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.

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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.

Half-hearted?

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I was pondering over why many people would share their struggles with hearing God for an answer. Not that we need supernatural powers nor the gifting to hear Him… I was pointed to this verse…

“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with ALL ur heart” – Jeremiah 29:13

God promised we will find Him, and the key is “ALL”. The question is, how do we seek God with ALL our heart when we so consumed by the demands of our day, work, ministries, home responsibilities etc., that even our prayers have to be in between pockets of time, remaining time, or by-the-way-quick-pray-and-get-done-with.

“ALL” lies in:

1. ATTITUDE of seeking Him ALONE

Do we really take time to seek Him and spend time with God truly? Or for the sake of doing it or going through the motion? What is the posture or attitude of our heart? Jesus spent time with His Father intently. Jesus had already set an example: (1) We need to come to a place where we are not distracted- Jesus got away to a place of solitude to pray; (2) while it is still dark (likely the time we are all sound asleep), Jesus got up to spend time with His Father before he started His ministries. Morning is the best time when your mind is still fresh, uncluttered and has room for God. We become accustomed to His voice in the quiet and recognize Him in the noise of the worldliness. He wants each of us to hear directly from Him, as our thoughts are made new as we receive a download from God Himself.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – 1 Chronicles 16: 11

2. LISTENING

Practically speaking, get in the Word. God’s Word is alive now. He speaks through the bible- our Living Instruction Manual. The problem is, do we listen? Or rather, do we be still and listen hard enough? Or we are deafen by the World?

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10a

3. LENGTH

The last key is Patience. Unhurried. Do we spare time for God to response? The hardest part is to WAIT. We all like to do things quick, fast, don’t waste time. But God most of the time says, WAIT.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; – Psalms 37:7a

Take home point: Being fulfilled in His presence changes how we see and approach that which He’s called us to. If we do not first find peace and satisfaction in God’s Presence, then what we do will not be from Him, but by relying on our flesh. Spending time with God is the only way how we gain Kingdom perspective, and it is foundational to all we do.