BE INTENTIONAL (3): RESTART- Get Up, Get Out And Get Going

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When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. – Psalm 61:2

Not too long ago I upgraded the tank for my swimming pets (Wonder shrimps and water snails) so that they will have more room to manoeuvre. I had also made a special request to the shop owner to change two of the decorative shells on the sand bed to rocks instead. Rocks to me is a great reminder that Jesus is my Rock, and on this Rock I can stand on solid ground where I will not be shaken! 

As the tank sits on my desk, I can steal glances at my pets any time. From time to time, I notice that some of the snails will hide in the crevices of the rocks, and some seem to be lodged in there for a very long time. 

This sight brought to my mind that many of us are like those snails, refusing to budge- We burrow deep into our own valleys, wallow in our self-pity parties, sink into a seemingly bottomless abyss of emotions and refuse to get out of the mud. The snails probably thinking it is safer to hide in the crevices, but how great is that darkness that enshroud them! Isn’t that more frightening not able to see any light at all?

Many of us are deceived while ensnared by the traps of the evil ones and enslaved by the devil to derail our faith by blindsiding us to the Truth. As a result, we get veered off course in the wilderness and rendered us asunder in the spiritual chasm. 

But the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord- where God directs, there is safety. When overwhelmed by our own anxieties, we often forget that we have a powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal that provide powerful ammunition against all evils (unless we are rusty in using it).

Nobody have it altogether in order to get right with God- God can take our broken pieces, exactly what we are, and made us whole. And building our lives on the solid bedrock of God’s Word, we will be able to stand strong on this Rock of Foundation, no matter what life tsunamis hit us.

The key is, our choice has to be intentional – we must want to be set free, decide to break away and not turning back. And that has to start with the mind to make that choice and follow through no matter what, then the rest of our action will follow – So get up first, then get out, and get going! 

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The Only Way To Defeat Darkness Is Light

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

A tagline from a movie trailer flashed, “The only way to defeat darkness is light.” It reverberated to me that the world is getting darker…… The recent surge of suicides reported in the news, reinforced with campaigns in promoting awareness about depression and mental illnesses, and triggered by a recent traumatic event, it hit me that the scariest part actually isn’t darkness itself, it is when there is no light inside of us – a spiritual darkness that has inconceivable repercussion on a person’s soul that will beget physical consequences.

Let’s supposed a room encounters a sudden power outage, and it is enshroud in complete darkness. Any normal human being would react with a panic at an instance; most of us would cringe in anxiety of the surrounding darkness, which as a result render us immobilised with fear. And the longer we sit in that room, darkness will loom to be larger that it seems to be. Eventually, we held in hostage by its principalities.

If anyone walks in the dark, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.- John 11:10

We certainly cannot war against darkness with our mere flesh and strength, it is the principalities behind it that require spiritual weapons. Just as a physical light lights up the room of darkness, spiritual light (inside of you with the power of Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and prayers) can cause darkness to flee too!

Therefore when there is no light inside of us, we can’t activate its power, we will be like a walking dead, and life will seem like an abyss of darkness. The only way to defeat that darkness is light.

In Him (Jesus) was life, and the Life was the Light of men (John 1:4). Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5).

But the sad reality is, many of us get so accustomed to the darkness over prolonged period that we do not want to turn on the light, or rather we refuse to do anything to seek the light. Some of us have succumbed too easily; some of us held on too tightly to the chains that bound us to our own dungeon and not ready to face the light. The truth is, God has already provided the options for us to be freed, the key is whether we have let go and let God.

David prayed, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” – Psalm 142:3 GNT

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I (may) sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. – Micah 7:8

Get up, search for the light, turn on the light, walk towards the light and look to the light. Darkness will have to flee even with a flickering light, no matter how small or weak is the candle wick, let the light shines.

The Pain Of Denial (Part 1)

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P.S. I will be sharing in parts as it will be too much to share at one time. I was prompted to share my convictions, and hope by sharing this entry in my own spiritual journal, it will bring illumination in a new light.

“If any man will come after me, let him (a) DENY himself, and (b) take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 KJV. 

We all have heard this verse far too many times. If we are honest, we also switch off many times. This has been the mandate of my previous cell at one time till a time it became alive to me– I went through a very difficult transition in my life two years ago when I was impacted with a physical condition, although not life-threatening, that a surgery could not fix and a healing miracle seemed implausible — Dashed dreams. Crushed hope. Wretched self. Menacing fears.

The first few weeks upon receiving the check-up report, I wasn’t able to worship in church– I was incapacitated to sing nor clap along. All in my mind was, “Why??” and “God, where are you?” My ex-G12 cell and my mentor had showered me with inordinate amount of concern, but I wasn’t grateful. I just wanted to be left alone as I justified the rights to my disappointments and lamely to confess my anger with God too. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to attend the weekly G12 meetings, and I even withdrew myself from the cell. But to my surprise, I couldn’t abandon my open cell that I had to lead every Friday. I still fulfilled my duty, shared the Word, and put on smiles (though I was struggling very badly as if a hypocrite).

Was I wearing a mask with my open cell? No. It was one method that helped me- “Deny myself.”

I couldn’t count the number of times “I didn’t FEEL up to it or FEEL like to”, “I didn’t WANT to…”, “I hate to be forced to…”, “I have the RIGHTS to…” I merely trying to cook up excuses as justified reasons. Till I came to a point that I realised I was actually very self-centered, very consumed with “I, me, myself” and very inwards-looking, focusing on myself only. I put my feelings and emotions before God as how I feel and what I want is more important than Him. It was a constant battle to deny, deny, deny, deny myself in the pit. It was even a scarier experience when I was enshrouded with darkness, alone, and found myself drifting away spiritually over six months. I was aware of such a downwards spiral, but I refused to yield as I was wrestling with God like Jacob. What really jolted me was- I began to lose myself while threading on a very thin tightrope, and any moment longer, I think I had tipped to the other side. That was unthinkably scary.

So how did I climb out of the pit, and back to the Cross? I have to simply keep denying myself daily, yes, EVERY DAY- deny my mood for the day, deny my emotions, deny my rights, deny my will, even to denying my convenience (my own time, my own pace, my own freedom…), and surrender to the Cross.

If we are honest with ourselves, it is by NATURE we follow what our flesh leads us. It is unnatural for us to contradict our flesh and that takes SUPERNATURAL intervention with the help of the Spirit. Aside to taking action to deny the self, we can draw reinforced strength from these verses:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16-17

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8

There is no change in my physical condition, but I had stopped asking all the whys because there will never be any answer- and who am I to question the Sovereignty? It was a decision whether to continue rotting by being my own god or to let go of all and let God be God. And letting go doesn’t mean to remain status quo. Just like bible says, “Faith without action is dead”, so I had to force myself since it is unnaturally of me to crucify my flesh to weaken its desires. It is simply to put to action in denying myself.

No doubt it is an uphill task because our flesh gets stronger when our Spirit is quenched by sins. It is a humbling experience to call upon God for help in this area.

So first thing first, get right with God. Face it honestly- Overcome it with God far easier and better than letting what consumed you and lose yourself.

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

Why Is It Hard To Rejoice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pollution. Stars.

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A recent conversation got me thinking- a lady expressed,”Nowadays we could hardly catch any stars. I think the stars have disappeared…” Another lady corrected her, “No, the stars have always been there, just that due to pollution, we can not see the stars.”

How true, just like we often wondered in the midst of silence if God has left us…The truth is, God has never leave us. The crux is, we are too “polluted” by the clutters in our lives that we have missed hearing Him and feeling His Presence.

(I am sure you know prolonged exposure to pollution can be toxic, eventually it choked you, and your health suffer as a result.)

If you could take the time to be still, and look up hard enough, you will see that God is there. He promises in Hebrews 11:6 that “He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. God is calling you to EARNESTLY seek Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

The very first step is, God says in Isaiah 38:1B*, “Put your house in order…” So, get rid of your clutters first then you will be able to see clearly. I am sure we all are great with house-cleaning: trash the unnecessary and unwanted bags of rubbish! Easy peasy isn’t it? Less cobwebs, less dust, less parasites.

*The story: King Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. Prophet Isaiah was sent by God to release this word to the King to put his house in order, otherwise he would not recover…

(The story continued- King Hezekiah was sure he had put all “his house” in order and pleaded his case, God heard and added 15 years to his life.)

P.S. Be amazed at how God puts those glitters in the blanket of darkness.

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