A Victim into Victor: When You Can’t Trace God’s Hands, Trust His Heart

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And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10

Not so long ago, there was a continuous spate of events about the breakdown of our local train made me realised that humans grumbled a lot when they encountered the inconveniences of disruptions. Regarded in the same light, we are also quick and inclined to throw a fist at God for the one thing that caused us great disappointment or anger, yet we failed to count the times God has blessed us with so much more. Just one setback can discount everything else.

When things aren’t going in our favour, we are susceptible to strike a protest or stage a long-drawn  rebellion. And before long, we spiralled down to a spiritual “black-hole”. The truth of the matter is, there is always a cause and effect in everything – it all start with an incidence that provoke a thought to engender a decision which in turn evoke our emotion and lead us to an action. Don’t belittle even the little thing because it is often the little foxes that spoilt the vineyards (Song of Solomon 2:15). A small spark is capable to set an entire forest on fire. (James 3:5B)

I once was on a rampage why life was so unfair to me. I felt coerced having to accept my “ill fate” that I did not deserve. Broken dreams broke my heart, so much that I came to hate this God who claimed He was good and everything was in His control. I had been cussing vehemently, “What a joke! There is NO God.” I was so broken that God actually came in person- In a deliverance session of dealing with my deepest pain, I saw myself as a three year old lost, enshrouded in darkness and wailing away. At that instance, Jesus came smiling, held my hand to comfort me and led me out of that darkness. As the back view of the two silhouettes dimmed away, I found my heart touched in a very supernatural way in showing me how much I was loved that He came to lead me out of that black-hole. That was my personal encounter with a living God that I could not deny His existence. That was how God got my little fox- it was the aching void of rejection in the need to be loved.

We all had our past, our former way of life with old mindsets and belief systems. And life in the fallen nature has us on roller-coaster from time to time. Although we may have accepted Jesus into our lives which already marked a new beginning, but some of us are still living with foxes that are nestling in deep burrows. The quality of our lives now reveal traces of what had been once-upon-a-time.

Hollow out the little sly fox(es). Jesus is very near to the broken-hearted. When we can’t trace HIs Hands in whatever situation we are in, we can trust His Heart no matter how you feel. A victim by exigencies can become a Victor by overcoming.

P.S. Today is Good Friday, let’s look at the Cross, again, the horizontal beam demonstrates how wide is His Love and the vertical beam shows how deep is His Grace. And when the two beams intersect in the middle, God affirms that nothing can separate us from the Love of God, no matter how far and how deep we have wandered. Because of His Greatest Sacrifice sending Jesus nailed on the Cross, there is no redemption beyond the impossible. Jesus bore our transgressions, carried the cross for our shame and sting by painful rejection from His own Father, yet He was willing to lay down His Life for our sake, so that we can live. Shouldn’t that give you reasons enough to hand to Him what you can’t handle? Shouldn’t that teach us not to take His Grace for granted?

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The Pain Of Denial (Part 1)

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P.S. I will be sharing in parts as it will be too much to share at one time. I was prompted to share my convictions, and hope by sharing this entry in my own spiritual journal, it will bring illumination in a new light.

“If any man will come after me, let him (a) DENY himself, and (b) take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 KJV. 

We all have heard this verse far too many times. If we are honest, we also switch off many times. This has been the mandate of my previous cell at one time till a time it became alive to me– I went through a very difficult transition in my life two years ago when I was impacted with a physical condition, although not life-threatening, that a surgery could not fix and a healing miracle seemed implausible — Dashed dreams. Crushed hope. Wretched self. Menacing fears.

The first few weeks upon receiving the check-up report, I wasn’t able to worship in church– I was incapacitated to sing nor clap along. All in my mind was, “Why??” and “God, where are you?” My ex-G12 cell and my mentor had showered me with inordinate amount of concern, but I wasn’t grateful. I just wanted to be left alone as I justified the rights to my disappointments and lamely to confess my anger with God too. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to attend the weekly G12 meetings, and I even withdrew myself from the cell. But to my surprise, I couldn’t abandon my open cell that I had to lead every Friday. I still fulfilled my duty, shared the Word, and put on smiles (though I was struggling very badly as if a hypocrite).

Was I wearing a mask with my open cell? No. It was one method that helped me- “Deny myself.”

I couldn’t count the number of times “I didn’t FEEL up to it or FEEL like to”, “I didn’t WANT to…”, “I hate to be forced to…”, “I have the RIGHTS to…” I merely trying to cook up excuses as justified reasons. Till I came to a point that I realised I was actually very self-centered, very consumed with “I, me, myself” and very inwards-looking, focusing on myself only. I put my feelings and emotions before God as how I feel and what I want is more important than Him. It was a constant battle to deny, deny, deny, deny myself in the pit. It was even a scarier experience when I was enshrouded with darkness, alone, and found myself drifting away spiritually over six months. I was aware of such a downwards spiral, but I refused to yield as I was wrestling with God like Jacob. What really jolted me was- I began to lose myself while threading on a very thin tightrope, and any moment longer, I think I had tipped to the other side. That was unthinkably scary.

So how did I climb out of the pit, and back to the Cross? I have to simply keep denying myself daily, yes, EVERY DAY- deny my mood for the day, deny my emotions, deny my rights, deny my will, even to denying my convenience (my own time, my own pace, my own freedom…), and surrender to the Cross.

If we are honest with ourselves, it is by NATURE we follow what our flesh leads us. It is unnatural for us to contradict our flesh and that takes SUPERNATURAL intervention with the help of the Spirit. Aside to taking action to deny the self, we can draw reinforced strength from these verses:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16-17

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8

There is no change in my physical condition, but I had stopped asking all the whys because there will never be any answer- and who am I to question the Sovereignty? It was a decision whether to continue rotting by being my own god or to let go of all and let God be God. And letting go doesn’t mean to remain status quo. Just like bible says, “Faith without action is dead”, so I had to force myself since it is unnaturally of me to crucify my flesh to weaken its desires. It is simply to put to action in denying myself.

No doubt it is an uphill task because our flesh gets stronger when our Spirit is quenched by sins. It is a humbling experience to call upon God for help in this area.

So first thing first, get right with God. Face it honestly- Overcome it with God far easier and better than letting what consumed you and lose yourself.

When Conscience Pricks……

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They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. – Romans 2:15

Having been working on my own for 6 years, I know that running a business is not easy. It is akin to treading on treacherous ground when I am surrounded by a lot more shrewd business-people. On many occasions, I have been conflicted by compromising situations, either a make-it or break-it decision. I could not count how many times my conscience has been on toes.

Sometimes as a result of unwise decision with lack of prudence, we acted indiscreetly and made mistakes. I can totally relate to how it feels to have my conscience gnawing relentlessly. But when I seek to redress the wrong and do right, it feels good to breathe the air of liberation,  and able to lift my head up without condemnation.

Our conscience can bear witness to our actions, and we will reap what we sow. We have to consider even our innermost thoughts which can breed evils that prick our conscience too. If you think you can camouflage an evil thought or keeping hush over a bad action, be warned that God knows every details, whether inwardly or outwardly.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 23:24

When one’s conscience is seared, that is when darkness of the soul has rendered the person impotent of thinking, feeling and doing right. And if we persist in walking down the wrong path, we will be on a spiritual downward spiral.

Holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, – 1 Timothy 1:19

But if we seek righteousness, we leave no room for malice and can stand upright before others.

Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:16

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:5) It is good to include in our prayers that we be sure we have a clear conscience and desiring to act honourably in all things (Hebrews 13:18), just as Paul could declare, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

Our spiritual lives should be temperated by love, guided by a pure heart with good conscience and acting upon a true faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

In a nutshell, it resonates with a famous quote that goes:

Watch your thoughts;

They become words.

Watch your words;

They become actions.

Watch your actions;

They become habits.

Watch your habits;

They become character.

Watch your character;

It becomes your destiny.

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.

Enslaved

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

The modern day world of the fallen times, we all come under pressure by people and things around us which resulted in some form of enslavement: some are slaves to social media; some are slaves to fears; some are slaves to the opinions of others; some are slaves to the expectations of others; some are slaves to past hurts; some are slaves to pornography; some are slaves to alcoholism; some are slaves to materialism; some are slaves to money; some are slaves to work; some are slaves to recognition; and the whatnots.

Whether we are aware or not, sometimes, our enslavement can be a form of escapism or as a coping mechanism, consciously or unconsciously. But God does not designed us this way nor intended for us to be enslaved by anything perishable in this world. That is why we need freedom in Christ. Only by knowing the truths, Christ can truly set us free indeed (John 8:32). Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). And as a believer, we have the Spirit of the Lord in us, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Sin is no longer our master, as we live under the freedom of God’s grace (Romans 6:14). Though we all were once slaves to sin, but so long as we wholeheartedly obey the Word of God, to which we are committed to live in genuine repentance, we will surely be set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:14

Call sin a sin, and recognise that we all need help to deal with the issue. We must humble ourselves to cry out to God. True transformation can only happen when there is genuine repentance. We can deceive others, but we cannot deceive God, we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It is better to quickly do something about our enslavement before sin gets full-blown which resulted in death (James 1:15). Therefore, let us not misuse our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13).

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