“I Tell You The Truth…”

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I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.3 John 1:4 

Did it ever occur to you that some of Jesus’ words were affixed with “I tell you the truth…”? Nearly seventy times found in the Bible that Jesus is quoted as having said that famous liner. This revealed not only was Jesus concerned with the truth and to express what He had to say was the truth as it is, but to reinforce the importance of that truth in order to remind us to pay attention to it. 

We may all claim that “Of course, I know…”, but if we honestly examine our attitudes and actions, we had have to confess that we do not always measure up nor really act like we do. Sometimes the voices in the world can delude us into believing certain truths what our sinful nature likes and be deceived into endorsing them. We ended up feigning ignorance or take the truth with a pinch of salt and even dismiss it readily citing excuses on the weakness of human nature.

It is evident that nobody likes hard truth, much less to hear the truth being slapped to our face. Surely none of us like to be forced to accept certain truth as the Only Truth. But it remains a fact that as Children of Light, if we claim that we experience a shared life with Jesus and continue to stumble around in the dark, we are obviously lying through our teeth— we’re not living what we claim. (1 John 1:7A MSG)

The entire Bible is the Ultimate Truth, whether we like it or not. And that is the hard truth.

Here’s some of the stark truths that we may not like to hear but will stop us in our track to reflect over our walk with God:

  1. Is there a difference in our spiritual life now compared to where we were a spiritual baby? Do we experience true transformation since our first conversion? (Cross reference to Ephesians 4:20-24)

2. Judgement Day will bring to light our work and its quality will be tested with fire to reveal if it can withstand the heat. (Cross reference to 1 Corinthians 3:13). Do we have any thing to present to God when we come before Him one day? Will we be proven faithful to the things He entrusted us with or call us to do?

3. Not everyone who calls the Lord “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of God gets to heaven (Cross reference to Matthew 7:21-23). Will God really know us when He separates His Sheeps and goats on the Final Day?

4. All our deeds, big and small, whether spoken or unspoken, done or devising, blatant and hidden, will be recorded in the books, and we will be judged accordingly. (Cross reference to Revelation 20:12). How would we stand before God?

5. We all find it nauseating to have distasteful lukewarm food, and in the same figure of speech found in Revelation 3:15-16 which used to express disgust that God had for those who are lukewarm, in other words, lacked spiritual zeal. Would we still continue to be complacent as bench-warmer with a folding-arm mentality in our walk with God?

6. Do we come to God only when in need and treat Him like some cosmic vending machine expecting Him to bless us when we have not been spending time with Him, choose to go to Abba’s House only as and when we like, we neglect our spiritual growth, we complain about the chores of carrying out God’s work, choose to be disobedient to His commandments etc.? (Cross reference to Deuteronomy 28)

The truth is this: We can be­lieve in God and sin, but we cannot walk in sin and enjoy God’s Presence at the same time. 1 John 3:9 (NLT) says, “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” In addition, Romans 6:2 (NLT) says, “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? In other words, we should not want to sin. And the closer we are to God, the more conscious we are of sin, and the less we will do it. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil; he cannot toler­ate sin.” So if we walk with God, our eyes will be purified too to look on evil, and we will come to hate sin like God does, as the one who called us is holy, so we too should be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15).

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. – John 8:32

Image courtesy from Richard Chan
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The Dangers Of Feelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Feeling opposes faith

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

  1. Feeling is contingent

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

  1. Feeling is double-minded

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

  1. Feeling is fleeting

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

  1. Feeling is natural

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

  1. Feeling can cook excuses

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

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

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

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.

God’s Masterpiece

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At some point in time, I struggled with my own identity, often questioning my existence in God’s Plan and Purpose for my life. Until I literally heard a Voice relating a story and my Spirit singing away (at the end of the story):

A Master potter was at work with his clay to prepare for his art show. After years of refining his skills, his effort paid off; He painstakingly arranged all his potteries in the gallery space. And finally the art show opened its doors to the public. Everybody admired the beautiful pieces as they were perfectly made. Until they came to a showcase where it displayed all chipped, broken and unpolished potteries. One member of the audience, out of curiosity, popped the question, “Why do you display such ugly works on this showcase, Master? They are not worth even to look at.” The Master potter replied with a smile, “I am sure everybody looks at those beautifully crafted potteries displayed on the open pedestals. They appear to look grand and perfect. But to me, they are common pieces which anyone can made. If you take a closer look at them with a magnifying glass, you will see they have chips too. Would you then see them as ugly? So nothing is perfect nor without flaws. But these potteries which you have called ugly, useless, worthless and ignoble, are my greatest masterpieces. I am proud of them so that is why I have separated them on this showcase. Yes, they have cracks or chips not because I made them that way but in the processes when they are made, they are refined by the elements. Don’t you think, each and every pieces are unique? So unique that they are beautiful in itself. Not only do they bear my handprints, they have also withstand the test of time. Each cracks and chips on them has a story behind, and that is what made them more beautiful. And I am most proud of these masterpieces. Although I value all my work the same, but I chose these broken potteries as my signature works because they have noble purposes. And I see them uniquely beautiful. How else will others know they are made by me?” The audience was stunned silenced.

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this? ”Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? – Romans 9:20-21

Do you see yourself as a pot that is lousy with no purposes or value? The world may see the intelligent, smartest, pretty, multi-talented “pots” as perfect and beautiful, but the fact is, they all have cracks and chips we do not see. If you have felt inferior, take heart, because you are truly God’s masterpiece for a noble purpose. It is just that, perhaps, it takes time for you to be fully polished that you can shine like a hidden diamond out of soot. The Master Potter who had made you had put His Heart, Love and designed talents / purpose in you- you are one and only in this world, which only you can do.

(You Are God’s) Masterpiece
(Modified lyrics from the original secular “Masterpiece” song by Atlantic Starr)

A simple touch of His Hand,
And everything is right.
The loving way He looks at you,
Each and every day.
He’d given you the Freedom no other love has known
And now be thankful girl, thankful girl

The countless ways He’ve touched your heart
Is more than you can count
The beauty that He have shown to you
shows that hope’s not lost
A picture perfect painting, that’s what His Love is
And yes you need to know, He loves you so

Chorus:
Ooooh
God’ve made a masterpiece in you
a work of art it’s true
And He treasures you His Love
Ooooh
God’ve made a masterpiece in you
a work of art it’s true
And He treasures you

When times you wonder what you’ll be
Have He not hold you
A lost and dejected soul this world
could show you nothing new

But now your life’s a canvas
painted with His Love
And it will always be
And do you see

God walks with you together
Through time will never part
The Divine Cross He’d shared
is close inside your heart
It will be forever
never let it go
this promise He still make
Heaven is yours to take

Repeat Chorus

When you’re lost and insecure
He builds you up and make you sure
that everything will be alright
My love

Repeat Chorus

(The Divine Cross He’s sharing
is close inside your heart
It will be forever
never let it go)

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifices

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“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

I had a catch-up with an old friend, Jae, whose sharing got me in deep rumination:

Snippet 1: When was the last time you can feel that you have grieved the Holy Spirit?

Jae shared about an argument that his 13-year old niece had with her mum who was so upset over her words that she was sent off to her room, “You better think over the words you have just said to me…” My friend knew his niece would cry badly as she had a very stern mother, so he went to check on her. True enough, she was crying badly, so Jae went to comfort her and tried to offer the usual niceties… But guess what was the response of his niece upon receiving his comfort? “Uncle, I do not blame my mum at all, I cry because I have grieved the Holy Spirit…”

I was absolutely stumbed for words to hear that coming from a 13-year old girl. It got me thinking when was the last time we could really FEEL that we have grieved the Holy Spirit by the things we said or did? If it has been a while to have such sensitivity like his young niece, it means that we have not been walking in the spirit closely in our daily lives. So often we pointed fingers and go around the blaming circle, without reflecting whether the problem first lie with us.

Snippet 2: “If this caused my children to stumble and turn away from the Lord, then I rather forego it…”

Jae’s brother can afford to upgrade his comfortable abode to a beautiful luxurious home as God has blessed him with much wealth over the years. His brother has been planning over 3 years how to build his dream home, that he looks forward to living in it with his family. Until a day he just decided to abort his plan and forfeit a huge deposit. Jae was shocked by his abrupt decision so he sounded him out what had happened. His reply was, “If living in a lap of luxury is going to stumble all my young children, especially the youngest one, that they start to behave like some rich pampered kids, just because they are blessed to have a lot more nice things, I rather forego my plans than to risk them to turn away from the Lord…”

I really salute this father for having a kingdom mindset- A God-loving father gives up all his rights for the sake of the next generation in the fear of the lord! Are there any of our decisions or things that we do will compromise the values of the Kingdom? So often, we thought by doing certain things will better the lives of our family- better house, better car, better things, without considering the true value of living on earth.

“Those who honor me I will honor.” – 1 Samuel 2:30B

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.

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.