Honey, I stumble the kid!

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Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. – 1 Corinthians 8:9

Spending time with a 13-month old toddler at home reminded me of an indelible verse my previous mentor etched permanently on my mind, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ, follow my example” (Ephesians 5:1). She taught us not by speech (since we can pick up from the bible) but by her actions. I had the privilege to be able to serve and learn in both married and singles ministries the past years. My mentor then never failed to correct me whenever I did or said something not befitting as a Child of God which I always remember her last counsel to me, “Whether you like it or not, people around you are watching you because you are considered a spiritual Senior.” Honestly, I didn’t like that, but that is a resounding truth to all of us, especially with pre-believers.

Aside to spiritual matters, there is another aspect of being a good example starts from the home. Home is where the foundation is built. It amazed me how impressionable my toddler niece is at such a very tender age- on one occasion I was fiddling with my hair, and she was mimicking me! In many instances, she picked up what I did more than what I said. I realised she is watching me and I have to be very mindful that I should not set a bad example.

Indeed, kids remember what you did more than what you said. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to become a stumbling block to any one. We all have the freedom to make choices each day, live the life we want, and to do what we feel like to do. But this freedom can cost us or another person something, and it may be too high a price to pay because what we do today will determine tomorrow.

Parents, God has entrusted you with great responsibilities to nurture His little children in your care, and how are you doing with this divine task? Imagine this- if we are always living a bible-less and prayerless life, not applying kingdom values as godly parents, and not promoting family altar time, how are we going to enforce spiritual disciplines to the kids? Thence what godly values would we be imparting to them?

Singles, we may not have kids at home to watch us, but we don’t have to wait for a kid to change us. Because we have our family, the world and God watching us too- Character is who you are when no one is watching. (Of course, this applies to parents too.)

Show example by what we do is the best lesson we can teach— just to mention a few examples— we don’t remind kids to do their Quiet Time when we as parents fail to have this daily discipline; we don’t teach honour to a kid when we dishonour others by not respecting other people’s time when we turn up late for appointments.

Yes, we are absolutely not perfect, but that doesn’t excuse us for not doing what we supposed to do, and knowing the right thing to do yet not doing it. Kids are watching around us, and would we like to be accountable for stumbling them? Let’s remember too, God is watching.

So prepare your minds for action, be completely sober [in spirit—steadfast, self-disciplined, spiritually and morally alert], fix your hope completely on the grace [of God] that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. [Live] as obedient children [of God]; do not be conformed to the evil desires which governed you in your ignorance [before you knew the requirements and transforming power of the good news regarding salvation]. But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your conduct [be set apart from the world by your godly character and moral courage];  because it is written, “You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 AMP

The change always first begin with you- you can, if only you want to. There is a difference between “I will” and “I want”- all of us can do any thing but not all of us want to; unless we want to, then we will do it.

So, how is our “inner” life thus far?

Courtesy photo (P1040652) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.
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Why Is It Hard To Rejoice?

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“Rejoice in the Lord, and He will give you strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) In His Presence is the fullness of joy.” (Psalms 16:11)

There is actually a difference between joy and happiness. Joy is something that lives inside of us, as it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), which we have access to the divine joy of God. It will always be there even through downtimes. Whereas the latter is something you must attain or arrive at in order to be happy.

The key to “REJOICE” in the Lord in pursuance of renewed strength:

  1. RE-JOY – Daily choose to re-joice, in order to turn on the tap of outpouring joy.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT) For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NLT)

  1. RE-JOIN – Daily choose to re-join to the Holy Spirit, in order to tap onto His power.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” – Galatians 5:22

  1. EN-JOY – Enter the joy of your salvation and enjoy it. Remember what you are saved for.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalm 51:12

Why joy eludes us? There may be areas we can identify:

1. Because we let the burdens of this world weigh us down and wear us out. It is a sign that we have been walking in our flesh — for the fruit of the world is emptiness— and not the Spirit (since one characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is joy).

2. There may be areas in our lives that have drawn in darkness, i.e. unreconciled issue with someone or even God. When a candle is flickering, it can barely lit the room. The strength of the candle wick reveals the power of the flame. So when the wick is strong, the flame will be burning strongly and the room will light up brightly. Likewise, joy works in the same equation.

3. There may be an unwillingness to die to the self that we struggle to walk in obedience to what God says in some aspect of our lives.

4. We let joy be contingent on our circumstances. Does it mean we can only feel joyful during happy times? No doubt, humanly speaking. But, real joy comes to test even in difficult times. A praise-full soul find renewed strength and joy in the Lord and not through circumstances.

5. We are not living in God’s presence. How is your relationship with God? Is God merely a weekend visitor? Or a last minute drop-by when there is pocket of time? When life gets too busy to even read your bible, or pray, or to offer praise, it is simply too busy.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

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.

The 7 Virtues To Transforming Your Relationships And Your Character

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

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

1. The virtue of LISTENING

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

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

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

2. The virtue of SILENCE

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

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

3. The virtue of PATIENCE

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

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

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

4. The virtue of HUMILITY

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

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

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

5. The virtue of DENYING YOURSELF

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

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

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

6. The virtue of REST

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

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

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

7. The virtue of FOCUS

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

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

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

Healthy Spirit, Fruitful Life

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Someone whom you find it so hard to love been banished into your cold palace.

Joy seems ephemeral especially in tough storms.

When the stresses of life seem overwhelming, peace stays transient in your heart.

Your iota of patience is challenged whenever dealing with an avalanche of frustrations.

Those barrage of unkind words afflicted woundedness to the heart.

And life’s disappointments always seem greater than God’s goodness.

There is simply no time in serving the Lord, reading the bible and praying faithfully.

Though bearing the name of Jesus, yet your mannerism do not reflect His gentle disposition.

Self-control is on the wane when confronted by a persistent sin in your life.

 

Everyone is watching. And they know Jesus through you by how you carry His Name.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. -1 John 4:13

Did you stumble others by your unloving, unkind and ungentle actions, impatience, grumbling attitude, lack of self-restraint and faithless deeds?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

On the surface, an apple looks scrumptiously healthy in pink, only to discover a few days later, the apple is infested with maggots. Much to one’s dismay, the imperceptible side of the apple was mucked. And one rotten apple can indeed caused the whole basket of apples to rot. The stark truth is, what is on the outside bespeaks what is in the inside and vice versa.

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. -Matthew 7:16-20

In a similar context of sin, anger for instance, can ignited a simultaneous combustion of reactive agents (emotions) that emitted explosion (sins); in your anger, would you able to exercise self-control and be gentle with your words and patient with your actions? In your anger, would your heart be at peace and react out of love and kindness? It doesn’t mean your fruit will be burned to zero ground, but it does affect the quality of your fruit which in turn affect the health of your Spirit. And the health of your Spirit determines the fruitfulness of the Spirit. And the fruitfulness of your Spirit determines the level of fruitfulness in your life as well as any spiritual endeavours that you have embarked on.

So, how do you rate the health of your Spirit on the scale of 9?

Here’s a prescription of 9 Vitamins to strengthen your Spirit on a daily dosage:

1. LOVE = 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

2. JOY = James 1:2-3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

3. PEACE = Ephesians 4:3

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

4. PATIENCE = Ephesians 4:2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

5. KINDNESS = 2 Peter 1:5-8

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. GOODNESS = Ephesians 5:9

for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth

7. FAITHFULNESS = 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

8. GENTLENESS = Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

9. SELF-CONTROL = Titus 2:11-13

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fruitfulness has to be taken place with an inner Spiritual transformation that will go outward characteristically. And a fruitful life comes from living healthily with a healthy Spirit in you.