How To Tip the Scale of Depression

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The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. – Proverbs 4:19 ESV

The recent spate of suicides by celebrities rendered me pensive that the world is getting darker, and darker… Many must had been in great emotional and mental turmoil that they could not overcome the lurking darkness that had gnawed relentlessly at their soul perpetually. How great must be that darkness! Indeed, even the bible warns that anxiety weighs down the heart (Proverbs 12:25) and hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). 

It is not unknown that the bible even recorded godly men have their fallen times and overtaken by darkness, one example can be found in Genesis 15:12, which reads, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.”

I can empathise to a certain extent since I once wrestled with the onset of mild depression. Given a pessimistic nature as a result of an unhealthy upbringing during childhood, I could anticipate gloom and doom whenever my soul was down-casted. 

“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! – Matthew 6:23

With no one at home to turn to nor able to share my struggles with whenever I needed help, I found it hard to trust people around me as I was taught that no one in the world was trustworthy. I was a loner, growing up with a belief system that if-no-one-can-help-me-only-I-can-help-myself. It was a sheer misery growing up that life in itself was meaningless. I painfully questioned my existence as I was lost in my own darkness and not knowing where I was heading… I could not recount the number of times I did contemplate (in my mind) to just end my miserable life, and that indelibly etched encounter with a speeding car which stopped on time at inches away from me, did jolt me up. It took me decades to surrender myself – I just need someone, whoever and whatever it was, to save me out of crises on all fronts- I was at the end of my tether then.

Thanks be to God, He drew me out of my deep water.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, – Colossians 1:13

Can you imagine that I used to be a super anti-Chirst, who cursed the God who gave me a rotten life (at that time). Such was a cynical and critical soul I was that I blatantly refuted the bible indisputably. Yet lo and behold, just because I took the first step in surrendering myself, on my humble knees desperately crying that I needed help. And miracles happened- my life was never the same since. I must say my conversion was very dramatic.

I had to expose the deeds of darkness so that I would not be held captive by them:

(a) Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; – Ephesians 5:11 NASB

(b) But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. – Ephesians 5:13 NASB

And because I had exposed them, I let Jesus into my life:

(a) The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5 NASB

(b) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

(c) This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5

It is definitely no easy feat to come to the end of oneself to the point of total surrender. We can all be deceived or misled into thinking we are doing alright. The bible warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.”Luke 11:35 also reads, “Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.”

Fears can also keep us from moving forward:

(a) Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. – John 3:20

(b) And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:26 NLT

(c) For even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:21 NASB

The critical step is to first acknowledge we have a problem and need help, and want to be helped. God will then take care of the rest if we are willing. Let God has the driver’s seat, He is far much better in steering our course and in control than us. Here I am, very thankful to God that I did not lose any ounce of my sanity. All I did was to stop being stiff-necked to wallow in my own self-pities parties any longer. There is no way I can stop wrestling with darkness until I let a glimmer of light in. 

P.S. In addition, I actually could not find answers to the vicissitudes of life in other religion at that time until I picked up the bible where I found Hope, Love, assurance, comfort, strength, wisdom and direction. Thereupon, it lays the foundation of living in Freedom, Truth and Light.

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.

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

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”

Guilt. The Blues. Deception.

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

Recent news about my friends’ parents committing suicide weighed heavily in my heart. Their deaths left behind mark that we cannot find any answers to. At the same time, I noticed that my blogsite registered the highest traffic on the topic of “When Forgiveness Is Hard…”. It seems like many of us have had a hard time either in releasing forgiveness or in the need of forgiveness, even to one self. National statistics had also shown that a rising number has suffered from depression, and it is a worrying trend.

We all have seasons in the doldrums and have entertained negative thoughts from time to time, but what is that furtive silent killer that gnaw incessantly inside us and tip us off balance? It is not uncommon that many in the world today wrestle with the vicissitudes of life to battle the blues, guilt and even deception. How then can we emancipate ourselves from the limitations that life has dealt us?

It is well-known that our mind is the Devil’s playground, therefore I would like to share 7 life-giving Truths that will bring Light to this world of darkness:

  1. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself

Guilt is one of the key hot buttons that Satan love to press. But we have to recognise that when we genuinely confessed our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). (And yes, we have to be truly repentant.) Forgive, just as God has forgiven you.

  1. Accept the fact you are God’s creation and dearly loved

I had been there- spending time and money to look good on the outside that it became an obsession, and in the end only to discover that I could not be what I hoped to be like someone else. It was depressive. The crux was, I could not accept and love myself. It took me years to learn that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) that there is no one else as unique as me. And the bonus is, I am dearly loved. (John 15:9, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.”)

  1. Look at yourself through God’s eye

Sometimes Satan insinuate us with thoughts of failure, but we have to stand firm secured in our identity as the beloved Child of God, to resist such temptation. After all, we all have failed in one way or another. Remember that we are work-in-progress and remind yourself that God isn’t finished with you yet (Philippians 1:6).

Look at yourself as how God sees you: You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. (Isaiah 62:2-4)

  1. Decide to be positive at all times

Anxiety can creep in like an armed bandit, binding us to worry over things which we cannot control, and which dominates and controls our mind and trouble our heart, filling both with doubt, fear, and dread. Anxiety cannot be removed; it must be replaced- Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things (Philippians 4:8). We remove our anxiety by handing over our concerns and worries to the Lord, trusting him to care for us- Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

God’s power is working in you and through you even when you don’t see or feel it- For you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

  1. Anticipate the abundant life God has in store for you and trust Him

God has a beautiful plan for you. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for us. (Romans 8:28)

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:17 NASB) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Take heart that God will make everything beautiful in His Time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

  1. Always choose to be thankful

Change your garment of mourning to a new garment of thanksgiving- give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19). Just as light and darkness cannot co-exist, similarly, thankfulness and ingratitude cannot occupy the same room in your heart. Count your blessings, each and every day, even for the little things. Sometimes in our busyness and constant pressures from life demands that we can be sidetracked or blinded. By giving thanks, you will begin to see how blessed you are for what you have instead of what you do not have (which many others may not have what you have too!)

  1. Surrender your life to God and start serving others

I discovered that when I let go and let God takes over, it takes my mind off myself. (James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”)

And when I consider how others who are less fortunate than me who need help, I realised life isn’t that harsh on me after all. As I serve others, I am less inclined to wallow in my own self-pity parties (Proverbs 11:25 says “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”). Matthew 6:33 NLT says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” God promises to provide for our needs- so if we run after things, we will never have enough. Seek God first and we will have everything.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome all evils, because the One who is in you is greater than the one (Prince of Darkness) who is in the world. (1 John 4:4). Therefore, you are more than conquerors through Christ who loves you. (Romans 8:37) For every child of God defeats this evil world, and you achieve this victory through faith. (1 John 5:4)

 

Faith Even On Rainy Days

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. – Psalm 37:23

A cell mate shared this beautiful Chinese song with me which lyrics resonated with every fibre of my being- I can relate to those times when I felt downcasted. In translating this song to English (though not literal), I hope to share this song to minister to those who need to hear it…

Song title: 祷告 (Pray)

– By Streams Of Praise

(Listen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YbBwg5B9Uk&feature=youtu.be )

 

祷告,因为我渺小;

Pray, because I feel inconsequential;

祷告,因为我知道我需要明了,你心意对我重要。

Pray, because I know I need understanding, to your Will as it is important to me.

祷告,已假装不了;

Pray, I can no longer pretend;

祷告,因为你的爱我需要;

Pray, because I need Your Love;

你关怀,我走过的你都明白。

You care for me, and know every path I tread.

有些事我只想要对你说,因你比任何人都爱我;

There are things I can only share with You, because You love me more than any one else could;

痛苦从眼中流下,我知道你为我擦。

Tears shed from pain, I know You will wipe my tears away.

在早晨我也要来对你说,主耶稣今天我为你活;

Come morning I pray, Lord Jesus I live for You today;

所需要的力量你天天赐给我,你恩典够我用。

I need Your Strength each day, for Your Grace is sufficient for me.

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. (Psalm 139:2)

Even on rainy days, the Lord is near; Even in the pit, the Lord is there. He knows every details of our lives. He searches our heart and know our thoughts even before we could find the words to say. (Psalm 139:23)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8A) The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8 NASB)

Keep faith. Keep going. Keep praying. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The Tunnel. Hope.

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Delayed hope makes the heart sick… (Proverbs 13:12 HCSB) Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid… (Job 11:18-19A)

The front cabin of the new Downtown Line train has a glass window which allow passengers to peep through the underground tunnel. The tunnel is fairly dim and it takes considerable effort to observe what lies ahead. As the train approaches a destination, the tunnel is aglow with light, brighter and brighter. While half drowsy from the sleep-inducing passage underground, a small still voice jolt me, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Do not lose hope.”

God really has a way in distilling life lessons through things around us- the tunnel is a great reminder that no matter how long the tunnel is, no matter how long it takes to catch a glimmer of light, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The only way out is to keep walking, for the longer I sojourn in the tunnel, the more overwhelming darkness seem to enshroud me. But having hope is stronger than entertaining fear.

When hope is delayed at any length of time, the mind gets uneasy and the heart will sink, ultimately it fails till our inner man gets dispirited and ready to be dejected, giving up all hope.

There is this quote that goes, “We can live about 40 days without food; about 3 days without water, and about 8 minutes without air, but not a second without hope.” And another, “Hope is the last thing to lose.”

The bible warns that heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop (Proverbs 12:25A), and a crushed spirit saps a person’s strength (Proverbs 17:22). And when strength is dried up like a potsherd, the tongue will cleave to the jaws; as if we are laid in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15). The antidote to a sick heart is, to have joy, for a cheerful heart is good medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). And having hope engenders joy.

We may be fallen on bad times, but as we set our eyes and heart on the God of all Hope, He promises His encompassing Presence (Jeremiah 23:23-24). We can take comfort because as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Never lose hope, because tough season won’t last but tough people do. And we have hope in God who never fails.

P.S: Do take the train through the tunnel, and observe the passage.

The Wilderness

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Just as I thought I had left Egypt years ago, instead of being whisked into a promised land of milk and honey, all I see was mountains and snakes at every turn. I had trod into an unfamiliar territory- another wilderness! When I finally woke up from my “deep slumber”, alas I was standing at a verge, with the army of the Egyptians hot on my heels, facing me is the Red Sea! There is no way of escape.

At that crucial moment, I cried out as hard, as much, as long, to the Almighty to save me and deliver me from my helplessness… By a bat of an eyelid, I found myself on a Rock, my three enemies no longer pursued me. God finally broke the long chill of the silent nights, “Do not let your heart be troubled. TRUST in God, trust also in Me.” (John 14:1) reinforced with Proverbs 3:5-6 “TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He’ll make your paths straight.” His voice resonated with the word “TRUST”.

In the silent mire of abyss, my impatience got the better of me, I doubted God had heard my prayers. But I ended up with a megaphone blasting my ears, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?!” (My hairs really on stand…) By this, God has shown me that even a mustard seed of faith can move mountains and they shall be moved! Thence, my faith skyrocketed to a new level.

Much as “snakes” tempted me into taking a court action and discouraged me in my unemployability, just as much God has faithfully sustained me with His blessings and His double-portion strength in each and everyday. By His Grace, He gave me a gift of an encouraging Spirit that I could be optismistic; He gave me a vision of conquering the “Goliath(s)” in my life; He spoke to me His Promises that I could profess victory; He shown me that He is a God of Multiplication when He impressed me with a scenario where Jesus multiplied 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed the 5000 people full; He inspired me to compose a poem that Jesus can still a nasty storm; and He led me to pray with prayers I had never prayed before.

Instead of cowering under pity-blankets as I would in the past, I would recall how the Lord delivered me from the slavery land of Egypt years ago and His never-failing faithfulness. I drawn near to Him and He draws near to me. My turning point came when I confessed of a cherished conviction, in repentance I cried to the Living God, “Help me!”

No doubt God is teaching me something. No doubt He brought me closer to Him so that I can hear Him better. No doubt He is disciplining me through His refining fire to keep me going from strength to Strength and from faith to Faith. I can rest unto God’s Peace, “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) and His Faithfulness, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7)

I am thankful that God has been there. I am also thankful for the people who has helped eased my burdens. I have been through the dark tunnel a few times and God has been there. And God is not hard of hearing- Our tears are precious to Him for He is especially close to those who are crushed in spirit. Just be still and let God be God. He will walk on the water and grabbed you before you could sink just as Jesus rescued Peter from drowning when His faith failed him.

“The more secured you are in Christ, the stronger you stand even if your whole world came crushing down. Your security is not found in transient things but in Him alone.”

The Antidote For The Pain That Comes A-knocking On Your Door* (Part 2)

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*Continue from “When Pain Comes A-knocking On Your Door” as posted the previous day

 

Here is an antidote for your pain from Luke 8:50:

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and [you] will be healed.”

For the wounded hearts and the ailing souls.

 

In need of more prescriptions? The Physician will be glad that you ask.

 

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and [you] will be provided.”

For the pockets decorated with holes.

 

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and [you] will be delivered.”

For the lives at the end of the tether.

 

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and [you] will be guided.”

For the future that loomed with an overcast.

 

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and [you] will be victorious.”

For those who need to straddle through many hurdles.

 

For effectiveness, gargle your prescription with a glass of faith three times a day after “bread” and voila, you are on the brink of restoration.

When Pain Comes A-knocking On Your Door

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Tension-mounted. Debts-saddled. Disease-stricken. Affliction-wrecked. Rejection-pierced. Emotions-tempest. Pain-aknocking. And taken aback by God’s silence.

Your life seems as if you have traversed though the cyclone-ravaged Philippines- burst pipes, ripe-off roofs, smashed windscreens, dilapidated walls, razed grounds, excruciating screams, broken homes and broken dreams. And taken aback by God’s indifference.

When you tried to make sense of all that is happening, vindicating the God who parted the red sea from the pursuing Egyptian army, the God who tumbled the walls of Jericho to the God who rescued Daniel from the lion’s den. And the prayers for God’s deliverance, mercy and grace bounced back like a dishonoured check. Where is God when life hurts?

Doubts crept into your head with pounding insinuations: Am I getting what I deserved? Is God so peeved with me that He allows my life to turn topsy-turvy? Or God, are you mad?

My candle is flickering, the wick is smouldering, the darkness is engulfing. In the center of that cold room lies an answer from:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. – Isaiah 42:3

Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end- the glory of God. “Trust me in times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory” – Psalm 50:15 NLT. (Lucado, p122).

Recall the bible of a blind man and his lifetime of darkness; a deaf man who never hear a compliment; a paralysed man who never get to straddle; a bleeding woman who get anaemia; and a dumb man who can never croon. And Jesus has the answer, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3

A calling from God to display heaven’s strength, to showcase the work of Christ and to amplify God’s power, for His Glory sake. By the power of His name, even demons shudder so by the power of His might, afflictions or infirmities will skedaddle but why didn’t God do so? You would have feel indignant for the fading pulse and bated breath of Lazarus.

You may find yourself ushering into the higher plans of God as in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

You may find yourself in the composition of God’s song where your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of His song. Are people strengthened by your struggles? Are the hounded perplexities of life eating away your faith even when you do not receive healing then?

How can an Almighty God fail you? God glimpses when His light prisms through your aching life and radiates in a symphony of suffused golds and pinks. And Lazarus walked out from behind the stone, breathing.

God uses whatever He wants to parade His glory. Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it to the glory of God. (Lucado, pp.126-127).

A bystander will not let a hope goes unnoticed.

Cross references from:
Lucado, Max 2004, It’s Not About Me: Rescue From The Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy, Integrity Publishers, Nashville.

The Art of Weaknesses

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The Beginning: A stark white piece of paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. CHECK YOURSELF

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

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

2. CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE

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

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

3. ARE YOU LISTENING?

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

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

4. ARE YOU GENTLE WITH YOUR WORDS?

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

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

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

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

5. HAVE YOU BEEN PATIENT?

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

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

6. HAVE SELFISHNESS STANDS IN THE WAY?

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

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

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

7. ARE YOU FORGIVING?

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

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

The Beauty:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7-8) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-23, 26)

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

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

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

The art of weaknesses is a lifelong learning process.

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.

Second Chances

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I bought a nice hour glass from Daiso recently, which I will always play with from time to time. I enjoy looking at the process of distilling the sand, how it trickles so slowly through the neck with each passing seconds. It is an instrument that reminds me that time and tide waits for no man, and time is within my control: I either choose to waste time or to make full use of it- and every passing moment lost is lost forever… When I inverted the hour glass, it is a replay, again and again.

At that instance, it brought me to 2 bible verses:

(1) This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. – Habakkuk 2:3

Seemingly dashed dreams; seemingly unfulfilled promises; seemingly lost hope- Some of us have been waiting for something, for a very long time, and it seems like eternity. Some of us ever wondered, “Have I missed His Divine appointment?”, “Have I messed up somewhere?”, “What went wrong?”, “Did I take the wrong path?” and the many head-prodding questions. We have failed to apprehend the indisputable truth that God cannot contradict Himself with what He has written in His Book. We have to first understand that God’s timetable is not the same as ours. Lastly, we can still hope in God who is the God of all seasons- To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, do read more on the same passage). The Study Bible expands Habakkuk 2:3, “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries ,wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”

While I inverted the hour glass, God seemed to be telling me that He is the God of second chances:

(2) I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Can I not, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6

Surely we made mistakes all the time. We will all messed up, from time to time. That is the fallibleness of humankind. “Will God give me another chance if I missed His Best Gift (whether a job offer, a relationship, an opportunity etc.) for the first time?” Refer to the last verse above, and retrieve the key- “STARTED OVER”. Other bible translations offer “made another again”, “reworked”, “remade” and “formed again”, which you can take heart that God gives second chances, and it will still be His Best for you.

Just Believe

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(Jesus says), ”Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” – John 14:1

A conversation with an ex-collegue who is also a Brother-in-Christ last Wednesday, left me in rumination… “Your job is simply to pray and to just BELIEVE. It isn’t your job to find out what God is doing in your life, nor to question His Sovereignty over why things happened as such… You just have to do your part to pray and keep praying, and simply to believe and take God’s Word as it is. You should pray like you believed!”

I was then led to the verse John 14:1 and a new light was shed- Ever wonder why Jesus repeated, “believe also in Me” when He already encouraged us in the preceding line, “believe in God”, since He is God Himself?

Perhaps to most of us, God seems too abstract a concept to grasp, and He seems like a super-cosmo being that is hard for us to feel or hear Him, let alone to see Him. We have to admit that we are physical being who need to see, feel and touch real things. That is why Jesus has to remind us that He is God in a physical form too- He came in flesh, and scooped down to our level to relate to us so that we can see, hear and feel Him. In other words, through John 14:1B, God is conveying a few key messages:

  1. God in the flesh is REAL AND NEAR so that we know He can emphatise with our present

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; SEE my hands. REACH OUT your hand and PUT IT INTO MY SIDE. Stop doubting and believe.” – John 20:27

God is our refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT help in trouble. – Psalms 46:1

  1. God in the flesh arose as an OVERCOMER so that we have the same Hope and Victory

(Jesus says), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” – John 16:33

  1. God in the flesh is the immutable “I AM” so that we can be assured of His unfailing Nature

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). “I AM” is a powerful reminder on the nature of God- “I AM” the Almighty God, nothing is too hard for me (Jer 32:27); “I AM” Jehovah-Jireh who provides for your every need (Philippians 4:19); “I AM” the Divine Healer who heals (Exodus 15:26); and the list goes on…

Jesus Christ is the SAME yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) The bible has recorded uncountable miracles that Jesus did in the past, and He will not stop performing those miracles now or in the future. We need to fall back on such history to remind ourselves, forgetful human beings, what God had done and has promised. God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

Last but not least, imagine that Jesus posed a question personally- “Do you finally believe?” (John 16:31), and how would you answer?

When You Do Not Feel God’s Presence In Your Life

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“When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I will make sure you won’t be disappointed.” – Jeremiah 29:13 MSG

This new year, I have been greeted with many bad news of friends who contracted stomach cancer, a dad in critical condition in the ICU, and another whose father just passed away… It was enough to cause me to pause- “These are your children, where are you God in all these?”

It was not a new year to begin with, but I prayed that their trials will not derail them from the faith. We all have from time to time, in our lament under trials and testings, could not feel God’s Presence too. And the irony is, God promises that He is always there, in good times and bad times. Why is that we could not feel Him?

There are 3 keys found in the preceding verse: (1) Denial of self; (2) Drawing near; (2) Desperation

1. Denial of self = ver 13a “when you get SERIOUS”

We can only have room for God if we deny ourselves: our rights (rights to get angry etc.) and our treasures (any possessions, relationships etc). God did knock on our hearts, we may have opened the door, but the crux is, did we allow him to enter and take a VVIP room in our hearts? Some of us probably did not realize we only allow him a common room or a temporary stay in the suite. How to know? Simple, when our lives get successful or rather sufficient, we will get our true answers.

2. Drawing near = ver 13a “FINDING me”

I am sure all of us prayed the hardest during hard times. Have you felt like God was a million miles away or like there was this veil between you and God? Our sins have separated us from God. But if you feel far from God, guess who have moved? Us. Because God is always there. We can pray all we want, but God beckoning us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8). Drawing near means being still in God’s Presence, seeking Him with cleansed hands and purified heart (James 4:9).

3. Desperation = ver 13a “want it MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE”

Why God let us get to our pits? Because He knows what we are made of so He let us try if we can figure out anything. He knows we will only surrender when we get tired, frustrated, helpless or hopeless. The only way out or up fm our pits, is to call for help- help from a more sovereign power. This is the only way, He gets the attention of those who are deaf to His whispers that He needs to shout to rouse us.

Then, God ends with “I WIll MAKE SURE YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED”.

Therefore, be desperate, even in good times, and you will never be disappointed.

Remember, God says, “I am the WAY (narrow pathway), the TRUTH (never failing promises in the Word) and the LIFE (salvation and abundance).”

Drawing Near- His Words (From Psalm 119)

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To me, nothing beats spending that time of intimacy with God. Only at such an appointment, I feel very close to Him, I get encouraged, refreshed and strengthened each time. And I feel my faith rises to a new level. It is especially touching to hear Him speaks. And one of the ways He speaks, is through His Words (your bible, His billet-doux to you). I was brought to Psalm 119, and was inspired to pen this piece.

Drawing Near- His Words (From Psalm 119)

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When my soul is faint from longing for Your Presence

Your Word brings alive a glimmer of Hope

Your Love never snuff out my flickering wick

For Your Faithfulness endures forever

 

When my soul gets weary with sorrow

You strengthen me with Your Word

Even when I am deep down in my valley

Your Word preserves me through and through

 

Turn my eyes from worthless things

Turn my heart from selfish gains

Turn my feet from deceitful ways

You will ensure my well-being according to Your Love

 

In the morning You are my portion

Into the night You are my song

Your Word is like a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path

 

Those who love You will tremble at Your Word

And nothing can make one stumbles

Nor be caught in a deep slumber

Peace will be my everlasting convenant

 

Though I constantly take my life in my own hands,

And often tested Your Promises

Yet Your hand ever ready to help me

And save me from straying in my wilderness

 

If I truly and humbly obey Your Laws,

You will keep my ways pure and steadfast

Neither will I be subjected to shame

I can walk about in Freedom and in Light

Your Love Covers It All

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When hurts aching

You are stronger

than all my weaknesses

 

When faith shaken

You are greater

than all my mistakes

 

When condemnation knocks

You are bigger

than all my failures

 

When darkness despairs

You are brighter

than all my darkest moments

 

When hopelessness cries

You are deeper

than all my pits and valleys

 

When silence can’t find the words I could say

When tears can’t express exactly how I feel

Lord, you have counted them all-

my every heartaches, and my every tears.

 

I need Your embrace right now, O Lord

I know You stay close beside.

Although darkness falls, Your Light will shine

And I will rise, with You

For Your Love covers it all.

 

“Love bears all things, believe all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:7) Be strong, and let your heart take courage, as you wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom 12:12)”