Habits – It Begins With You

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Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. – John 8:34

When we do something, good or bad, over and over again, we fall into a habitual pattern, which either discipline or enslave us. Humans are by nature, creatures of habits, and experts said that it takes 21 days (daily) to form a habit. Our daily living is made up of good and bad habits. We grow up picking up habits from someone or somewhere, over time.

If you are a habitually latecomer, it is because you have “cultivated” a habit for being late, opposed to someone who is always on time, because the latter cultivated a habit to be earlier. The difference is, when both are given the same amount of time, it is a matter of what you do, a matter of choice and an act of will. Such habit can be changed – I recalled that my bible school fined latecomers a dollar, even if a second late, and no excuse shall be entertained. The $1-fine-tin was heavy in the first few weeks until it got lighter and lighter over time. This proved that latecomers can be trained to be on time.

Even Olympics Athletes train (almost) daily, they “beat” their bodies to follow very strict disciplines (1 Cor 9:25)- and they have the strongest will because they aim for the gold medal. Similarly, you will reap what you sow, if you will yourself to do it- if you truly want to break a bad habit or a sin, replace it with a good habit or a virtue, cultivate this discipline and sustain it for 21 days (or perhaps longer) continually.

Some examples:

  1. Need to get into the habit of doing Quiet Time (QT)?

Start picking up your bible (start with the easiest chapter say Proverbs or Psalms), make a commitment to spend say 15 mins to read 1 chapter, daily, every morning say 8am. Keep to 8am daily for 15 mins, over 21 days (or longer until it becomes a second nature to you).

  1. Need to get into the habit of praying?

Set aside a time where you would pray for 1 thing daily. Keep praying the same thing over and over at the same time until it becomes part of your praying routine.

  1. Need to break a bad addiction?

Whatever this addiction is, don’t SEE (including lust), don’t TOUCH, don’t HEAR (example gossip) and don’t BE there (example extravagant shopping) at all. Bible says “FLEE” from temptations. Turn to the bible instead since it is “live”, and keep to it, till you no longer feel “itchy” or tempted.

  1. Need to break the habit of ungratefulness / grumbling?

Write down 10 things you are thankful to God for the day, count each a blessing and show your gratefulness to God with verbalised prayers. Keep to it until you no longer feel the need to grumble.

  1. Need to break the bad habit of being late?

Find an accountability partner whom you would hold yourself liable to every time you are late- fine $10 or more (non-refundable), depending on the severity of this bad habit. Decide ahead to reach your destination say 10 minutes earlier (works better than being exact), buffer your travelling time an hour (or so) earlier, and work backwards. Commit to this over 21 days or longer until you form a new habit of always being early.

  1. Need to break the habit of wrong thinking?

Bible says replace our thoughts with thoughts that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, fixate about such thoughts (Phil 4:8). That is the power of focus- train our mind to think ONLY of thoughts that are good, say any truth from the bible that is most relevant to you, mediate upon it until your mind is renewed and transforms the way you think.

Basically it is to do something good to replace the bad, cultivate the good things and sustain it. It doesn’t matter how much time you need nor how best to go about it. The crux lies in your attitude- if you are willing to change, you will do it and change. Start small, little by little- patterns of bad habits can be broken by a new habit and transformation begins.

G.R.O.W.T.H

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It is pretty interesting to observe babies- when I helped to look after my baby niece. Such experiences have distilled many truths about growing up:

(a) Infants need food- they start with milk.

(b) Infants will grow up if they keep drinking milk. But when they reach a certain age, they can take solid foods, and grow into the next stage of life.

(c) Infants automatically cry for feed when hungry

(d) Because of regular feeding, infants grow bigger and stronger, and outwardly changed.

In the same context, God has much to say:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2); I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Spiritual babies eventually have to grow up. If their growth is stunted, it may be a result of not being hungry for spiritual foods. In order for growth to happen, we must first be thirsty and hungry in order to ingest any intake. The Bible tells us that God “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9). And spiritual growth has to be intentional; when one is truly hungry for the things of God.

How to be hungry for God and grow up? I was just inspired to “formulate” a growth strategy, which will lay the foundation for intentional growth.

G = GO to God for His Words and in prayers, daily (Jeremiah 33:3)

R = RELY on Holy Spirit always (Ephesians 3:20)

O = OBEY God moment to moment (Jeremiah 7:23)

W = WALK in the Spirit at all times (Galatians 5:25)

T = TRUST God day by day (John 14:1)

H = HUMBLE yourself in need of Him each and every day  (John 15:5)

The 7 Virtues To Transforming Your Relationships And Your Character

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In the church, we have heard a lot about the importance of having faith, trust, love, holiness and perseverance. We have also been taught that our mind and words have hidden power that either edify or destroy, whether with husband, children, parents, colleagues or even the people whom we are trying to reach out to.

Yet, in life’s tsunami of challenges, we are often greet with situations that not only challenge our spiritual credentials, but also affect our relationships. I have discovered treasures in the bible that help to transform our relationships and even our character:

1. The virtue of LISTENING

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.” “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”” – 1 Samuel 3:9-10 NASB

2. The virtue of SILENCE

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. – Proverbs 17:27-28

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14

3. The virtue of PATIENCE

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. – Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. – Proverbs 15:18 

Love is patient, love is kind. – 1 Corinthians 13:4 

4. The virtue of HUMILITY

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:5b-6

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. – Isaiah 66:2b

…he crowns the humble with victory – Psalm 149:4b

5. The virtue of DENYING YOURSELF

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:3-8

Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. What out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives. – Hebrews 12:15TLB

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

6. The virtue of REST

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:28-29

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  – Exodus 33:14

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” – Mark 6:31

7. The virtue of FOCUS

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27

The Wilderness

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Just as I thought I had left Egypt years ago, instead of being whisked into a promised land of milk and honey, all I see was mountains and snakes at every turn. I had trod into an unfamiliar territory- another wilderness! When I finally woke up from my “deep slumber”, alas I was standing at a verge, with the army of the Egyptians hot on my heels, facing me is the Red Sea! There is no way of escape.

At that crucial moment, I cried out as hard, as much, as long, to the Almighty to save me and deliver me from my helplessness… By a bat of an eyelid, I found myself on a Rock, my three enemies no longer pursued me. God finally broke the long chill of the silent nights, “Do not let your heart be troubled. TRUST in God, trust also in Me.” (John 14:1) reinforced with Proverbs 3:5-6 “TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He’ll make your paths straight.” His voice resonated with the word “TRUST”.

In the silent mire of abyss, my impatience got the better of me, I doubted God had heard my prayers. But I ended up with a megaphone blasting my ears, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?!” (My hairs really on stand…) By this, God has shown me that even a mustard seed of faith can move mountains and they shall be moved! Thence, my faith skyrocketed to a new level.

Much as “snakes” tempted me into taking a court action and discouraged me in my unemployability, just as much God has faithfully sustained me with His blessings and His double-portion strength in each and everyday. By His Grace, He gave me a gift of an encouraging Spirit that I could be optismistic; He gave me a vision of conquering the “Goliath(s)” in my life; He spoke to me His Promises that I could profess victory; He shown me that He is a God of Multiplication when He impressed me with a scenario where Jesus multiplied 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed the 5000 people full; He inspired me to compose a poem that Jesus can still a nasty storm; and He led me to pray with prayers I had never prayed before.

Instead of cowering under pity-blankets as I would in the past, I would recall how the Lord delivered me from the slavery land of Egypt years ago and His never-failing faithfulness. I drawn near to Him and He draws near to me. My turning point came when I confessed of a cherished conviction, in repentance I cried to the Living God, “Help me!”

No doubt God is teaching me something. No doubt He brought me closer to Him so that I can hear Him better. No doubt He is disciplining me through His refining fire to keep me going from strength to Strength and from faith to Faith. I can rest unto God’s Peace, “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) and His Faithfulness, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7)

I am thankful that God has been there. I am also thankful for the people who has helped eased my burdens. I have been through the dark tunnel a few times and God has been there. And God is not hard of hearing- Our tears are precious to Him for He is especially close to those who are crushed in spirit. Just be still and let God be God. He will walk on the water and grabbed you before you could sink just as Jesus rescued Peter from drowning when His faith failed him.

“The more secured you are in Christ, the stronger you stand even if your whole world came crushing down. Your security is not found in transient things but in Him alone.”

Refiner’s Fire

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An interesting conversation with a friend about “trusting God” inspired me to pen this devotion- she forwarded a devotion on this topic that I responded to her that trusting is a lesson that takes ongoing re-learning. She replied, “Yes it is. Like playing a game- It gets upgraded whenever we pass one level. Life is fun, isn’t it?”

Indeed, akin to any computer game, as we conquer level by level, our journey will be fraught with different sets of difficulties that challenge our limit each time. Just when I thought I have passed Level One colourfully, it doesn’t end there, I have to ascend to Level Two, then Level Three until I get to my destiny. This episode brought me to a verse where God would test each of us and refine us as gold.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12). Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).

But first let me share how gold is processed, as this is foundational to our understanding why God uses refining fire, furnace and gold as analogies.

Gold is processed through smelting and refining. High heat, pressure and chemicals are used to remove impurities from the gold. Gold in its raw material contains rock, gold nuggets, scrap gold etc, need to be re-liquefied in a hot furnace. Various chemicals are added to the molten substance to separate the gold from other metals. The process has to be repeated in greater intensity in order to remove all impurities for gold to be refined and pure.

The bible is full of verses on God’s refining fires:

  1. God knows exactly what we are made of.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” – Job 23:10

  1. God know what is in our hearts.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. – Proverbs 17:3

  1. Fires refine the quality of our faith.

So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:7

  1. Trials build our character.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

In retrospection, I did not have my life easy, but I can attest to through trials, my faith is tested under fire but I have learnt to grow stronger. I deem fires as necessary for refinement. I can only pray that God will give me the strength to persevere and his mercies to carry me through, from faith to Faith, strength to Strength and glory to Glory. So do not be surprised at what you are going through, God is doing a deeper work in you. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

We Can Be Super Hero!

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While watching “Wonder Woman” movie recently, I had imagined myself to have super-power to fight evils- I thought it was simply cool to be a super hero, that I wished I could have such amazing powers.

At that instant, I was reminded that we, as children of the Almighty God, have super power too, as co-heir to Jesus Christ!

1. We can fight any demons and evils

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. – Luke 10:19

2. Our power is at work 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. – Ephesians 3:20

3. Our power is rechargeable

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

4. We have the power with our tongue

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. – Proverbs 18:21

5. We can heal the sick

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Mark 16:17-18

6. We can fight any temptations

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. – 1 John 5:4A

7. We can demolish strongholds

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. – 2 Corinthians 10:4

So in other words, we have the power to speak over “death”, heal the sick, to kill demons and to destroy evils. And of course, we have the power to overcome darkness in any areas of our life.

Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. – Psalm 68:35

Take on this new identity as a super hero in God’s Kingdom. Have a super-charged week ahead!

When You Feel Small……

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I believe, some of us, from time to time, felt challenged by our own inadequacies or bruised under a barrage of discouragements, that we did question our own identity.

I recalled one instance in my life (as a very young believer) when I was crushed under pressure at work coupled with a personal sting (I was still struggling to recover from my identity crisis resulted from a broken home and emotional turmoils since young), my spirit was grieving. And that one catalyst engendered a chain reaction that maimed my confidence. The next instance, I struggled with speaking for days, fumbling with words.

One night in the midst of that emotional struggle, I distinctly heard a small voice, “The least is more significant to Me…” God was lieterally speaking to me! I quickly turned to my bible in order to tune my spirit to the Truth. Just as I flipped open, I was led to 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 that read “... those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

Recalling Paul, the great persecutor of his times, who constantly felt tormented by a messenger sent by Satan, yet God empowered him with His Grace and supernatural Strength; Mary Magdeline, the adulteress, whom Jesus saved her from being stoned by the people who condemned her; And not discounting Moses, who once was a murderer, struggled with his own inadequacy and speech deficiency. Needless to mention those hard tax collectors who were regarded as scums of society, had became close disciples of Jesus.

Yet, these are the people who were greatly used by God. Jesus indeed had a special heart for “the-not-so-normal-people”. He saw beyond what men failed to see. Men look at outward appearance but God looks at the heart. People around you may judge you by what you can’t do, but we can take comfort in the God who believes in what you can do.

For he who is least among you all — he is the greatest. – Luke 9:48

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” – Matthew 20:16

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

At times when you may have felt small, Jesus cares.

Those times when you may have felt condemned, Jesus cares.

When you felt no one cares a dime about you, Jesus cares.

He has a special heart for those the world has chosen to disparage.