Problems. You Have Not Reached Your Limit Yet!

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Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways. – Proverbs 20:30 GN

A threesome conversation with friends on how our flesh becomes flabby as we age, that we burst into laughter when we were jesting about how soft our “chicken wings” (the area where biceps is located) are. It is a sad reality that women are more prone to donning “butterfly sleeves” if we do not exercise our arms.

I trained with weights almost every day in order to maintain the toned muscles I had painstakingly built since my younger athletic days. (P.S. Trust me, I am not motivated to exercise all the time when I had my times of lethargy, busyness and moodiness. I would try to find lame excuses to resist training….) It takes daily discipline (certainly a lot of dying to the self) and resolution to take the grind. Just as the adage that goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Weights build resistance. By adding more weights to our training, pressure are applied to our resistance which help to stretch our muscles further. Our muscles are stretched every time we add pressure and our resistance gets better with each intensity. As a result, our muscles are toned according to the weight we can handle.

In the same context, pressures of life, problems, challenges, stresses, troubles and trials help to train us towards building stronger faith-muscles, higher resilience and better character. The more intensified our training, the greater the reward to God’s Glory.

Here are some of God’s purposes in our problems to train us:

We can rejoice when we run into problems they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady (Romans 5:3-4, LB). training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:12)

  1. They are opportunities to stretch our limits and to rely on Him to help;
  2. They add spiritual dimension to our faith;
  3. They are test to reveal our heart and purify our motives;
  4. They offer difference experiences in order to break down our wrong values and belief system in order to change our perspectives and our heartitude (heart and attitude) for renewal;
  5. They help to direct us when we derail from His plans for us or we are threading on dangerous grounds;
  6. They are showcases for God’s testimonies when we overcome them.
  7. They are temporary and can’t be compared to the eternal glory that outweigh them all.

Remember that God is much more interested in our character than our comfort; He is more concerned how we journey in our race than how well we started or how far we go. He will use trials to refine our character, and until we have learnt what we need to learn, God will always bring back the same issue again (and again…). What is God speaking to you through your problem or situation today?

“Problems are inevitable, but suffering is optional.”, for we have the Holy Spirit living inside us to help us.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

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.

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.

The Danger Of Dullness

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“For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.” – Acts 28:27 NSAB

From time to time, I have heard many who probed, “How can I hear God? I can’t seem to hear anything… Why is God not answering my prayers?” I do not have a specific answer for them (since I am not God nor a super saint to know His plans) but there is a key verse (as above) that prompted me to share some insights.

God reveals Himself to us in many different ways, though may not necessary be in audible voice. And we all are aware that a hardened heart or when we are steeped in sins, we cannot hear God. The verse above brings to light a natural spiritual degression, as well as a condition for God’s healing or deliverance.

 

THE BEGINNING STAGE 1: OUR HEART

1.1 When our heart becomes dull, calloused, hardened, wax gross as a result of sins……>

1.2 And interestingly, Psalm 119:70 mentions “their heart is unfeeling like fat…”, in other word, “fat” means full of oneself or things of the world…

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 2: OUR EARS

Our ears (to hearing God) becomes dull and hard of hearing……>

“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” – John 8:43

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 3: OUR EYES

We will close our eyes, which means to turn blind to the truth or ignore them……>

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 4A: IN DENIAL

Having hardened our heart, shut off our ears and close our eyes, we will live in denial. And that means we refuse to acknowledge there is a problem or an issue, nor to accept the truth……>

“He (Satan) will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them.”  – 2 Thessalonians 2:10

 

FINAL STAGE 5: IN DARKNESS

We will then walk in darkness.

“They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness;” – Psalm 82:5

 

But God is gracious to add a “Y-junction” to STAGE 4B: RETURN, to repentance. Only THEN, can we truly experience God’s deliverance and healing. Repentance is the key that unlocks your prison.

When our Spirit is alive, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (Jn 16:13) This is when the Spirit of Truth will open your eyes and ears, renew your mind and transform your heart.

There is no way we can’t hear God since we have the wisest Counsellor living is us and He is the Spirit of all Truth, unless we must have shut our ears, close our eyes and harden our hearts– Sometimes God did reveal something to us but we may not accept it as what we are hoping for or expecting it to be.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. -C.S. Lewis”

The Environment Just Won’t Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aarrggh! Ggrrr….

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

Testing… testing… testing…

The people you find irritating may still be irritating;

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

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

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

The people who hurt you may still hurt you.

Do they still deserve your compassion?

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

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

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

Compassion is self-giving, not self-keeping.

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

Testing… testing… testing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offenses. Cold Love.

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For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (Matthew 12:34B) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:16)

We all have people in our lives who hurt us, and we hurt others too, consciously or unconsciously. And when we are offended, we are inclined to react or retaliate unchristlike. The fact is, hurting people hurt people- the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

So what is truly residing in our heart? Imagine Jesus, who know our innermost thoughts, probed, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)

Sometimes, people are most critical in the area of their deepest emotional need- It may be their indirect way of needing affirmation, seeking love and requesting for help. As Dr. Gary Chapman puts it, we all have our love language- when we understand this, we can respond more positively. So whenever we hear criticism or get an unwarranted retort, James 1:19 reminds us, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” That means it is time to listen- as he or she may be inviting you to respond to their need in order to make them feel loved.

On the other hand, we have to be mindful that if our heart is full of malice, envy, and contention, we are easily liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. And the root of such evils stemmed from unresolved issue of pride, anger or bitterness from injustice or unforgiveness, and rejection. It can penetrate and wound any dimension of the soul. And the danger is, Jesus had warned that, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith.

“Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” – Matthew 24:10-12

Many will be offended; the love of many will grow cold, if we allow any offense to remain in our hearts. The above verse has warned that for an offended soul, betrayal, cold love, and hatred go hand-in-hand. Instead of dealing with the offense, people carry them until the weight disables their walk with God and incapacitated of overcoming their own. People do not usually stumble over boulders, but over stones– the relatively small things— which the  accumulation of all small little things can be injurious to the soul, which will demand you to retaliate in the flesh.

It is time to take a honest inventory of our heart. Let God perform a “surgery” on your heart (and yes you may need to have the “surgery” daily), “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Each day we are faced with occasions for taking offenses- we are either given the opportunity to be offended by something, or to exercise overlooking offenses. Proverbs 19:11 says, A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy of being Christlike be demonstrated in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abound in our lives.

The Green-Eyed Monster

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A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30) It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else. (Ecclesiastes 6:9b GNT)

Many years ago, I used to love this perfume, Envy, by Gucci. I simply love its scent, and the green colour was soothing to the eyes too. It was the only perfume as a self-confessed brand loyalist, that I would stick to for years. The second generation after the popular Envy series was, Envy Me. I was contemplating then to try it out, until a remark from a close friend in the church,, “Are you sure it is a good idea to fall head over heel in love with Envy? Are you not aware that Envy is a green-eyed monster?” (My friend was trying to raise her concern without malicious intent on the product, for she knew I struggled with envy……)

Envy reared its ugly head in the early stage of my life because of my own imperfections that I seek perfection elsewhere in order to compensate for the gap: Where I should be in my career; What I should possess in life; And how I should appear to others. I was always on the pursuit of “bigger and better things”, failing which, I was green with envy whenever someone had what I could not have. I once held a conviction that I needed to have certain things to be happy, and envy bred a competitive spirit in me, “Look what they are getting? Why did they deserve it? I deserve what they have! So I am going to get more and have it better!” to a point that I secretly wished they would fail, because it made me feel better that they could not have what I could not have.

Envy was eating into me every time I compared myself to others- it didn’t make me feel superior but rather painfully lousy. And my heart could not be at peace because I was obsessed with covetousness. And contentment was never found in my dictionary.

It took me years to learn that making comparison is the root of all envy. And the very key to overcoming envy is to stop comparing yourself to others. I have to recognise that the Bible says, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need.” (1 Corinthians 4:7-8 The Message) For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)

Instead of focusing so much on the-never-haves and the-never-happens, I should be grateful for what I do have, since life itself is a blessing, and what I have been given not others can have. There isn’t anybody like me, for God made me to do which others can’t. So there isn’t really any basis for comparison. When I knew the truth, the truth sets me free indeed.

The Bible also tells us that we already have more than we need and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God. We can pick a leaf from the Apostle Paul who said, “I have learned to be content.” So being content is a learning process that we have to exercise continually- when we are content, there is no room for envy.

It Is Time To Let Go

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A teacher took a pouch of gems and asked, “Class, how heavy do you think this pouch of gems is”? The class was clueless to guess its weight. After a while, the teacher broke the silence, “It actually depends on how long you are holding it.”

“If I hold it for a minute, it is bearable.”

“If I hold it for an hour, I will start to feel the trembling of my arm.”

“If I still hold it for another day, my arm will break!”

“It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

We love to carry “baggage” don’t we? As the days passed, the longer we piggyback this “baggage”, irrespective whether we pick up any thing along the way, the heavier it gets, till we are bent over from carrying it. With feeble arms and wobbling knees lugging this “baggage”, we will reach a point when we can barely move. Yet, we do not want to let go……

Wouldn’t you be doing yourself a disfavour to be incapacitated by such a “baggage”? Your “baggage” can be unforgiveness, bitterness, hurt, memories of the past, anger, even past relationship, and the-whatnots.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

“Why not try giving away your “baggage” to Someone who can help you unload and deal with your “baggage”?” Look for Jesus.

“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25)

…… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1B-3

It is time to let go, and let God. It is more liberating in doing so.

What Truly Matter?

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For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:26

Recent news about my friends in their 40s, have lost their fight with cancer, one after another since the beginning of the year. A friend rued over the missed chance to have a last meal with one of them whom he was close to, because he couldn’t find the time of convenience. And he missed the opportunity twice. He didn’t expect she be called Home so suddenly… He lamented that there was no way to assuage his pain and entertained many “If only”s…

Life has no “if only”s. And we only live once. Something that is lost is lost forever, there is no turning back of the clock… So what truly matter?

Many of us are so caught up with the world (busyness and self-pursuits) that we neglect the things that truly matter. What if you discovered that you only have 24hours to live? And what if Jesus come and it is right now a Judgement Day? How then will you account for your life? Do you shudder to think that you really get to Heaven? Be warned, Jesus said, amongst us are sheeps and goats, and some sheeps God tells them plainly, “I don’t know you! Depart from me!” (Matthew 7:22-23)

And no one can tell you if your salvation is genuine, only you know. We may even live our spiritual life pious, but God looks at our heart, and He knows whether we are fake-label sheeps. It is undeniably a frightening thought but good to always hold us in check. I shuddered most to think that I may fall away before His coming that we do not know when. I shuddered to think that I have nothing to present to the King of Kings my offering when I stand before Him, when He expects how I have lived my life on mission on earth.

Many of us lived life “soul-less” (i.e. Without purpose or meaning, and even losing your character), or “as we like it” or “when we feel like it”, or “it is okay there is always another time”. That is when we often take things for granted. Ever considered:

(a) Time waits for no man?

(b) You spend your entire life to build wealth, but it can’t buy you health; only to end up we have to spend all our wealth to regain our health.

(c) A career or your money can’t buy you happiness, eternal security, and even relationships. Life will have no meaning.

(d) You can’t take anything to Heaven, except your character and your “report card”.

What truly matter? The sting is, you won’t know what you may have to pay in the future.

Consider how you live NOW, for you never know what is going to happen the next hour. It all boils down to your choice.

Refiner’s Fire

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An interesting conversation with a friend about “trusting God” inspired me to pen this devotion- she forwarded a devotion on this topic that I responded to her that trusting is a lesson that takes ongoing re-learning. She replied, “Yes it is. Like playing a game- It gets upgraded whenever we pass one level. Life is fun, isn’t it?”

Indeed, akin to any computer game, as we conquer level by level, our journey will be fraught with different sets of difficulties that challenge our limit each time. Just when I thought I have passed Level One colourfully, it doesn’t end there, I have to ascend to Level Two, then Level Three until I get to my destiny. This episode brought me to a verse where God would test each of us and refine us as gold.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12). Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).

But first let me share how gold is processed, as this is foundational to our understanding why God uses refining fire, furnace and gold as analogies.

Gold is processed through smelting and refining. High heat, pressure and chemicals are used to remove impurities from the gold. Gold in its raw material contains rock, gold nuggets, scrap gold etc, need to be re-liquefied in a hot furnace. Various chemicals are added to the molten substance to separate the gold from other metals. The process has to be repeated in greater intensity in order to remove all impurities for gold to be refined and pure.

The bible is full of verses on God’s refining fires:

  1. God knows exactly what we are made of.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” – Job 23:10

  1. God know what is in our hearts.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. – Proverbs 17:3

  1. Fires refine the quality of our faith.

So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:7

  1. Trials build our character.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

In retrospection, I did not have my life easy, but I can attest to through trials, my faith is tested under fire but I have learnt to grow stronger. I deem fires as necessary for refinement. I can only pray that God will give me the strength to persevere and his mercies to carry me through, from faith to Faith, strength to Strength and glory to Glory. So do not be surprised at what you are going through, God is doing a deeper work in you. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)