Do Not Despise Small Beginning

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Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (The seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world.) – Zechariah 4:10 NLT

While on the way to a friend’s office to help rectify some defective printing goods two weeks ago, I was doing my usual morning reflection on the bus- I expressed my deep gratitude to God again for an account that I never dreamt landing on my lap without prospecting it. I acknowledged that it was truly a divine provision from God– I had to be home-bound in June to help my parents to babysit my baby niece staying with us– Since then, this Client has been engaging me for small jobs each month. I ever paused to ponder over why their projects were all so budgeted. I reckoned that this Client might not trust me for a bigger project until I proved myself with all these small jobs. I was then reminded about a biblical principle to be faithful with the little so that I can be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Lo and behold, I heard a small still voice that followed after my train of thoughts, “Do not despise small beginning.” It amazed me how this liner was ever found in Zechariah 4:10 NLT!

Everything has a beginning, and usually started small, so that we can take one step at a time, and depend on him one day at a time. If we remain humble and faithful, relying on God’s blueprint for us, we will be on the road God has already mapped out for us. Above all, God calls for responsible stewardship in big and small alike, to honour Him in all we do. Since everything we have belongs to Him, so if we are faithful to what have been entrusted to us in both quantity and quality, only then can we be trusted with confidence to take care of bigger things. Nothing is insignificant to God- He looks at both our heart (attitude) and our hands (stewardship), and He will reward us in His due time.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ – Luke 19:17

P.S. And yes you have guessed it- after 3 months, my Client decided to engage me for a higher value project. I believe my earnestness paid off. And all thanks to God! May God continues to establish the work of my hands for His Glory sake!

Courtesy photo (P1040673) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

God In The Details

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Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:9

A friend gave me a hassle-free nano aquarium with self-sustaining eco-system of mini wonder shrimps and water snails. I love to take a break in between work to peep at these pets as it is therapeutic to observe how carefree they are around the tank. What really amaze me is, they can find food within their environment- they literally feed on any microorganisms bred in the specially designed eco-system. All I need is to feed them supplements – though not necessary- every alternate days to keep the shrimps happy. The round-shaped squishy looking mossy Marimo (in other word, algal ball in Japanese) latched in between the twigs provided decorative filaments to the already pretty aquarium, other than their main function to provide oxygen, and absorb waste and debris. (And yes, Marimo is considered a pet too, according to Wikipedia, since they are living organism.)

This aquarium is a very good reminder as a physical parallel to how I as an owner, an imperfect human, care for these little pets, and make sure they are fed and living well, so how much more our Heavenly Father who is perfect so desired to feed and provide for our every needs?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… – Matthew 6:25-34A

I have also picked a leaf from these pets that they seem to have a quiet assurance that they will be cared and provided for so they can live worry-free and happy. How much more, we as Children of God, even more precious to Him who love us, care not how we are doing?

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:2) For now You number my steps (Job 14:16A). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) 

God is in the details. He cares for every little things in our lives. He knows what we are going through, and our every innermost thoughts. We can take heart that God takes great pleasure in giving us what we need, because He is our loving Father.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32), And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. (Proverbs 10:3A) 

Therefore, God knows what we need even before we ask of Him. And His provision always come on time, not too much lest we forget Him, nor too little that we dishonour Him. It is always just right and on time. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in men or even ourselves. (Psalm 118:8)

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

How Do You Run Your Race?

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” –1 Corinthians 9:24; Ecclesiastes 9:11

I am trying to shed some pounds, so I decided to head to my office’s gym. The thread mill is a challenge to me since I have a poor stamina, so every minute is a test of strength and endurance. Notwithstanding, I challenge myself for 30 minutes, and begin slowly with a paced speed. Halfway through, I really want to give up as I am panting profusely. But the motivation of shedding the pounds get me going. However, eventually I still cannot overcome my physical lethargy.

Meanwhile, a verse from Hebrews 12:1, dawned upon me, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At that instant I receive a vision: Jesus waiting at the end of the red line, cheering me to persevere. There are many runners already run past me and ahead of me. At the back of my mind I am wondering, “Oh dear, will I be the last? Will the crowd jeer at me?”

Through this vision, I begin to ponder if I am running my own race for the applause of men or for the glory of self… Since I am already in the race, it will be a shame to give up. When I catch a glimpse of Jesus cheering me on at the end of the red line, I decided to fix my eyes on Him. (A song then played back in my head, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, by Micheal W. smith)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full, in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace”

As I desire to run into the embrace of Jesus at the end of the line and to hear Him affirming me, “Well done!” follow by a pat on my shoulder, I reckon it is better to go slow and steady to complete the race than going fast and run out of breathe later. So I pray to the Lord to help me finish this race, no matter how daunting, I will not give up. Eventually, I manage to persevere and finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

I care not how fast I have completed the run, God cares more about my shape. Hang on, the word “shape”, refers not to my body, but my character. So is the word “race”, which denotes my journey and my destiny. To sum it up, God is not concerned about how well I have started, nor how fast and how far I can go, He is more concerned on how strong I can grow.

Some of us may be ahead (the runners running ahead in my vision); some of us are still behind; some of us are discouraged that the “crowd” (in my vision, it represents the people around you. It also corresponds with “a great cloud of witness” in Hebrews 12:1) do not appreciate your effort, or have condemned you thinking that you cannot make it; some of us really want to give up this long-drawn race since strength is sapped…

The crux is:

Do you run with your own strength and focus on the wrong things in life, and thrown off-track?

Or, will you run in partnership with the Spirit and set your heart on things above and not on earthly things, and stay on track?

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24

The Wilderness: A Call To Trust

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19) “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is in the midst of us; we shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:1,5) “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27) And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

An emotional season in the pit in the late 2015 to early 2016 had derailed me from the track of faith and incapacitated in my regular routines- I neglected my business while cowering under self-pity blankets. I thought I’d left Egypt eon ago, instead of being whisked into a promised land of milk and honey, all I could see was mountains and snakes at every turn. I had trod into an unfamiliar territory- another wilderness! When I finally jostled from my “deep slumber”, reality hit that the economy was taking a downturn, I began to feel the heat when the company registered negative cashflow for almost a year. Insecurity set in when the uncertain future loom in and fears seized me. Alas I was standing at a verge, with the army of Egyptians hot on my heels, facing me was the Red Sea, with no other 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 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 had shown me that even a mustard seed of faith could move mountains and they shall be moved! Thence, my faith skyrocketed to a new level.

Much as “snakes” tempted me into discouragement, God had in the same breath faithfully sustained me with His one-step-at-a-time blessings and His day-to-day-double-portion of Strength. By His Grace, He gave me a gift of an encouraging Spirit that I could be optimistic; He gave me a vision in conquering the “Goliath(s)” in my life; He spoke to me His Life-giving Promises that I could profess victory; He had 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 (“Anchor Deep”); and He led me to pray with prayers I had never prayed before.

God is still teaching me something about “Trust”; and no doubt that He is bringing me closer to Him so that I can hear Him better; He is disciplining me through His refining fire to keep me going from strength to Strength and from faith to Faith; So that 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 had been there, and even the present. I counted my blessings for the people who has eased my burdens in some ways. I marvelled at how God had provided despite the impossibilities. There is always a miracle every day- big or small, it is how you see them.

God is not hard of hearing- Our tears are precious to Him for He is especially close to those 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.”

P.S. And one thing for sure- Every time I pray, the Supernatural always happen in the spiritual realm- that we cannot see now but will happen later. So keep praying- P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).

The Tunnel. Hope.

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Delayed hope makes the heart sick… (Proverbs 13:12 HCSB) Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid… (Job 11:18-19A)

The front cabin of the new Downtown Line train has a glass window which allow passengers to peep through the underground tunnel. The tunnel is fairly dim and it takes considerable effort to observe what lies ahead. As the train approaches a destination, the tunnel is aglow with light, brighter and brighter. While half drowsy from the sleep-inducing passage underground, a small still voice jolt me, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Do not lose hope.”

God really has a way in distilling life lessons through things around us- the tunnel is a great reminder that no matter how long the tunnel is, no matter how long it takes to catch a glimmer of light, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The only way out is to keep walking, for the longer I sojourn in the tunnel, the more overwhelming darkness seem to enshroud me. But having hope is stronger than entertaining fear.

When hope is delayed at any length of time, the mind gets uneasy and the heart will sink, ultimately it fails till our inner man gets dispirited and ready to be dejected, giving up all hope.

There is this quote that goes, “We can live about 40 days without food; about 3 days without water, and about 8 minutes without air, but not a second without hope.” And another, “Hope is the last thing to lose.”

The bible warns that heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop (Proverbs 12:25A), and a crushed spirit saps a person’s strength (Proverbs 17:22). And when strength is dried up like a potsherd, the tongue will cleave to the jaws; as if we are laid in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15). The antidote to a sick heart is, to have joy, for a cheerful heart is good medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). And having hope engenders joy.

We may be fallen on bad times, but as we set our eyes and heart on the God of all Hope, He promises His encompassing Presence (Jeremiah 23:23-24). We can take comfort because as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Never lose hope, because tough season won’t last but tough people do. And we have hope in God who never fails.

P.S: Do take the train through the tunnel, and observe the passage.

Look At The Farmer

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See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. – James 5:7 NLT

My journey on entrepreneurship is often fraught with challenges that is beyond apprehension. When times are bad, business gets a slow-down, and prolonged seasons of barrenness can really test faith as well as financial strength, and the next moment, discouragement sets the scene.

While in my usual habit of taking a prayer-walk at my park down the block, I saw a vision of a farmer ploughing the ground, and planting some seeds. After planting the entire field, perspiring from such hard labour, he waited by the side overlooking the field with anticipation…… At that instance, the scene seemed to freeze for the longest time- the farmer was still in the same position, waiting patiently……

This vision seemed to be conveying to me:

(a) The field represents my business and the land is given by the Lord;

(b) There is a time for everything: plowing, planting and harvesting- a time to sow and a time to reap;

(c) The farmer is synonymous to: (a) patience- seeds take time to sprout; (b) stewardship – watching over the field is call of duty; (c) faithfulness – seeds require constant tender loving care (watering, fertilising, pulling out weeds and even pest-control). And do not neglect the little things for the little things is a proof of trustworthiness. (Luke 16:10)

(d) The outcome is never instant, it takes a lot of hard work- it takes years for the seeds to grow into trees;

(e) It takes seasons of faith to trust the Lord to provide, as He determines the outcome.

We are to work hard if we want our field (apart from work, our ministry counts too) to bear fruits: Remember this–a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. (2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT)

Farmers toil with blood and sweat, neither can we have it all easy too, otherwise God will not mention the wise and hardworking ants in the bible (Proverbs 6:6, Proverbs 30:25)! However, God is still the ultimate God of the Harvest, our duty is to just do our best and leave the rest to God. And in His time He will bring about our due in due time. Just trust, and wait patiently.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. – Psalms 145:13b-16

That is one thing for sure, God will never let us go hungry.

Even With Grey Hairs I Am With You 

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Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6A) I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4)

I was having a coffee break with 2 friends yesterday chatting about retirement plans when the uncertain future caught us a little apprehensive since we are single with age catching up. One of them shared that she does not look too far ahead to the future as we do not know what can happen tomorrow, therefore it is more important to live in the present, trusting God each step, day by day. Recalling God’s faithfulness in the past had helped her to deal with life’s challenges with renewed faith, strength and comfort. She shared a particular verse from Psalm 23:6 which she always anchored herself on- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me ALL THE DAYS of my life.” (Emphasis in caps). This verse appeared to be a life-giving bread for me, at the same time I “heard” a small still voice, “Even with grey hairs I will be with you”.

Most of us dread old age, especially when our bodies are subject to decay anytime.

Most of us dread loneliness, especially when we may be walking through life alone.

Most of us dread darkness, especially when we are in our pits.

Whether we are single or married, or whether we are in the high or low season, we all face different issues in each stage of our lives that can render us insecure and fearful about what is next. Although reality bites— our world may fall, and men fail—  the Lord our God is always constant, till the end of the earth, today and forever: God gave His Family (God’s community) who can uphold us, His closest Companion (Holy Spirit) who is always with us, HIs billet–doux (love letters from the bible) which remind us of His Faithful Love, His spiritual communication tool (prayers) which we can tap into the Source of Power, and His Songs (worship) which minister to our souls.

Look back, at His Faithfulness;

Look now, at His Loving-kindness;

Look ahead, at His Trustworthiness.

Purpose Driven Life- Knowing God’s Will

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“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” – Luke 6:46

A few conversation with friends recently got me thinking, expressly when one of them shared that she would not mind God place her in a lower position with a big pay cut to be in a place where God could use her to touch and transform lives in the society. She felt that life would be more purposeful then. She rued over what is the point of living life with so much stress just to earn a fat pay, when one day she may have to pay with her lost time, aging physique and failing health? I affirmed her that God would be pleased to honour her heart desire because that is God’s heartbeat.

Truly, it doesn’t matter how much I earn. It doesn’t matter how much I have attained. What will truly appear in my Cirriculum Vitae to God: Will it be marked with spiritual milestones that God count or fleshy accomplishments that will return to dust eventually?

The bible does not exhort us to earn more money (and yes God does bless some with wealth), to get fat pay check, to live in a big house, to drive the newest car, to climb corporate ladder (and yes God does place some in positions of influence), to travel all over the world, or in short, any earthly pursuits.

Ever consider what happens when the time comes for unemployment, a painful pay cut, a “humiliating” position, a financial or health crises, over a prolonged season of uncertainties- The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (Proverbs 16:4). The challenge at such times is, God remains silent- It is often said, the Teacher is always quiet during the Test.

We already live half of our lives knowing that life is always full of surprises. And the reality is, God often have to bring us to nothing in order to bring us to something, that is part of His humbling process to surface issues that we did not truly let go. In other word, part of us still want to have the final say (to our ideals, our plans, our rights etc.).

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ” ― A.W. Tozer

The true greatness of a man’s strength lies in the measure of his surrender. – William Booth

Who told you that you need to get into that position? Who told you that you need to have a certain pay package? Who told you that you need to go into a venture? The list goes on. What if your expectations or your plans are not God’s will for you?

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21

Here’s the take- A purpose driven life is one that sets on doing the Will of God. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15)

Success is, fulfilling the complete purpose for which God has made you. It is in His Will that what we have been entrusted with on earth is merely a means to advance the purposes of His Kingdom. Success has nothing to do with wealth, accomplishments, status, or standard of living, as the world defines, nor will they appear on our CV to God. We are called to live a life of obedience to the Father when we fulfill the purposes that God had pre-ordained when he made you and me. But do you know the purposes you are made for? Let go and let God. God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. Until you learn this principle, expect that you be going through the same test again, and again.

And let’s face it- we already have half a foot in the grave, and what really matter in your next half of your life? And you never know the hour your time has come, therefore, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for you do not get to bargain in front of God’s Judgement Seat.

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)

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)

When Pain Comes A-knocking On Your Door

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Tension-mounted. Debts-saddled. Disease-stricken. Affliction-wrecked. Rejection-pierced. Emotions-tempest. Pain-aknocking. And taken aback by God’s silence.

Your life seems as if you have traversed though the cyclone-ravaged Philippines- burst pipes, ripe-off roofs, smashed windscreens, dilapidated walls, razed grounds, excruciating screams, broken homes and broken dreams. And taken aback by God’s indifference.

When you tried to make sense of all that is happening, vindicating the God who parted the red sea from the pursuing Egyptian army, the God who tumbled the walls of Jericho to the God who rescued Daniel from the lion’s den. And the prayers for God’s deliverance, mercy and grace bounced back like a dishonoured check. Where is God when life hurts?

Doubts crept into your head with pounding insinuations: Am I getting what I deserved? Is God so peeved with me that He allows my life to turn topsy-turvy? Or God, are you mad?

My candle is flickering, the wick is smouldering, the darkness is engulfing. In the center of that cold room lies an answer from:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. – Isaiah 42:3

Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end- the glory of God. “Trust me in times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory” – Psalm 50:15 NLT. (Lucado, p122).

Recall the bible of a blind man and his lifetime of darkness; a deaf man who never hear a compliment; a paralysed man who never get to straddle; a bleeding woman who get anaemia; and a dumb man who can never croon. And Jesus has the answer, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3

A calling from God to display heaven’s strength, to showcase the work of Christ and to amplify God’s power, for His Glory sake. By the power of His name, even demons shudder so by the power of His might, afflictions or infirmities will skedaddle but why didn’t God do so? You would have feel indignant for the fading pulse and bated breath of Lazarus.

You may find yourself ushering into the higher plans of God as in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

You may find yourself in the composition of God’s song where your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of His song. Are people strengthened by your struggles? Are the hounded perplexities of life eating away your faith even when you do not receive healing then?

How can an Almighty God fail you? God glimpses when His light prisms through your aching life and radiates in a symphony of suffused golds and pinks. And Lazarus walked out from behind the stone, breathing.

God uses whatever He wants to parade His glory. Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it to the glory of God. (Lucado, pp.126-127).

A bystander will not let a hope goes unnoticed.

Cross references from:
Lucado, Max 2004, It’s Not About Me: Rescue From The Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy, Integrity Publishers, Nashville.

Do You Know That The Bible Is A Book Of Strategies?

While helping a client to strategise her brand growth, I have to come up with a Brand Strategy Blueprint for optimal market roll-out. My role is akin to playing Chess- every move will either be a stalemate or a checkmate.

It then dawned upon me that apart from being a Brand Strategist, I can be also be a Battle Strategist. Do you know that the bible is a book of strategies? The bible originates from the true blue Master Strategist of All times.

We are aware that none of us will be immuned to battles, whether battle of the principalities, the flesh or soul, whether at your workplace or at home. In those challenging times, did we consult the living book of strategies in warring against the opposing forces, or we merely scrapping through on our own head knowledge?

It will be too many strategies to list, but to share an example:

  1. How will God entrust you with true riches (may not necessarily mean wealth. It can be riches of the Kingdom, riches of relationships, riches of sound health etc)?

3 STRATEGIES FROM LUKE 16:10-13

(A) Be faithful with the little things (Cross ref to Matthew 25:21)

(B) Be trustworthy (Cross ref to Proverbs 16:11)

(C) Serve God (Cross ref to Matthew 6:33)

Strategies can be adopted in various ways for multi-pronged effectiveness. When comes to war, a General needs to research and know the enemies well: their plans, tactics, routes, and weaknesses, in order to counter attack with the right strategies, whether require single or multilevel. Similarly, we also need to know who is our “enemy” (physical or spiritual), the deceptions of the evil one, our weaknesses etc, in order to counter the attacks with the Living Guidance of God.

REALITY CHECK 1: Do we know our bible well enough to arm ourselves well?

Do you know too that you can strategise your own spiritual growth? Hebrews 5:13-14 says, “Everyone who lives on milk is still an infant, inexperienced in the message of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained their sensibilities to distinguish good from evil.”

REALITY CHECK 2: From where you were to where you are now- how well are you growing?

My Survival Kit

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I often hold on to my bible like my survival kit. It is where I can find my appropriate medication for any condition, antiseptic lotion, first aid band and immunity fortified supplements, any time. Few days ago, I experienced a “cut”, I will run through my survival kit to treat this “cut” to stop further bleeding and avoid a festering wound if left untreated. Of course, pain is alleviated after.

It struck me- Which of God’s promises do we cling on to when we encounter a testing, crisis or trial?

I hv these two first-aid bands always printed with either these 2 verses:

1. Romans 8:28

“And we know tt in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who’ve been called according to His purpose.”

God is still Sovereign, and reigns in every situations. All things are in His control. He will work things out for our good in His time. We need to trust that God will not let us be crushed nor scorched beyond what we can bear, because we are His Beloved.

2. Numbers 23:19

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

God is not fickle like us, nor faithless like humans do. God is true to what He speaks because He cannot conflict His Character, compromise His Integrity nor be inconsistent to His Faithfulness. Therefore take heart that all His Promises never fall to the groud without accomplishing what He sends it.

Cling hard, trust hard, believe hard and walk (with God) harder-  my survival tip. 🙂

Growing From faith to Faith and strength to Strength

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… as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to (1) follow Him. Let your (2) roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be (3) built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossian 2:6-7 NLT

(This verse reminds me of a Quiet Time devotion I was inspired to pen at the beginning of this year- DEEP ROOTS…)

I repeated reading the above verse and glean much treasures:

(1) FOLLOW

The moment we become a believer, we are called to follow Jesus, but in order to continue doing so, we must renounce self daily (Matthew 16:24 Weymouth NT). Those who follow Him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). True followers of Christ will talk (teaching and deposition) and walk (living it out with actions) like Him over time.

(2) ROOTED

Jesus is our true Vine, if we remain in Him, we can bear fruit (John 15:4). The vine is where the true Source is: God’s Presence, Power, Protection, Provision and Providence. How deep our roots in the vine, will determine how well we abide in Him and how strong we grow.

(3) BUILD

When our foundation is God, we will grow strong on solid ground and live secured in Him. – Matthew 7:24

As a result, “THEN”, which means “after we hv done so”, will our faith grow strong, and stronger each time we live the biblical truths in our lives. Only when we apply the truths, inner transformation will change our heart and attitude, that the outward fruit will b an overflowing thankfulness.

Ponder……

1. DISTRACTED?: Have we been following Jesus daily or we have been busy chasing the world?

2. MALNOURISHED?: We have not been growing or get stagnated because we have not grow our roots deep in the true Vine, nor water our roots well enough with the Water of the Living Word daily? Even plants need daily nutrients fm sun, water and gd soil.

3. UNSTABLE?: Is our foundation shaky? Anything build on this shaky foundation will not withstand the test of inevitabilities.

So, start right, plant deep, build well, remain strong, grow solid and go far.

So when adversities blow……

We can follow the Light even in the midst of darkness;

We can be strong when plugged to the true Power Source;

We can stand firm on the correct solid Foundation;

We can grow from strength to Strength in our faith when tested;

We can be thankful because gratefulness is the byproduct.

B.T.W.

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The past few weeks I have been very very very tested physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. In the fire, I was pointed back to the very basic fundamental of truth- FAITH. I read, re-read, learn, re-learn & meditate, re-mediate, many times…

I summed up FAITH in one abbreviation “BTW”. Yes, “By The Way”.

As we journey along the way, remember that Faith is strengthened:

B = BELIEVE-ing 

prayerfully that our all-abiding God is true to what He has promised in His Word;

T = TRUST-ing 

wholeheartedly that our all-powerful Sovereignty has our lives within His control His Way;

W = WAIT-ing 

faithfully upon an all-loving Father who knows what we need and in time to bring about His appointed Work.

Btw, it is abbreviated in continuous present tense- EXERCISING Faith as we walk.

Drawing Near- His Words (From Psalm 119)

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To me, nothing beats spending that time of intimacy with God. Only at such an appointment, I feel very close to Him, I get encouraged, refreshed and strengthened each time. And I feel my faith rises to a new level. It is especially touching to hear Him speaks. And one of the ways He speaks, is through His Words (your bible, His billet-doux to you). I was brought to Psalm 119, and was inspired to pen this piece.

Drawing Near- His Words (From Psalm 119)

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When my soul is faint from longing for Your Presence

Your Word brings alive a glimmer of Hope

Your Love never snuff out my flickering wick

For Your Faithfulness endures forever

 

When my soul gets weary with sorrow

You strengthen me with Your Word

Even when I am deep down in my valley

Your Word preserves me through and through

 

Turn my eyes from worthless things

Turn my heart from selfish gains

Turn my feet from deceitful ways

You will ensure my well-being according to Your Love

 

In the morning You are my portion

Into the night You are my song

Your Word is like a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path

 

Those who love You will tremble at Your Word

And nothing can make one stumbles

Nor be caught in a deep slumber

Peace will be my everlasting convenant

 

Though I constantly take my life in my own hands,

And often tested Your Promises

Yet Your hand ever ready to help me

And save me from straying in my wilderness

 

If I truly and humbly obey Your Laws,

You will keep my ways pure and steadfast

Neither will I be subjected to shame

I can walk about in Freedom and in Light

Whiney & I: My Master & I

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Excerpt from the journal of a dog:

10 years. I have been through thick and thin with my master since I was 2 months old. My master have been a surrogate mother to me, she nurtures me with much love and care, training me in ways that she knows what is best for me.

She meant the world and everything to me. I seek to be the first to greet my master every morning by her bed, every evening by the door and every night before I hit my la-la land. Our daily bonding time gives me the affirmation of my worth and the assurance of her presence.

When words are beyond me, she can understand totally how I feel. Whenever I am fearful of rumbling thunders or feel insecure in a threatening environment, I will run to my master cadging her to carry me. Only then will I feel safe snuggling in her arms because I can trust that she will protect me. Even her voice alone is such a great comfort, I will feel uneasy if I do not hear her for a single day. Needless to say, I always stick close to her day in and day out as I know I will never get lost following her.

I pleased my master the most when I am obedient. Nothing matters more to me than my master’s approval. My task is to make her happy in everything I do. At times I have my fair share of tantrums, I hurt my master with my defiance or inappreciativeness. When I still remain a recalcitrant brat, my master left me as a cold turkey. Despite the cold treatment, my master did not leave me to my device, her unwavering patience and faithfulness had touched me to penitence.

I am very thankful to my master for what I am now. I wondered, how would have life been without her…

Woof woof, Whiney.

Not trying to drum up a publicity on my beloved dog, I am simply marveled at how a little fury creature has taught me valuable lessons, that is, it illustrates implicitly in the same breathe on our relationship with God. Whiney’s devotion and faithfulness to her master stemmed from her love for her.

How much more would a loving God, our Master, do for us just like I would take care of Whiney?

If you were to pen your journal, how would you have written on your relationship with your Master? And how would you show your love for your Master? Since God has given His Best to you, what is the best you can give to Him?

Spending time with the Lord daily requires consecrated commitment and a reverent heart. Every day is an invitation to draw near to Him- commune with Him in prayers, listen to His Voice in worship, know Him by His Word and understand Him with His Heart.

He is faithful till the end. Because your name is Beloved.

This song by Don Moen plays back many times in my head, as if an antique gramophone clamor to play again…

I Want To Be Where You Are

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I just want to be where You are,

dwelling daily in Your presence;

I don’t want to worship from afar;

draw me near to where You are.

I just want to be where You are,

in Your dwelling place forever;

Take me to the place where You are,

I just want to be with You.

 

Chorus:

I want to be where You are,

dwelling in Your presence,

Feasting at Your table,

surrounded by Your glory;

In Your presence that’s where I always want to be.

I just want to be,

I just want to be with You.

 

Bridge:

O my God, You are my strength and my song,

And when I’m in Your presence

Though I’m weak You’re always strong.

 

Pls: Yes, mothers, your kids can be a more relevant example.

– Inspired by the movie “10 Promises To My Dog” and “The King & I”