React VS Response

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A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. – Proverbs 15:1, 4 The Message

There was once during cell we were discussing about a ‘cockroach management theory’ on ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’. It brought to my mind this famous liner by Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” And to quote Ann Landers, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”

In short, the way we react or response reveal or rather mirror our heart and character- you are what you say.

There is a vast difference between ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’- we usually react out of our emotional impulse, quick and without much thought, as opposed to ‘responding’ where we usually pause with deliberation to think over how to respond appropriately despite how we feel at the moment. Reaction often sparks off a chain of negative reactions unnecessarily, whereas response provokes analysis and opens ground for healthy discussion.

I can totally relate between these two subjects. I used to be a very reactive person as a result of growing up under a stigma of rejections that had moulded me to be a very ultra-sensitive person. I took every little comment personally and reacted negatively, even if the person meant no malicious intent. The root was deep so were the wounds. Because of this sensitivity, I deliberately hardened my heart in order to prevent any injurious infliction. And over the years, I grew numb emotionally as if living in denial was my way to survive. Imagine that I had been living in a vicious cycle of blaming my family background and a physical condition I could never accept.

But God has been gracious and didn’t leave me that way, just as an onion has layer upon layer to peel off, God had been gently dealing with this deep issue in order to bring healing to my whole being. It took me years to learn and overcome. Aside to arming myself with the Shield of Faith and Sword of the Spirit, these practical tips also help immensely:

  1. Rein myself in for 3 days against reacting in order to response with a clear mind appropriately;
  2. Should I find myself reacting to a situation, I should filter it by asking myself: (a) Is it true? (b) Is it right? (c) Is it necessary? (d) Does it benefit or helpful to the person who listen?
  3. Pause and evaluate what and why you are reacting? Then nib it in the bud immediately otherwise this bad root will grow into a strong tree and you will find yourself in a vicious cycle.
  4. Last but not least, realise that words whether spoken or unspoken, will be actualised and has the power to bring the end result it has been intended for.

I hope by sharing this excerpt from my own journey will help others to avoid this unnecessary path. May it also provide some insights to how we are what we are because of where we were.

And yes of course, even till now, there is no way I can be perfect in this area, until I get to Heaven. And nonetheless, it doesn’t warrant a license to continue living as I was. The heart of the matter is often the matter of the heart- Attitude. It is but a matter of how you see it and response; and response takes action wisely.

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Let Jesus In (Teach Me What I Cannot See)

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P.S. May this be my e-gift to all this season.

“Teach me what I cannot see.” – Job 34:32

While seeking God for a specific Word during my stroll in the park one night, I received the following impressions on the above Rhema word.

We all have Holy Spirit residing in us, but how many of us so often seek His counsel in every aspect of our daily lives? And how often do we pray such a prayer, “Teach me what I cannot see.”?

We all know that God possesses all-encompassing Wisdom and Higher Knowledge as an infinite Sovereignty. And He sent His Holy Spirit, as a Helper, to reside in each of us. He will teach us all things, and bring to our remembrance all that God said (John 14:26).

Yet, we as finite beings of a fallen nature, living in the natural world, have eyes that only see the physical. In other words, there is limitation to what we can see with our eyes: our own limited abilities and understanding. Sometimes we have our own blind-spots, and can be blind to certain truth. Sometimes we can be so self-focus when we are inward-looking. If we are honest, we live by sight far often than we live by faith. With our inherent weaknesses, it is contrary to reason to teach ourself what is correct and what is true, in such a way our understanding will be very much flawed.

So when we request for someone to teach us, it takes great humility to acknowledge that this person has greater knowledge and understanding, which only God makes the mark. He says in Jeremiah 33:3 ESV, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Who in the world have such deep insights?

Some of us may reason, “Doesn’t He (God) see everything I do and every step I take?” (Job 31:4 NLT). Yes, God knows every details, but as a loving Father, He doesn’t want to breathe down our neck nor forcefully coerce a confession. We will be willing to learn if we are first convicted and be open to changes. God is willing to teach us. When we seek His Teachings, it will be a life-changing process that will transcend boundaries and empower us supernaturally, relying and depending only on the Living source.

It is now time to reflect- What dull your spiritual senses?

  1. What do you SEE? 

(a) What have veiled your eyes?

(b) Did you fail to see God’s handprints in each details of your life?

(c) Did you overlook His Will for you?

(d) Have you missed His Way?

 

  1. What do you HEAR? 

(a) What have blocked your ears?

(b) Have you been missing His Voice?

(c) Did you lose that sense of Familiarity in hearing Jesus?

 

  1. What do you FEEL? 

(a) What have choked your heart?

(b) Are you not able to feel His Presence near?

(c) Are you not able to feel the heartbeat of Jesus?

(d) How is your compassion quotient?

 

  1. What do you UNDERSTAND? 

(a) What cause your spiritual antenna to be defective?

(b) Have you been spending time in His Word daily?

(c) Have you been living your life with what you have learnt?

(d) How is your relationship with God?

 

It would be good to pray along with these verses prior to doing our own reflection:

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults (Psalm 19:12 NLT). Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart (Psalm 26:2 NLT). Teach me what I cannot see.” (Job 34:32)

“Teach Me What I Cannot See.” (Prelude)

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Transformation does not take place in experience, transformation takes place in reflection on experience.” – St. Ignatius

I usually take time to do some reflection for the year end closing. It is an important spiritual discipline to take the time to review our life and reflect over our experiences over the year:

  1. Take inventory of our walk with God and bring all things under the Lordship of Christ.
  1. Be honest with ourselves with a magnifying glass to see our weaknesses and our strengths:

(a) We may discover something about ourselves that need God’s help.

(b) How can we overcome weaknesses to glorify God?

(c) How can we become a better person that honour God?

(d) How is our Christlikeness quotient?

  1. It cultivates gratitude to count our blessings so that we will never forget God’s Faithfulness, and thank Him for how much He has shown His Love to the extent of caring, providing and protecting us.
  1. It allows us to detach from worldliness of a secular life and re-align ourselves to our Saviour and Creator.
  1. Life in retrospection tracks our progress in becoming better disciples of Jesus Christ, where new godly habits may need to be cultivated and certain teachings or disciplines to be reinforce.
  2. Through identifying how God is working in us and how He is working around us heighten our awareness in living a more fulfilled Christian lives.

Ideally, reflection should be done on a daily basis, so that: (a) we are continually living in God’s Presence, and (b) it helps to set our heart and mind on spiritual things that matter (Colossians 3:2).

Whenever Our Heart Condemns Us

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For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.- 1 John 3:20

I will never forget the expression of my friend when she admonished me last January, “how can a Child of God behaved that way like an unbeliever as if you do not have God!” when I confided in her that I had been struggling with faith in believing God when my business hit a stalemate and my physical condition deteriorated. Though she meant well to point me back to the promise that God provides for our every needs and hears our every cries, I felt as though I was condemned with my honest fragility and naked vulnerability.

It might seem like an unsympathetic reproach from my friend, but her words resonate a truth that we often let it fall between the cracks in our struggles. Sometimes, we need a ‘tight slap on the face’ to be roused to reality in revealing a flaw in our belief system.

Do you know that we make evident our unbelief instantly whenever we fret over life circumstances? Are we aware that we have believed a lie about the nature of God whenever we act upon our fear or anxiety? Our actions will either convict or affirm us of our belief system, where it reveals: (a) the true central focus of our lives – God or the self; (b) who do we place our ultimate trust in – God or the self.

As believers, we often face such paradoxes from time to time. When we are on a spiritual high, we can believe God can move mountains and perform the impossible, but when we are on a spiritual low, we question the very existence of God. And despite history recorded the miracles of God in the Bible, we still entertain doubts.

We may know the truth but yet we consciously or unconsciously commit those sins we shouldn’t have said, done, reacted or behaved as a Child of God created in His Image. Failing which, our ungodly actions will bring about a guilt of conviction or a call to repentance. God knows, and He is greater than our heart and a sum of our thoughts.

Have it not been for the Grace of God who is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 103:8), we would not be able to stand before Him uncondemned. However that does not give us a license to continue to sin, we are to make every conscious effort not to crucify Jesus all over again and subject Him to shame, especially when we are with unbelievers who will mock at our God.

And then have fallen away–to be restored again to repentance, because they themselves are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to open shame. – Hebrews 6:6

With the year end closes in soon, it may be time to unclutter our baggages (inspect and reflect) and have a spring-cleaning (repent) to start the new year on a clean slate. After all, why would you want to move into the new year as ‘same-old same-old me’?

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.

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

Critical Spirit. The Little Things. Relational Injuries.

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. – Romans 14:13

 

At times we don’t feel respected.

At times we don’t feel being cared for.

At times we stepped on the other person’s feelings.

At time we brushed each other the wrong way.

At times unkind words lashed out heedlessly hurtful and regretted later.

At times we get disappointed.

 

Crowded schedules. Money pressures. Communication problems. Midlife crises. Emotionally inaccessiblity. Insecurities. Fears.

And there’s never time to talk. Disconnected.

When you do talk, frustrations stirred instead.

Our own share of human frailties in one way or another irritate the other. All those little things sank your heart like the Titanic.

Difficulties in relationships arise out of unresolved relational hurts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and when they are not dealt with, those little things become issues themselves. Eventually, they grow to become relational injuries.

 

The 7-key checklist of relational injuries:

1. Acceptance in love or expectation?

(a) What is your expectation of the other person whom you are relating to?

(b) Has your expectations get too much in the way?

(c) When he/ she failed to meet your expectations, do you withdraw?

 

All of us are made different, and grow differently as well, the first step is learning to discover “What do you want?” When you let your expectations get too much in the way, it may pave the way to idolatry in your heart. When you truly love someone, you accept the person as who he/she is, not what you think he/she has to be. Remember, no one is perfect, including yourself. Even God loves and accept the way you are but, He is not done with our flaws yet. Acceptance comes with true love.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT, second edition).

 

2. Responding in love or rejection?

(a) Have you been sensitive with your words and actions?

(b) How do you responded to someone even when you feel lousy?

(c) What is your language of love?

As a picture says a thousand words, so do your words and actions painted that as much. It is often contradictory why you can be patient, gentle, kind and understanding to the people who are not close or dear to your heart, but you often the “ugly split-personality” when you are with your loved ones- you are not so patient, you get angry and upset, you often lashed out unkind words, you get frustrated easily and you feel unappreciative towards them and they often get your cold shoulders. Have you ever paused for a moment the emotional injuries you have done? Consider why your dear ones have been a “punching sandbag” than a “hugging pillow” to you, it makes a whole world of difference when you spend time to share what is bothering you than to throw them around like cold turkeys. Just as you thought the other person is disconnected, chances are you, yourself probably haven’t been emotionally accessible either!

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

 

3. Finger-pointing to edify or tear down?

(a) Do you always point out the other person’s faults more than you readily label your own?

(b) Have you first seek to understand the whole situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?

(c) Do you demand changes from the other person?

The attitude of “That’s your problem, not mine!” is deceptive- don’t you have a part to play too? Put yourself in a scenario in a court room where you stand in as a prosecution witness in a difficult case. During cross-examinations by the Defence Attorney (DA), he will try all ways and means to pull you down by finger-arrowing your credibility and character flaws, the more you tried to defend yourself, the heavier the onslaught of verbal abuses. And you left wounded by his hurtful insinuations and unjustified judgement. Are you one who is such a Defensive Accuser (DA)?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

4. Giving up your rights or demanding your rights?

(a) “Why should I?”

(b) “I expect you to be… …”

(c) “I have the final say!”

If you struggle with this area, you may have problems with pride. When one is full of himself or herself, he/ she always think himself/ herself is better than the other, thus it is hard to relinquish his/ her own rights. They usually struggled in accepting people who give them problems and who are weaker than them spiritually and emotionally. This category of people are very protective of their rights cos they always think they are right. Their expectations fall in line to what they think it should be and how he/ she should be, they are never understanding nor apathetic to consider how the other person feels or where he/ she is coming from. In any relationships, we are taught to be humble and submit to one another in reverence.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:!0) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

 

5. Shallow understanding or mutual understanding?

(a) Have you been communicating?

(b) How understanding have you been?

(c) Do you understand how a person’s background has some way influenced the way how he/ she think, feel and act?

How well do you understand yourself and the other person? Understanding is a crucial fundamental in all relationships to work, and it is paramount to foster better understanding through daily communication. In times of silence, there is tacit understanding too. Understanding the background of the person whom you are relating to, can give you a better and clearer picture how certain thoughts, feelings and actions can be triggered. For him/ her to understand you better, be honest about how you feel and what you think, instead of trying to do something to get his/ her attention. All of us think and feel differently, be open to share so that in each other you will learn something and know each other better to deal with the differences. All you need is a heart to listen.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

 

6. Pain and gain or close and strain?

(a) What is God teaching you through the other person?

(b) Did you apply what you have learn that God is teaching you?

(c) Are you avoiding the issues?

What is your approach- do you avoid pain or confront and gain? When you close in to a relationship, you strain it even more, the wounds may fester. And anytime when the same situations happen, it will playback the old scores. Unfortunately, the way to learn is often through unpleasantries. Pain is God’s Refining Fire.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

7. Praying with an open heart or clenched fists?

(a) Have you been praying for a breakthrough?

(b) Have you pray for God’s ultimate control and His way in your relationships?

(c) Have you try praying together?

Prayers open door to miracles, for our God is a God of Transformation. Go to Him with all your emotions, surrender your rights and expectations at the feet of His throne. Look to Him first as He will lift you up in due time. He always leave the door open for those who are weary and wounded. He has a special place for them. He is always there in assurance. And He hears you and trust that He will do something. His love never fails.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. – Philippians 4:6-7 CEV

 

All relationships goes a long way, but take heart, all is not lost yet. Give each other space, take time to do your own reflections, pray about the issues, be honest with yourself, take time to share your thoughts and your feelings openly to the other person, confessed to each other your vulnerability and mistakes, discuss with each other how to overcome barriers so as to solve those nagging issues, last but not least, be committed to making healthy changes and mean it. It takes time and courage.

There may be someone in your midst who is hurting. It is always worthwhile to confront it than to take a passive stand, even though you have prayed and trust God would do something about it, but that does not mean we should be doing nothing! How can you reap the fruit when you never bother to sow the seed? God moves as you move, you never know till you try however difficult it can be but God will supply His Strength, Grace and Mercy to keep you through.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Keep at it, those little things CAN and WILL GO AWAY. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift too. Don’t give up.