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.
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Faith Even On Rainy Days

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. – Psalm 37:23

A cell mate shared this beautiful Chinese song with me which lyrics resonated with every fibre of my being- I can relate to those times when I felt downcasted. In translating this song to English (though not literal), I hope to share this song to minister to those who need to hear it…

Song title: 祷告 (Pray)

– By Streams Of Praise

(Listen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YbBwg5B9Uk&feature=youtu.be )

 

祷告,因为我渺小;

Pray, because I feel inconsequential;

祷告,因为我知道我需要明了,你心意对我重要。

Pray, because I know I need understanding, to your Will as it is important to me.

祷告,已假装不了;

Pray, I can no longer pretend;

祷告,因为你的爱我需要;

Pray, because I need Your Love;

你关怀,我走过的你都明白。

You care for me, and know every path I tread.

有些事我只想要对你说,因你比任何人都爱我;

There are things I can only share with You, because You love me more than any one else could;

痛苦从眼中流下,我知道你为我擦。

Tears shed from pain, I know You will wipe my tears away.

在早晨我也要来对你说,主耶稣今天我为你活;

Come morning I pray, Lord Jesus I live for You today;

所需要的力量你天天赐给我,你恩典够我用。

I need Your Strength each day, for Your Grace is sufficient for me.

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. (Psalm 139:2)

Even on rainy days, the Lord is near; Even in the pit, the Lord is there. He knows every details of our lives. He searches our heart and know our thoughts even before we could find the words to say. (Psalm 139:23)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8A) The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8 NASB)

Keep faith. Keep going. Keep praying. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

When Forgiveness Is Hard……

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Having been in certain ministries with people, coupled with my own personal journey, I am compelled to share my experiences on this hard-to-put-into-practice- forgiveness. Hope in some ways it brings to light the issues in our lives.

Love does not keep any record of wrongs that others do – 1 Corinthians 13:5B

Do you know, relationships, especially marriage, self-destruct, not because of petty accumulation of all the little things nor the deepest hurt? It is simply because of unforgiveness- It is the unyielding refusal to forgive.

It is naviety to think we can be immune or trained to be invulnerable- No relationships are spared from hurts and any person escapes unscathed. Yet certain wounds seem to scar for life. Why?

“Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” – Matthew 18:21-22 NLT

Impossible to forgive? Sure, no one says it is going to be easy. Let’s try counting seventy times seven to practise forgiveness. And yes, that will be impossible to keep count too. Forgiveness is on-going, even daily, until you no longer feel the same intensity as the offence first inflicted upon you.

You may not forget the hurt, but you intentionally chose not to hold the person who hurt you in ransom. Again, again and again…

You may get flashbacks, but you made a minute-quick decision to close the door to that memory. Again, again and again…

You may feel the hurt (who would not anyway?), but you are resolute to release the right to get even. Again, again and again…

You would certainly think the person do not deserve it (who would not think so anyway?), again, again and again… forgive.

You certainly would not feel like forgiving (who does anyway?), again, again and again… forgive.

You may think it is so unfair to let the person go so easily, again, again and again… forgive.

Forgive, because you are doing yourself a great favour- for you free yourself from emotional imprisonment, from the past and the future. Otherwise, the past will always continue to hound you. The past is past, and you would not want to relive the past now do you? The past can’t be changed, but you can change the now and the future, so why would you not prefer to? The air of liberty is definitely more breathable than the malodorous stench of your own prison. And the person who suffered de facto is you — for all you know, the offender whom you hold ransom, might have forgotten the offence and living life happier — while you are still licking the same wound?

So why do many keep playing old records? Because they chose to do so and allow themselves to reopen the wound. How can one keeps licking the same wound and expect it to heal completely?

Forgiveness does not equate forgetfulness. Neither does it mean to condone the mistake.

Forgiveness isn’t contingent on the behaviour of that person either.

Forgiveness does not mean resuming the relationship in the same level of trust instantly — for trust has to be rebuilt over time for the relationship to be fully restored — forgiveness is our part in reconciliation with the offender.

In a nutshell, forgiveness is unconditional — the offender nor the situation will change — and is instant.

Remember, if you have experienced the grace of God, how could you withhold the same grace you have been given unmerited? If you truly understand the magnitude of how much you are forgiven — look at Jesus, before breathing his last nailed on the Cross for our transgressions, “Father, please forgive them (you and me), for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) — then true forgiveness comes easier.

Rend your heart, the bible says in Hebrews 12:15 Phillips, “Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others” 

If you are feeling the same, thinking the same, reacting the same and behaving the same- chances are, there is no true forgiveness from the deep recesses of your heart. It is time to do something on your part and let God handles the rest.

Let the true Love of God change you first, let go of the hurt, and release forgiveness to those who hurt you, for He loves you too much to have you hurt. Remember too, God loves the other person just as much too. Only the true Love of God can heal — take heart that God does not keep archives of our wrongs — so take His Heart instead, and you will get a new heart eventually.

The Environment Just Won’t Change

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While on my way to church one morning, I reflected over my cell leader’s Word on “Compassion”, which inspired me to pen “The Environment Just Won’t Change”.

“Compassion? Are you kidding?”, “Why should I when he is undeserving?”, “Why should I when she is getting on my nerves?”- Do they sound very familiar to you? Far too often, we smacked them with forget-it verdicts.

Your home. Your workplace. Your environment. It is the people that made up your world.

Your family. Your colleagues. Your anybody. Those are the people who are are lost in a fallen world that need compassion.

No doubt, it is easy to serve the people you love.

Much less to say, it is an easy feat to like the people who are nice.

Unfortunately, Jesus is more interested in how you treat the thorns.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” -Luke 6:32-34

Aarrggh! Ggrrr….

Take a cue- the person whom you always have issue with the most gives you an inkling who you really are, that is, the condition of your heart. Irritants are always good catalysts for testings in a research lab.

Testing… testing… testing…

The people you find irritating may still be irritating;

The people you can’t handle may still be as challenging;

The people who do not deserve your kindness may still be undeserving;

The people who don’t appreciate you may still remain unmoved;

The people who hurt you may still hurt you.

Do they still deserve your compassion?

Before you pass a verdict, remember, Jesus did not choose whom He wants to be compassionate to. He gave the grace, freely.

We can’t control the way our family, our colleagues, our friends or strangers respond to us. And it is not our job to change them, nor our business to judge them. Our compassion should not be hinging on how these people behave or react. Neither do we give compassion when the weather is clear or when the temperature is good.

Compassion is an act of grace, not an attitude of judgement.

Compassion is self-giving, not self-keeping.

Are you not a recipient of the compassion of Jesus too?

Testing… testing… testing…

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” – Romans 12:20

Now Jesus is very interested in your soul- not how far you end but how well you grow.

Let me offer you another perspective- we all live once. A tar baby today may be your dearest friend tomorrow.

Perhaps you need some dosage of love-pills to nurture the health of compassion. Love and compassion are buddies. Try weighing yourself with this measuring scale “1 Corinthians 13:4-8”

Love is patient and long suffering but never gives up; love is kind, thoughtful and cares for others more than for self. Love is not jealous nor envious, it does not boast, it is not prideful. Love is not rude nor act ungraciously. it is not selfish nor it insists on its own rights or ways but put others’ interest above the self, it is not easily irritable or resentful, it does not take into account of wrongs that others do. Love does not take pleasure in unrighteousness, but always rejoices with the truth. It bears all things and put up with anything, believes all things and never loses faith; It hopes all things and always looks for the best, It endures all things. Love never fails; it never dies.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Love your neighbour as you would love yourself (Mark 12:31), for great is a love that covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)” 

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.

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.

Deep Love

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Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].- 1 Peter 4:8 Amplified Bible (CF: Prov 10:12)

This verse dropped in on me this morning. I expounded on it in different translations, and prompted to share it as my Quiet Time thought. May it illuminates you in the same light.

In essence, we know in 1 John 4:8 that God is Love; we love because He first loves us, and having experienced His unconditional but perfect Love, it will naturally overflows out of our heart through His Spirit in us, which enable us to love others. God forgave us out of His deep Love for all of us (in spite of whether we really love Him or not), and cast our sins into the depths of the sea, never to remember (Micah 7:19). The Blood of the unblemished Lamb shed on the Cross had covered over our multitudes of sins that we can be redeemed from our unrighteousness and restored to His Righteousness. God demonstrated a Greater Love when He laid down His Life [He’d first died to Himself] for His friends (us).

Unfortunately, in this fallen world, our love is flawed because we are imperfect. Our hearts are also full of strifes, giving rise to carnal desires because we often walk in or led by our flesh, that give full play to sins. Relationships suffer as a result, when love becomes conditional to what we think, how we feel and how we behave.

God has already provided His model of Love in that verse- In seeking to Love first, we are walking in the Spirit, and not the flesh:

(a) Truly loving someone makes us kind to his/ her imperfections, charitable toward his/ her faults and overlook the imperfections of him / her, insensible to their errors.

(b) We will be able to forgive and be reconciled to those who hurt us with the Love of Christ, who died for them too. Their sins and offenses will not be held in custody against them because true love is not easily angered nor keeps record of any wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5b).

Last but not least, Apostle Peter enforced that “Above all things”, literally in spite of all offenses: how hurt we are, how we feel, who is right or who is wrong, we should put in place a love that is deep and unconditional, modeling after God. For true love never fails; it can cover over a multitude of sins. It will be useful to recall why you love that person in the first place.

And remember too, we are just as capable of hurting others; and imperfect as we are, liable to go astray, we all have occasion to cast ourselves on the charity of those we love.

Mother Theresa inscribed a poem, “Do It Anyway” which is a good reminder for us-

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.