the key reasons why the Bible urges us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

From the Bible, we also learn that death is never the solution. Sure, we may go through great trial and agony, such as in the case of Job, who lost all his strength, prospects, and power to help himself (Job 6:11-13). Some people may choose to end their lives because they simply cannot see any way out of their difficulties. But as Christians, we do know that there is a way out. There is a hope for us. No matter how difficult or challenging our circumstances may be, or how despondent we feel, we have the hope of returning to our heavenly home someday. And we have this hope because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

In Psalm 46:1, we are also reminded that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. God also promised us in Psalm 121:1-8 that He will protect us. As such, even though it is inevitable that we will encounter trials and challenges, we can be comforted by the fact that God is present and faithful. When we are tempted, He will provide us a way out so that we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Even though “Me Before You” is just a fictional story, I cannot help but think that the ending would be a lot different if the character Will had God in his life. Similarly, it is my prayer that all of us will always remember to hold onto God’s promises in our life, especially in times of great suffering. Let’s not let adversity get the better of us, because Jesus has won the ultimate victory over suffering and death.

Can-I-Be-A-Christian-K-Pop-Fan

Can I Be A Christian K-Pop Fan?

Written By Lee Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

In 2007, a friend of mine introduced me to the world of K-Pop and it changed my life—I was in my third year in high school then. I bought into everything about K-Pop: the dashing good looks of the stars, their trendy dress sense, amazing vocals, and smooth dance moves. Just like that, I became a K-Pop fan.

I was obsessed with the hip-hop boyband, Big Bang. Besides spending a lot of money on their albums, merchandise, and concerts, I could go on and on with my friends on how good-looking they were. In university, I even spent almost 7000 NT (which is equivalent to approximately 216 USD) to watch their performance. I still remember that night vividly: the mood was exuberant, spirits were exceptionally high and everyone was singing and screaming to their hearts’ content. It was as though we didn’t have a care in the world. From that point onwards, I fell deeper and deeper into my obsession with K-Pop, or Big Bang, in specific.

I could not go on for a day without checking my phone for updates on Big Bang. I was constantly listening to their songs and regularly surfing their fan forums for the latest details about their lives. I was even called the “K-Pop Encyclopedia” because I knew every nitty gritty detail about K-Pop. And that went on till my second year in university, when I made a commitment to re-dedicate my life to God.   

Initially, I was extremely passionate about my faith. I cut down my contact with anything pertaining to K-Pop because I wanted to focus wholeheartedly on the person of Christ. But it didn’t last long. Gradually, my zeal started to subside and before I knew it, K-Pop took over my life again.

But this time, I struggled. In a bid to reconcile my faith with my interest, I decided to approach my church leaders with this question, “Can Christians be K-Pop fans?” They explained to me that it was fine to appreciate the beauty of Korean culture. However, we must be careful not to blindly idolize the Korean superstars such that they replace God’s place in my heart. While their statements made sense, I had no idea what it meant in the practical sense. To what extent then could I admire them? Could I still buy their albums, attend their concerts or fan meets? If their lives and actions were contrary to God’s Word, could I still like their songs?

So I continued to struggle whenever it involved a choice between God and Big Bang, such as, whether to attend church or their concert if it was held on a Sunday. I also found myself struggling to set aside time to read God’s Word and pray when what I really wanted to do was to watch their latest music video.

Deep down, I knew that Big Bang had slowly replaced God’s place in my heart and this could not carry on for any longer. While I knew what the right thing to do was, I struggled immensely. It was during this time that I decided to take these actions:

 

1. Pray to God.

I was trapped by my addiction to K-Pop and try as I might, I was unable to control myself and I did not know how to get out of it. That’s when I decided to turn to God in prayer and entrust all my concerns and struggles to Him. I asked Him to free me from my addiction to K-Pop and help me find true satisfaction in Him. I also prayed for wisdom to discern what I should and should not do as a K-Pop fan.

 

2. Acknowledge that K-Pop stars are just like each one of us.

It is alright for Christians to have hobbies, likes and dislikes. We tend to admire, like or notice those who are better than us or who are exceptionally talented. But the Bible tells us in Genesis 1:26-27 that God created man in His image—this applies to K-Pop stars too. They are created in God’s image and like us, are normal human beings (the sole difference being that they are public figures) and have failings. Once I acknowledged this truth, I was able to view them with the right perspective and not overly exalt them. It is not right to elevate any person or object to the status of God, unwittingly or not. As Exodus 20:3 tells us, God alone is worthy of the highest place in our hearts. He is the only one worthy of our wholehearted devotion and the only One who can satisfy our hearts like no other.

 

3. Make my interest count for God.

Initially, I tried to go cold turkey on everything that had the slightest association to K-Pop. I treated it as though it were a heinous sin. However, doing so only brought me great anguish and despair. One day, I had a sudden thought to pray to God and ask Him to give me wisdom to use this interest in a way that could serve Him. The thing is, I’m not exactly a relational person, much less one who would approach a stranger to share the gospel with him or her. But I was tasked by my church leaders to be involved in youth work and that required me to go out of my comfort zone. Initially, I had no idea how to start. But when I realized that a lot of young people like K-Pop, this interest of mine turned out to be a great conversation starter and bridge for me to establish rapport, and eventually share the gospel with them. This led me to the important realization that anything can be used for God’s work—even K-Pop. But here’s a caveat: I’m not saying that everything about K-Pop is permissible in light of the gospel. We still need to bear in mind 1 Corinthians 10:23 which says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” It was only when I depended on God that I was finally able to see my K-Pop interest from God’s perspective.

 

4. Deliberately set aside time to spend with God.

Aside from asking for God’s help to curb our obsession, we can take other practical steps to guard our hearts. One way is to limit the usage of our mobile devices and instead, to spend time outdoors to admire His creation, reflect on His Word and on our lives. Let’s heed the call from James 4:8, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” I came to realize that drawing near to God brings unparalleled joy and peace to my heart, which I will never experience—no matter how many concerts I attend. It is only when we grow in intimacy with God that we will learn to be less anxious and less tempted by the things of the world.

 

5. Pray for your favorite K-Pop star.

Like I mentioned earlier, K-Pop stars are humans too. They are weak and they need God as much as we do. So let’s pray earnestly and fervently for them that they too would come to know our great God so that they can be a light shining for Him. In the earlier days, I remember being very encouraged by Big Bang’s member, Tae Yang, who would publicly profess his Christian faith at his shows. And I’m sure I was not the only fan to feel that way. In light of this, let’s pray for the stars we like, that they would come to know God, reflect His beauty and goodness in and through their lives so that others would see and come to know God personally.

 

I’m thankful to God for knowing my difficulties and struggles and for drawing me out of my obsession to K-Pop. While I’m still very much a fan of K-Pop, especially Big Bang, I no longer obsess over them like I used to or feel uneasy if I don’t watch their music videos every day. Instead, what causes me uneasiness is when I don’t read God’s Word or spend time with Him.

Deep down, I know for a fact that God alone is the Lord of my life and nothing can take His place.  

Are-there-Real-Friendships-in-this-World-

Are there Real Friendships in this World?

Written By Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Whom will you call a friend? Is it just someone you can have a meal and watch movies with? Or is it someone you can chat and gossip with? What kind of person is he or she? We often describe a true friend as someone who will stick with us through thick and thin, who values us, and who won’t hurt or betray us. But friends can change, and so can friendships.

When I went to Taiwan to study, I took the effort to make many friends so that I would not be lonely. Many of them were fun-loving—some would skip class—and I enjoyed their company. We would celebrate our birthdays together, and travel together. At the time, I felt like they were all the friends I would ever need.

Because we enjoyed hanging out together, we decided to work together on projects in class. That’s when things started to change. While preparing for our presentations, we started to differ in our opinions. Some even found excuses to skip the discussions because they didn’t want to do the presentations. We may have started out as close friends, but our affections towards one another changed completely. As we began to argue more, we drifted apart, and soon, we parted ways.

I still wanted companionship, however, so I started hanging out with a new group of friends. This group enjoyed drinking and singing in karaoke clubs. While I joined them, I realized that their company and activities did not satisfy my longing for true friendship. I felt empty inside, and started to ask myself: What am I doing? Are these people my friends? Are there any real friendships in this world?

The answers to these questions came when I started going to church again.

While I was a “second-generation Christian”—I was brought up in a Christian family—I didn’t like going to church, and hadn’t gone for a very long time. But someone invited me to her church, and after spending some time with people there, I realized that they were different somehow. They didn’t gossip, yet they had plenty to talk about. They didn’t go clubbing and drinking, yet they had plenty to laugh about. They didn’t despise nor criticize one another; instead, they listened to one another, and encouraged and supported each other. It gave me an inkling of true friendship was all about.

Their behaviour also piqued my curiosity. How did they do it? I wondered. How did they find it in them to care so much for each other, and where did all the joy come from?

Then I found out the source of their friendship—love. These people could love one another because they were loving with the love of Christ, and seeing one another through Christ’s eyes.

The experience taught me some new lessons about friendship. I realized that we often talk about liking our friends. But loving them is more difficult. Can we really love our friends without any reservation? The answer is: Yes, we can, because of Christ’s love. As 1 John 4:19 says: “We love because [God] first loved us.”

And because real friends love each other, they help each other grow, and pick each other up when they fall. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”

My new friends in church also showed me that ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ is our best friend. Only He will never change. We can share our joys, sorrows, and troubles with Him, because He has promised to help us, support us, and walk with us through our journey of life. We can rely completely on Him, no matter what the circumstances are. When we allow Jesus to become our best friend, we can experience His love, learn to love others, and make true friends.