It Is Always Easier To Quit!

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Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.… – Matthew 7:13-14

A recent conversation with a friend caught me mulling over a point blank question, “How desperate are you for a breakthrough?…… It is your choice, and your choice determines the result.”

We all live each day with decisions to make, big or small, poor or wise, and our choices determine where we will end up in: each decision will result in either repercussions or blessings. 

Some of us hate to make choices; often vacillating between A and B, unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Let’s face it- most of us love to take the easiest route, and it is a no brainer to make that choice. Why? Because it is always easier to quit than to continue, and it costs us less pain. Who doesn’t like the easy way out? 

SO,

we chose to cave in and give up, too readily and too easily. 

BUT,

if things come easy, do we need God?

AND,

The heart of the matter is often the matter of the heart.

 

The crux is, how desperate are you for a breakthrough? Here’s are some gauge you can find answers in:

  1. Are you griping, “Too tall an order I can’t do it. I am just a common man.”?
  2. Is your decision based on self and emotion or God and His direction?
  3. How many times have you pray about the situation in a day?
  4. 4. How many times have you consulted the Bible and the Great Teacher in the day
  5. How often do you humble yourself at your knees in seeking breakthrough?
  6. How willing are you to die to yourself?
  7. How willing are you to change yourself first than to change the situation?
  8. Have you exercise other sound options and try until something happens?
  9. Have you persevere until something happens?
  10. Do you prefer to settle for less?

 

Great men of suffering ever shared their experiences:

When God does an impossible task, the takes an individual and crushes him.

– Charles Swindoll

 

Until a man is nothing, God then can make nothing out of him.

– Martin Luther

 

Ever wonder, the greatest Glory awaits those who chose to persevere? Jesus persevered, at the point of death. If He didn’t, there is no Hope for mankind. Jesus is God, yes, but He was also 100% man, in the same skin as you and me.

I recalled the time I was in a health, Identity and financial crises, so broken from coming to the end of my tether, and desperately begging for a breakthrough that I literally chewed the Bible for any morsel of God’s living Word, day in and day out. As a newborn spiritual baby, I prayed like a mad woman not knowing how to fire with any spiritual gears bestowed. I just need to get out of my valley and get up on my feet. Was it easy? No. Was it quick? No. It took me a year (may be longer). Miracle happened because I chose to preserve, I made the choice to believe that God will bring me through it, and God didn’t waste my tears, my efforts to die to self and gut-wrenching pain. I didn’t give up then, so here I am, a living testimony of His Grace and amazing transformation. 

If I chose to give up then, I believe my life would have cost me more agony and landed me in more mess than before.

So it all boils down to your choice- Be wise.

Some of us may shrug at this devotion and brush it off “It is not applicable to me”. Let me submit to you that the Bible says in John 3:30, “Only when I decrease, so that God can increase”. Like it or not, we will all be tested- Brokenness is fundamental to restoration, and it is the only antidote to our self-centered nature.

 

When I am unable, God is Able;

When I am powerless, God empowers;

When I am faith-less, God is faithful;

Whenever I cringe in fear, God always stay near.

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How To Tip the Scale of Depression

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The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. – Proverbs 4:19 ESV

The recent spate of suicides by celebrities rendered me pensive that the world is getting darker, and darker… Many must had been in great emotional and mental turmoil that they could not overcome the lurking darkness that had gnawed relentlessly at their soul perpetually. How great must be that darkness! Indeed, even the bible warns that anxiety weighs down the heart (Proverbs 12:25) and hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). 

It is not unknown that the bible even recorded godly men have their fallen times and overtaken by darkness, one example can be found in Genesis 15:12, which reads, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.”

I can empathise to a certain extent since I once wrestled with the onset of mild depression. Given a pessimistic nature as a result of an unhealthy upbringing during childhood, I could anticipate gloom and doom whenever my soul was down-casted. 

“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! – Matthew 6:23

With no one at home to turn to nor able to share my struggles with whenever I needed help, I found it hard to trust people around me as I was taught that no one in the world was trustworthy. I was a loner, growing up with a belief system that if-no-one-can-help-me-only-I-can-help-myself. It was a sheer misery growing up that life in itself was meaningless. I painfully questioned my existence as I was lost in my own darkness and not knowing where I was heading… I could not recount the number of times I did contemplate (in my mind) to just end my miserable life, and that indelibly etched encounter with a speeding car which stopped on time at inches away from me, did jolt me up. It took me decades to surrender myself – I just need someone, whoever and whatever it was, to save me out of crises on all fronts- I was at the end of my tether then.

Thanks be to God, He drew me out of my deep water.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, – Colossians 1:13

Can you imagine that I used to be a super anti-Chirst, who cursed the God who gave me a rotten life (at that time). Such was a cynical and critical soul I was that I blatantly refuted the bible indisputably. Yet lo and behold, just because I took the first step in surrendering myself, on my humble knees desperately crying that I needed help. And miracles happened- my life was never the same since. I must say my conversion was very dramatic.

I had to expose the deeds of darkness so that I would not be held captive by them:

(a) Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; – Ephesians 5:11 NASB

(b) But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. – Ephesians 5:13 NASB

And because I had exposed them, I let Jesus into my life:

(a) The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5 NASB

(b) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

(c) This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5

It is definitely no easy feat to come to the end of oneself to the point of total surrender. We can all be deceived or misled into thinking we are doing alright. The bible warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.”Luke 11:35 also reads, “Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.”

Fears can also keep us from moving forward:

(a) Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. – John 3:20

(b) And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:26 NLT

(c) For even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:21 NASB

The critical step is to first acknowledge we have a problem and need help, and want to be helped. God will then take care of the rest if we are willing. Let God has the driver’s seat, He is far much better in steering our course and in control than us. Here I am, very thankful to God that I did not lose any ounce of my sanity. All I did was to stop being stiff-necked to wallow in my own self-pities parties any longer. There is no way I can stop wrestling with darkness until I let a glimmer of light in. 

P.S. In addition, I actually could not find answers to the vicissitudes of life in other religion at that time until I picked up the bible where I found Hope, Love, assurance, comfort, strength, wisdom and direction. Thereupon, it lays the foundation of living in Freedom, Truth and Light.

React VS Response

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A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. – Proverbs 15:1, 4 The Message

There was once during cell we were discussing about a ‘cockroach management theory’ on ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’. It brought to my mind this famous liner by Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” And to quote Ann Landers, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”

In short, the way we react or response reveal or rather mirror our heart and character- you are what you say.

There is a vast difference between ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’- we usually react out of our emotional impulse, quick and without much thought, as opposed to ‘responding’ where we usually pause with deliberation to think over how to respond appropriately despite how we feel at the moment. Reaction often sparks off a chain of negative reactions unnecessarily, whereas response provokes analysis and opens ground for healthy discussion.

I can totally relate between these two subjects. I used to be a very reactive person as a result of growing up under a stigma of rejections that had moulded me to be a very ultra-sensitive person. I took every little comment personally and reacted negatively, even if the person meant no malicious intent. The root was deep so were the wounds. Because of this sensitivity, I deliberately hardened my heart in order to prevent any injurious infliction. And over the years, I grew numb emotionally as if living in denial was my way to survive. Imagine that I had been living in a vicious cycle of blaming my family background and a physical condition I could never accept.

But God has been gracious and didn’t leave me that way, just as an onion has layer upon layer to peel off, God had been gently dealing with this deep issue in order to bring healing to my whole being. It took me years to learn and overcome. Aside to arming myself with the Shield of Faith and Sword of the Spirit, these practical tips also help immensely:

  1. Rein myself in for 3 days against reacting in order to response with a clear mind appropriately;
  2. Should I find myself reacting to a situation, I should filter it by asking myself: (a) Is it true? (b) Is it right? (c) Is it necessary? (d) Does it benefit or helpful to the person who listen?
  3. Pause and evaluate what and why you are reacting? Then nib it in the bud immediately otherwise this bad root will grow into a strong tree and you will find yourself in a vicious cycle.
  4. Last but not least, realise that words whether spoken or unspoken, will be actualised and has the power to bring the end result it has been intended for.

I hope by sharing this excerpt from my own journey will help others to avoid this unnecessary path. May it also provide some insights to how we are what we are because of where we were.

And yes of course, even till now, there is no way I can be perfect in this area, until I get to Heaven. And nonetheless, it doesn’t warrant a license to continue living as I was. The heart of the matter is often the matter of the heart- Attitude. It is but a matter of how you see it and response; and response takes action wisely.

The Dangers Of Feelings

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The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT) He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. (Proverbs 28:26a)

Here’s a point-blank question: “Are you a person who do things based on feelings?”

If you have been living life based on feelings, that means you let your heart (emotions) rule more than your head (provided it is of sound and godly wisdom). But God has a different take about trusting our feelings because our heart is most deceitful.

Living in an era that is about “feel good in order to live good” or “live good in order to feel good.”, the society of today has conditioned us a “Follow your heart!” culture where it places a very high value on our own desires and emotions.

When we live our lives based on whimsical emotions, we become subservient to our feelings instead of God’s Spirit and His Word. Following our heart cultivates an attitude of self-centredness rather than yield to surrender. And the flip side is, we cannot become true servants of Christ if we are controlled by our feelings. For a life lived in God is not lived on the plane of our feelings, but of the Will of God.

When we allow our feelings to take the lead, we will end up making a lot of foolish and self-focused decisions, and ended up making a mess of our lives. We will also develop the tendency to pick and choose the ‘truth’ that appeal to us personally, and reject those that contradict what we want to hear or receive. Whenever we try to edit the ‘truth’ to be in line with our emotions or preferences, we are actually placing our own opinions and thoughts higher than God’s.

I confessed that I can’t recount the number of times I didn’t feel like going to church, leading cell group, going to cell meetings, going for ministry, going to meet someone in need out of inconvenience, and God knows what else. And I often brushed them off as it is human to feel like that. It is not uncommon for most of us.

Understanding how our feelings come in play and how we can overcome them is all based on this golden rule- “First decide (wisely based on God’s Word) then feelings will follow.”

  1. Feeling opposes faith

A feeling that is based on the ‘right moment’, “I don’t feel that my faith is strong enough.” versus a decisive choice to just believe, “I chose to have faith no matter what!!”

  1. Feeling is contingent

A feeling that depends on whether you feel like it, “I really don’t feel like forgiving this person.” versus a decisive choice to just forgive as an act of obedience, “I chose to forgive this person because I myself have been forgiven by God.”

  1. Feeling is double-minded

A feeling that can’t decide between ‘yes’ or ‘no’, “I am not sure if I feel like going to church.” versus a decisive choice to say ‘yes!’, “I chose to die to myself (whatever you are feeling at the moment) and just go to church.”

  1. Feeling is fleeting

A feeling has ‘moods’ which can swing anytime and commitments tend to be very short-lived, “I feel like doing this. And the next moment, I don’t feel like doing this anymore.” versus a decisive choice to persevere, “I shall keep to what has been set initially despite how I feel.”

  1. Feeling is natural

A feeling naturally derive from how we feel at the moment, “I feel like…. / I don’t feel like…” versus a decisive choice to yield to the supernatural, “Although I don’t feel up to it, but I can do it through Christ who strengthen me.”

  1. Feeling can cook excuses

It is human nature to base decision or act on our emotions, and we often blame our fallen nature for our sins. If we are honest enough, we are very good at cooking excuses based on how we feel.

A life controlled by feelings is not very healthy, especially when our spiritual walk will be affected, therefore it is high time to set right with God in this area.

Last but not least, we also need to be mindful that something that “feels” right doesn’t mean it is right. No wonder God says, those who trust his own heart is a fool.

The Past Provides Clues To What You Are Today

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Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. – Ephesians 2:1-3

I was watching a Korean drama, “Criminal Minds”, where the scenes depict how perpetrators were who they were because of their traumatic upbringing and sadistic exposure to the depravity of humankind during their childhood. Although the drama may be fictional, it contains distressing truths on:

(a) how the environment at childhood can shape innocent minds and frame a human’s psyche, and parents play a very crucial role in teaching and upbringing of their offsprings;

(b) we can sink deeper into the deep abyss of deception and come under the diabolical influence of devils which lead us to commit more evils.

The bible has warned in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” And everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4), and everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

I have often heard many professed, “I am born this way.”, but the truth is, the past — our childhood and growing years — provides clues to what we are today: what we think, how we feel and why we behave in a certain way. The environment (including the people) we were brought up in holds the key in shedding light to this misconception.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

We all have a past, but the past should no longer hold us in bondages to the acts of the evil ones, nor should we be continuing to live and walk in darkness. No matter how painful to open that door to the past, true healing can only come when we face it courageously. God is gracious and love us too much to go through pain all at one go, just like an onion, peeling comes layer by layer until it reaches the core, where God deals with us gently and lovingly, if only we allow Him to. Give that key to your prison to Jesus, He will hold your hands and walk with you through it. Only then, can you walk in true freedom and be who God has created you to be.

P.S.

Parents also play a crucial role in bringing up their kids responsibly in God’s ways.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18)

Courtesy photo (P1040075) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Extrapolation. Inferences. Deception.

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He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; – Isaiah 11:3B

As a visual person, I have the propensity to observe and read things around me with my eyes; and as a creative person, I have a knack for piecing together bits and pieces into a whole new creation. As a result, I have inherited a predisposition to making extrapolation almost all the time.

To extrapolate is to draw an interference or a presumption about something with existing information that is not explicit.

In other word, that means, I can tip the scale to being judgemental since my eyes judge and my ears decide. And that is dangerous because:

(1) I can be led into deception easily;

(2) I can make illogical inferences that are not true;

(3) I can become irrational;

(4) and the worst of the lot is, I, as a mere human, is sitting on the judgement seat that is only reserved for God.

Judging, in its simplest definition, is forming an opinion or conclusion about something or someone. In other word, whenever I draw an inference, I have formed a judgement. Of course, God does us a spirit of sound mind and self-control, but the flip side is, what if, my inference is wrong, based on false impression or insufficient information, my judgement will then be impaired or impartial.

It took me years to restrain in utilising this inherent trait, until I read a verse from Luke 6:37, that if I judge, I will be judged; if I condemn, I will be condemned too. And I will also be treated the same as I treat others. The standard I use in judging will be the standard by which I will be judged (Matthew 7:2).

Isn’t that scary enough to hold us in check? For only the Lord knows the heart of men, after all, who are we, standing on the same ground as imperfect beings elevate ourselves on higher ground on moral or biblical standards? Let us not deceive ourselves, for “the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19