2018 has been a fulfilling year for us at YMI. We launched our very first online devotional, published over 560 articles, produced 39 artspace projects and 7 videos to help you ask the whys and walk out your purpose.
Written By Anna Chee, Singapore
It’s that time of the year again when we have to think of the perfect Christmas gift for our friends! If you’re thinking of giving your friends and loved ones more meaningful Christmas presents than those $1 notebooks that they might never use, look no further—here are five timeless gifts that will make Christmas infinitely more meaningful for you and your loved ones:
1. The Gift of Prayer
Our lives are filled with challenges—and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and our friends, is to pray. James wrote that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). So surely, prayer is the best gift to give a friend.
Personally, there are some prayer requests that I don’t always have the courage to vocalize, and some which I believe only God can answer. Like bringing my staunchly atheist uncle to Christ.
But God knows our heart’s deepest desires, even the ones that we don’t express to Him. When I come to Him in prayer, I am reminded that I can trust Him with every aspect of my life—and the lives of my friends. Spending time with our friends in prayer can also be a good way to strengthen our relationship and to share in each other’s burdens.
My church mates and I often share our prayer requests with each other. For instance, my friend, who’s going on an overseas school trip, asked us to pray for journey mercies and God’s protection. And they are in turn praying for me that God will equip me with the knowledge and wisdom needed to write this article.
Whether the challenge we’re facing is big or small, we can bring them all to God. This Christmas, let’s pray for our loved ones that they will know God intimately, and that God will grant the desires of their hearts in His divine way and by His divine power.
2. The Gift of Love
As Singaporeans, food holds a special place in our hearts. Our favorite past time is to eat, so in our church, we often show our love for each other through food. We would regularly buy snacks like barbecued chicken wings, barbecued pork buns, and cheese fries (*drools*) for new friends to show our love for them.
Recently, we even installed a few stoves and an oven in the kitchen of the church so we can cook more for each other. We are also planning to bake cookies on Christmas Eve to give out to the guests at our Gospel meeting on Christmas Day!
A good way to think about how you can give your loved ones the gift of love this Christmas is to think about what makes them feel loved. Try being generous with kind words and praise, or pick up your pen and write some encouraging messages for friends and family members. Remember, what makes the gift more meaningful is that personal touch!
3. The Gift of Time
To say that this year was a busy year would be an understatement. I had to sit for an important national examination at the end of the year, and the period leading up to the exams was extremely hectic. I was swept up in a maelstrom of work, work, and more work! This meant all my dates with my friends were postponed to the end of the year.
Because of this, I’m looking forward to catch up with my beloved friends and spend some #quality time with them! Spending time with our friends is a sincere way to tell them “I cherish you as a friend!”
The Christmas period may be a busy time for everyone, but if your friend’s love language is quality time, you can consider volunteering with them at non-profit organizations or starting a fund-raising project for causes you are passionate about. Not only will this give you time to bond with them through the activities, you can both give back to the larger community and spread the joy of the festivities.
A few years back, my friends and I spent our holidays at a non-profit organization that prepared free meals for low-income families and foreign workers. Afterwards, we reflected that the joy radiating from their smiles when they received the meals made the blood (when I accidentally cut my finger), sweat (due to the hot, stuffy kitchen), and tears (shed when chopping onions) all worth it!
Sometimes our conversations with Christian friends may veer towards superficial topics. However, we are called to build each other up in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:8, 11). Some fun ideas to do this are to keep each other grounded in our faith by having impromptu worship sessions, doing a Bible study together, or discussing current events from a biblical perspective. These encouragements are the perfect gift for our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. The Gift of Service
Other than blessing our friends with gifts of love, let us not forget the needy in our society who are often forgotten in the blur of our bustling lives. Jesus spent time with the poor and needy, healed their infirmities, and associated with the sinners, the despised and the outcasts. We should emulate His compassion and mercy. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Don’t know where to start? Do a quick Google search to find out whether there are any non-profit organizations with gift ideas for the poor and needy. A good example of that is World Vision’s Let Light Shine gift catalogue. Or you could donate to orphanages or a Salvation Army center near you.
While it’s important to serve the poor, let’s not forget that those closest to us could also benefit from our acts of service. For example, cooking a meal for your family, helping your dad wash his car, or running an errand for your siblings. There are many creative and practical ways we can remind our friends and family that they are important to us. Let’s be a conduit of Jesus’ sacrificial love this Christmas!
5. The Gift of the Gospel
Finally, I’ve saved the best present for last. There’s no doubt that the greatest gift we can ever receive is the knowledge that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to spread the Gospel.
Of course, this is not a call to scream “YOU NEED JESUS” in the faces of the people we meet or be a fiery, fanatical Bible-thumping evangelist at every opportunity, and (alas!) scare away those who have yet to know God’s love.
Last year, I attended a Bible conference and was honored to meet an elderly lady preacher. She shared that she would reach out to the different people she met in her daily life, whether it was a cab driver, cashier, or cleaner, by spending time talking to them and observing their heart’s needs. From there, she would slowly guide the conversation towards the Gospel and share about how Jesus can fill our heart’s desires.
I was greatly inspired by her fervor for sharing the Gospel and the gentleness with which she did it—and am challenged to do the same this year!
There are many opportunities for us to spread the Gospel through our everyday conversations. The most important thing is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and testify about the Good News with gentleness and respect for the other person.
Jesus gave us the greatest gift that we can ask for—salvation and a relationship with God. Let us respond by sharing His love with others and making this Christmas a meaningful one.
There is something about superheroes that speaks to us, inspires us, and motivates us. Many of these superheroes whom we have come to love can be attributed to one man: Stan Lee.
When news of American comic book writer and Marvel co-creator Stan Lee’s passing broke on November 12, tributes flowed in from every corner of the Internet. This is no surprise as Stan Lee has been credited for creating many of the world’s most popular superheroes, including the X-men, many of the Avengers, Daredevil, as well as my personal favorite, Spiderman. His creations have made a major impact on the entertainment industry from Marvel’s comic book sales to the many film and TV adaptations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, Marvel’s most recent Avengers film, Avengers: Infinity’s War, was the highest grossing film of 2018.
So what is it about Stan Lee’s creations that have entertained and inspired millions of fans worldwide?
One of Stan Lee’s defining talents was to tap into our deep desire to witness sacrificial acts of heroism. In a 2016 interview with The Big Issue, he was quoted as saying, “The world always needs heroes, whether they’re superheroes or not. Since time immemorial there were stories and legends about evil power who had superpowers, and some human being had to find a way to conquer them. It seems to be part of the human condition.”
We celebrate when Spiderman saves Mary Jane from a villain. We get emotional when Iron Man seemingly sacrifices himself to save New York at the end of Avengers. We are inspired when Wolverine saves other humans, even when those same humans are trying to exterminate his fellow mutants. We love seeing Thor use his supernatural powers to battle against evil forces threatening to take over the Nine Realms.
But perhaps Stan Lee’s greatest contribution was to create superheroes with flaws and personalities that all of us can relate to. As he said, “I thought it would be great to do superheroes that have the same kind of life problems that any reader—that anybody—could have.”
In The New York Times’ obituary, the writers noted that: “Under Mr. Lee, Marvel transformed the comic book world by imbuing its characters with the self-doubts and neuroses of average people, as well an awareness of trends and social causes and, often, a sense of humor.”
The Hulk has major anger issues. Daredevil struggles with his dark, violent tendencies. Iron Man has a gigantic ego. Years of violence and unforgiveness has built up to self-destructing resentment in Wolverine’s soul. Even Spiderman is prone to rash decision-making. But in spite of their flaws, they always triumph over the evil powers at the end of the day.
Stan Lee’s characters give us hope that we can all be superheroes in our own ways. As he himself said, a hero is:
[…] someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being and will go out of his or her way to help them—even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.
This reminds me of what the Bible says in Philippians 2:3-4. As believers, we are called to put the needs of others above ourselves, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
We can be “superheroes”, but the difference is this: we do not draw strength from ourselves.The reason we can now love and serve one another—regardless of our flaws, limitations, and circumstances—is because we are image-bearers and recipients of God’s love (1 John 4:7).
Christ has set the ultimate example to show us what this looks like: He “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7) and chose to come down to earth as a human in order to become one of us. He allowed Himself to be tempted in every way so that He could empathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and show us a different way to live.
Stan Lee might have been closer to the truth than he realized when he said: “There is only one who is all powerful, and his greatest weapon is love.”
Written By Aryanto Wijaya, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
“He did something wrong. You should talk to him.”
“Hey, why me? You should be the one to tell him. Aren’t you his friend?”
Due to my conflict-avoidant personality, the idea of correcting someone scares me. I fear that speaking up will affect my relationship with my friends. Therefore, when I see them doing something wrong, I often ask others to reprove them instead, just like I did in the conversation above.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this matter. Many of us are reluctant to correct our friends despite knowing that they’ve done something wrong. We prefer to remain silent and stay in our comfort zone. If we really have to correct someone, we would delegate the task to someone else.
Most of the time, we justify our actions by claiming that we want to maintain peace in our relationships. However, in situations like these, seeking for “peace” is not the most appropriate course of action. As a Christian, we are indeed called to “live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18, ESV), but the peace that Paul calls for does not mean we should be standing idly by or letting someone remain in their sin.
The Bible gives us several examples on this subject. In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul shared about a conflict he had with Cephas. He knew that Cephas had sinned by acting like a hypocrite. Paul then rebuked him rather harshly, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:14).
Another example is found in Matthew 14:1-10. During that time, John the Baptist reprimanded Herod the tetrarch, saying, “It is not lawful for you to have [Herodias, Herod’s brother Philip’s wife]!” (v. 4). This reproof angered the king so much that he sought to kill John the Baptist.
Herod’s response may sound frightening and discouraging, and most of us would probably not face such life-threatening situations as John the Baptist did. Nevertheless, this story reminds us that voicing out the truth can be a risky act. It also helps us see that hearing the truth can be painful for the other party. Hence, we cannot take the call to correct our brothers and sisters lightly or recklessly.
Here are five pointers that I’ve found helpful when I’m led to confront someone:
1. Make sure you’re walking the talk
This point can be summarized in one word: integrity. Our words must match our lifestyles.
We don’t have the authority to ask someone to stop drinking alcohol if we are heavy drinkers ourselves. In the same way, we cannot ask our friends to refrain from cheating in exams if we are famous for doing so.
There is a hymn, “Let Others See Jesus in You” with the following lyrics:
Your life’s a book before their [fellow human beings’] eyes, they’re reading it thro’ and thro’,
Say, does it point them to the skies, do others see Jesus in you?
Like a double-edged sword, we cannot separate our words from our actions. We need to make sure we are living out the truth we’re directing others to before we speak. More importantly, as the hymn points out, do others see Christ in our lives and our words?
2. Consider why you are correcting others
When we reprimand others, what is the purpose of doing so? Do we do it to look better than them? Or, do we do it for their sake?
Even if we may be right to point out our friends’ faults, our task is not to boast about ourselves or how “right” we are. When we correct others, we should approach it from a pastoral perspective. Chuck Swindoll wrote, “In rebuking, we ought to have this end in mind: to restore, and not to embarrass others.”
When we know what the aim of our reproving is, we can guide the person whom we’re correcting to return to God’s ways. Remember, when we rebuke others for their sake, then our words are directed not to shame them, but to help them see their blind spots and turn back to the truth.
3. Speak the truth in love
As I shared at the start of this article, I was once afraid to reprimand my friend because I was afraid of ruining our friendship. In retrospect, I should have realized that the closeness of our friendship puts me in a better position to correct my friend. Because my friend knows that I have his best interests at heart, he would be more open to listen to me and accept my correction.
However, it is important to note that having a close relationship does not mean we can correct our friends recklessly. The Bible commands us to speak the truth in love. In Matthew 18:15, our Lord Jesus said:
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
When someone commits a sin, Jesus does not tell us to broadcast it to everyone else. Instead, He wants us to speak to the person privately and correct him humbly. Use words that are gentle, appropriate and constructive. Most importantly, ask the Holy Spirit for help so that that person’s heart will be softened through our words.
This point also applies when we are not really close to the person we’re correcting. In that case, we should take time to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for the right timing and wisdom to speak the truth to that person.
4. Commit to help your friend
We also have to realize that whenever we confront others with their sin, it will impact them emotionally. As mentioned earlier, it can often be painful for the person on the receiving end of our correction. The person may also deny their wrongdoing or even try to justify him/herself. Bearing this in mind can help us think about how best to communicate the truth to our friends—and offer to walk with them through it.
On one occasion, I had to confront my best friend. We started college at the same time, but all our classmates and I have now graduated except for him. On one hand I was afraid to confront him about this, but on the other hand I knew that he needed someone to prod him to complete his final year project so he could graduate.
As I thought through my course of action, I knew that there is a possibility that he might be offended or feel ashamed if I spoke to him about this. To minimize the impact, I tried to meet him in person, inviting him to meet me for a drink at a place with a relaxing atmosphere. It was then that I told him that he should be taking his final year project seriously. I ended my reproof by offering to help him proofread his report. By God’s grace, he responded to it well, and is now at the last leg of completing his final report.
5. Keep your friend in prayer
Even if we have planned our course of action as meticulously and wisely as possible, the other party may still resist our correction and even decide to end their relationship with us. If you’re caught in such a situation, don’t give up. No matter the outcome of our confrontation, there is one simple, yet powerful action that we can still do: pray.
Praying helps us keep our motives pure. When we pray for the other person, we’re not only committing the person to the Lord, but also learning to seek God’s heart for our friend, and trusting in His timing and ways to help our friend see the light.
Is there anyone the Lord has placed on your heart to gently correct or rebuke? If He has, start praying for that person now.
YMI (which stands for Why Am I?), is a platform for Christian young people all over the world to ask questions about life and discover their true purpose. We are a community with different talents but the same desire to make sense of God’s life-changing word in our everyday lives.
YMI is a part of Our Daily Bread Ministries.
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