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

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When You Feel Small……

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I believe, some of us, from time to time, felt challenged by our own inadequacies or bruised under a barrage of discouragements, that we did question our own identity.

I recalled one instance in my life (as a very young believer) when I was crushed under pressure at work coupled with a personal sting (I was still struggling to recover from my identity crisis resulted from a broken home and emotional turmoils since young), my spirit was grieving. And that one catalyst engendered a chain reaction that maimed my confidence. The next instance, I struggled with speaking for days, fumbling with words.

One night in the midst of that emotional struggle, I distinctly heard a small voice, “The least is more significant to Me…” God was lieterally speaking to me! I quickly turned to my bible in order to tune my spirit to the Truth. Just as I flipped open, I was led to 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 that read “... those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

Recalling Paul, the great persecutor of his times, who constantly felt tormented by a messenger sent by Satan, yet God empowered him with His Grace and supernatural Strength; Mary Magdeline, the adulteress, whom Jesus saved her from being stoned by the people who condemned her; And not discounting Moses, who once was a murderer, struggled with his own inadequacy and speech deficiency. Needless to mention those hard tax collectors who were regarded as scums of society, had became close disciples of Jesus.

Yet, these are the people who were greatly used by God. Jesus indeed had a special heart for “the-not-so-normal-people”. He saw beyond what men failed to see. Men look at outward appearance but God looks at the heart. People around you may judge you by what you can’t do, but we can take comfort in the God who believes in what you can do.

For he who is least among you all — he is the greatest. – Luke 9:48

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” – Matthew 20:16

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

At times when you may have felt small, Jesus cares.

Those times when you may have felt condemned, Jesus cares.

When you felt no one cares a dime about you, Jesus cares.

He has a special heart for those the world has chosen to disparage.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

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This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,  ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16

My ex-colleagues have always been addressing me as “Miss GPS, can you direct me how we should get there?” or “GPS, is this the correct way to that place?” or “GPS, please direct me, otherwise we will all get lost!” Isn’t it funny that a non-driving-license holder has a better sense of direction than those (I mean, not all drivers have poor sense of direction) who own a driving license? Perhaps, I just know a little more since I was quite “well-travelled” being chauffeured around.

Not long ago, this GPS teaser shed a new light…

The best GPS system is still the One who is omnipresent and all-mighty. He can see a far much better picture and has the “state-of-the-art navigating system”. He is the best Person to get directions, directing our every path; where we should be heading and where we should stop. And He knows best which is the safest route without the unnecessary zig-zag turns, the crazy jams and the merry-go-rounds. And we can trust that we will be in one piece without the mess-ups. Wouldn’t all drivers like to travel safely with no time waste?

So let God has your driver seat. Just admit it, we are all poor drivers (I mean, in life). You will come to a cross-road, a juncture, not knowing if you should turn to the left or the right- His Way or your way? From time to time, you will come to an amber light, should you dash ahead or slow down- wait for Holy Spirit or run ahead of the Spirit? You will at times beat the red lights, and oh dear, you are summoned to face a fine- to be rebellious or be obedient? You will certainly be stuck in a heavy traffic jam that seemed to take ages to clear, and oh no, you find yourself in the throes of mood- be patient for God’s timing or be impatient and miss your kairos moment? You will occasionally miss the correct turns- trust God or trust your own wisdom? Not to mention, you will have to go one big round- how long will it take for you to learn a lesson?

Ring a bell? Remember how the Isrealites had been wandering in the dessert for 40 years. Remember how God called Abraham to a place he did not know and God gave him the Promise. The difference between the two is- trust God or trust yourself? Obey God or rebel against Him?

And one thing for sure, God works for those whose hands willingly let Him take the driver seat, the heart that fully surrender to His Sovereignty that He will take them where they should be going.

So allow God to be your GPS. And He will take you places!

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. – Isaiah 42:16

“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.  The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” – Luke 3:4b-5

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19

The Art of Weaknesses

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The Beginning: A stark white piece of paper.

In the Process: When passed through many hands over the years, the paper aged in yellow, got the crinkles, the creases and the bad stains.

In the End: A crumpled paper- A pair of hands out of curiosity unravels the crumpled paper, all he sees is many holes and cracks, any further dealings with it however gentle, will tear the paper. “Useless paper, trash it, it is getting in the way!”

The Making: Another pair of hands picks the crumpled paper from the trash bin, though he sees the holes, he sees the cracks, he wears a smile in delight as if he had found a treasure, “Great! I found it, this is what I want!”. He tears the paper into small pieces, throw into the blender to blend into a paper pulp. The pulp when mixed with water surfaced the impurities, the dust, and the fine sands. Whoosh! A recycled paper is created, but it speaks volumes- the right weight with the right strength, the even surface and the beauty of the paper texture, all in a perfect finishing touch.

This art of paper-making lies the eyes of an appreciated master and his pair of skilfull hands. He turns waste into beauty.

The Art of Weaknesses: Isn’t our life like that crumpled paper? A paper of mishandled holes and the cracks of life? No one knows the process of how each of us went through, all we see is just a crumpled paper, and soon be condemned as useless paper and shoot it into the bin.

Everyone of us has our own weaknesses, and all these weaknesses usually have a link to the past- an inheritance of the growing up years. Unfortunately, our responses and our actions often put people on the judgement seats without further cross-examinations of how these triggers came about- “Why are you like this and that…” Unfortunately, that paved the way for misunderstandings, impatience, anger, frustrations, disappointments and even weariness- “I have enough…”  Unfortunately, weaknesses tested all relationships- “I give up…” Unfortunately, so often the prosecution did not even look within themselves- “Nothing to do with me…”

If you counsel a girlfriend, she will share with you the problems and the weaknesses of her boyfriend. If you counsel a boyfriend, he will confide in you the same problems and the weaknesses of his girlfriend. Apparently, their problems have to do with each other weaknesses.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that they are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)” As we learn about life through trials and tribulations and grow, likewise we learn strength from our own weaknesses as well as from others. It is always easy to love someone who does not give you much problems, but God especially uses weaknesses to reveal each other vulnerability and grow in strength together through problems.

Everything that happened, there is always a purpose, a reason and a message. In every relationships, God always uses each other weaknesses to teach the other something. God does not use weaknesses to hurt or destroy each other, He uses weaknesses to do His work. God could be teaching each of us the limits of our own strength, our attitudes, our patience, our tolerance, our level of understanding and sensitivity to each other and thereon.

God in His New Testament has taught many truths that edified a relationship, here is a 7-keys checklist:

1. CHECK YOURSELF

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eyes? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)

We are always quick to remonstrate others’ weaknesses without even first look at our own. And problems do not merely existed as one-sided. Always first check yourself.

2. CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

All of us has a past. Our thinking, attitudes and actions were shaped by our upbringing, especially those with unhappy past inflicted a deep wound in their lives, there is always a struggle with the emotions. But instead of letting such weaknesses consumed us, make an effort with God’s Strength to crucify the old self and put on the new self, the other party should be encouraging and try to help in whatever ways he or she can.

3. ARE YOU LISTENING?

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Sad to say, most of us have ears but do not listen. More sad to say, all of us are quick to speak without listening first. The big picture would be incomplete with those missing little pieces, thus it gives way to so much misunderstandings and frustrations.

4. ARE YOU GENTLE WITH YOUR WORDS?

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. (Proverbs 17:27) A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31) Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23)

When we are frustrated; in a bad mood; or in anger, our tone and manner definitely will be harsh. Harsh words can be an outburst of rejection, such insensitivity may hurt the other person than you realised it. Bear in mind also the mentality of the recipient whether he or she is in a foul mood, simple words may misconstrued as otherwise. Quarrels are usually sparkled off from careless and harsh words, the gentle your words expressed, the less sensitivity will be induced.

Learn to be sensitive with your words for there is power when professed, they either bless or curse; or build up or tear down. Bad attitude is definitely not a language of love, therefore exercise self-control and gentleness, “encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)”

It is always better to talk face to face, or over the phone than through emails or sms as the tone and manner of words and the style of expression can be ambigious. When you voice it out personally, you can grasp the tone and manner better and also determine the receptivity of the receiving end.

5. HAVE YOU BEEN PATIENT?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Weaknesses of one teach another patience and tolerance. If God has been so patient with us and longsuffering with all our sins, what makes us to be less tolerant and patient with others? Love is patient and patience perseveres in love.

6. HAVE SELFISHNESS STANDS IN THE WAY?

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

“Why should I make the first move?!?”, “It is all her fault, I have nothing to do with it!”; “You can think what you want to think and say what you want to say, I don’t care!” Sounds familiar?

In almost every relationships, we each have our own expectations of the other, falling short of it, we let selfishness and pride reign and ultimately it gives way to disappointments, resentment and anger. No one is perfect, we should be humble and always think of the others more than yourselves.

7. ARE YOU FORGIVING?

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

Much as it hurts God for all our mistakes, our flaws, our sins, and He still forgives us times and again, do you have the right not to forgive others too? No one is infallible to flaws, mistakes and sins, thus we all need forgiveness one after another. Forgiveness is a gift from God, since He has so freely given us, can we deprive someone else of this gift too?

The Beauty:

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 records of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7-8) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-23, 26)

It is best to confront issues, talk about them than letting them remain as they are. The more you try to hide or avoid will eventually eat into you. Identify the issues to each other, recognise the triggers, admit your own vulnerability, pray and commit to God and deal with the issues with wisdom and tact. In such round-the-table confrontation, you would probably be in for a surprise of things you may have blindspots to.

No one can change a person but believe that if you have committed to pray for that person and the relationship to God, you can be sure He will be in control and something supernaturally happens in the process. God does beautiful wonders.

But it does not end with us resting on our laurels after the prayers. God works in the process. Each of us should try to learn how to communicate and understand each other better; build better trust and faith; accept and love each other despite the weaknesses; help each other to overcome the weaknesses and encourage each other to be a better person that God has intended for him or her.

The art of weaknesses is a lifelong learning process.

Fake Label Christain

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True and False Disciples

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ – Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

I remembered a friend shared that a lady with imitation AAA rated (means very close to the real goods) Gucci bag checked into the actual Gucci store during its sales. She felt proud to own that label which was the envy of many. A sales representative caught her red-handed for carrying an imitation, and a police case was filed. The lady was then escorted out with glares by many bystanders. The consequence was unthinkable- She might go to jail for such a folly in passing off an imitation that could crown her to be a real Guccian.

Do you see any association to the passage about what God says about goats and sheeps in His Church?

Just by one label- Fake Christain.

And God has the eyes to see who carries such label and He labels them goats. And goats are casted out of His Gate. Many of us professed our faith and yet live a life only as a Sunday Christian. Many of us claimed that we believed and prayed the sinner’s prayer yet our lives are not reflecting true conversion.

Don’t be surprised, God also have something to say about those who are so fervent about God and involved in a lot of ministries but fall short of being a true believer because their hearts are far away from believing Him and acknowledging Him as Lord and Saviour. Read the verse 22-23 again- It addresses the group of people who did God’s work, mind you, and yet, God can see through their hearts.

Isn’t it scary to hear God telling you, “I don’t know you!” or “I never knew you!”? Would you really know you are truly saved? Do you think just having a stamp on your passport guarantees you an entry to Heaven? If so, everyone can have it easy. We can always chose to be a non-practicing Christian.

Let me give you an illustration- A General Practicioner (GP) is a doctor with a certificate that verifies his professionalism. What if this GP never practises medicine after graduation, can he still be a doctor? Will he still be seen as a credible doctor to the public who is seeking medical help?

Likewise, sure, we get an acknowledgment that we are christians when we prayed the sinner’s prayer. So what is next? Read verse 21 again- It emphasis the last line, “BUT (means by this condition) the one who DOES (be doer not hearer) the WILL (God’s purposes and plans for all of us) of my Father…”.

Verse 23b has an even solemn message- “Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Who are these people? Dictionaries define breaking God’s laws as being lawless as “not bound by laws”, “wicked”, “trangressor”, “disobedient”, “violator”, “immoral” and the list goes on. In short, it simply means, no regards for God’s Laws- You know about the rules yet you defy them. We are people of lawlessness because we sin from time to time. But take heart, that Jesus singles out “workers of lawlessness”. Workers work hard day and night with an intention (either for promotion or just to earn more money etc.). In interpreting this, if we continue sinning (it is already at work) and breaking God’s laws or principles intentionally (deliberate disobedience), God has an ultimatum- “depart from Me!”

For example, we all know that carrying imitation goods are prohibited. If we get caught by the original manufacturer, we are in big trouble because we break the laws. It is clear that we cannot escape from such laws. So knowing it, and we deliberately act against this law, would not justice has its way one day? Perhaps, if your conscience is working, you would have stop robbing someone of the copyright.

James summarised in James 2:14-25 (NIV) that the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Let’s check our hearts:

What are we truly- Are we REAL label for Christ?

How Desperate Are You In Praying?

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While prayer-jogging at night as usual, I literally heard a small voice, “How desperate are you in praying?”

Does this question stump you? I am equally startled…

A very desperate prayer by King Hezekiah etched indelibly in my mind- 2 Kings 20 narrated that King Hezekiah was nearing death. God sent Isaiah, the prophet, to deliver the bad news that he would meet his death; and would not recover. Upon hearing it, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and burst into tears. Still, he expressed his total devotion to God and wept bitterly for God’s mercy. Isaiah was halfway out of the palace when God stopped him and conveyed a message “Go back and tell Hezekiah… I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. I will add fifteen years to your life” (Note too, Hezekiah had been a good and righteous king.)

The key here is, how desperate are you- are your pleas sowed in tears? Or merely insincere or just-get-over-and-done-with utterances?

“There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying.”

– John G. Lake

I have recorded half-hearted prayers (or mouthing prayers) versus humbling cries at my knees. I discovered I am always in for surprises, usually hours later, God has heard my prayers in my humbling posture and give me hope. (Sometimes, they do not come in the package I may have expected…).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 

from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, 

being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

 

“The greatest victory is often won on humbling knees.”

– Unknown

Flickering Candle

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I was encouraging a friend who was depressed from being jobless for a prolonged period. And it happened at the same time that I was talking to another friend why I like candles- because of one particular verse that had been an anchor for my soul when I was in crises eons ago-

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; – Isaiah 42:3a

A room may be in complete darkness. But the moment you light up a candle, darkness has to flee. No matter how weak the candle wick is, or how flicker the flame is, nor how small the candle is, even the faintest of light can still light up the room. No matter how big the room in the dark is, darkness has to flee the moment there is light.

Watching the candle burning is a stark reminder that Jesus is the Light, whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of life (John 8:12). The question is what do we see in our room of darkness?

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

Even if our physical eyes are (momentarily / temporarily) veiled by darkness, do our spiritual eyes light up in the faith under fire- seeing God even in our moments of darkness?

I encouraged her to really light up a candle to observe, study it and meditate upon these life-giving truths. It is also a great reminder to myself in trying times, with another parallel to Isaiah 42:3a “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

We are called to be warriors of light to the world in darkness; and we are called to be the lamp of light to the soul (can be yourself too) in darkness.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16