Problems. You Have Not Reached Your Limit Yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Season. New Chapter. New Hope. RENEW.

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It has been 11 days into the new year- are we ready for the new season? R.E.N.E.W your resolution for the year:

R: RECHARGE your body, mind and soul

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:10-12

It is time to re-evaluate your life, recharge your body, renew your mind, reject lies and excuses, and refocus your priorities. Remember, our greatest glory lies not in never failing, but in rising up each time we fail; and it is always better to start somewhere than not at all; it is now or never.

E: EXPERIENCE God (again)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

Nothing beats being in God’s Presence: the Source of true joy, renewed confidence, hope, strength, restoration, healing…… Seek Him continually, remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced. (Psalm 105:4-5)

N: NULLIFY the things that hold you ransom

“throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” – Ephesians 4:22-23

Each passing year will leave behind some baggages, the more you hold on to them, the more they will get heavier and weigh you down. Hoarding junk is unhealthy, so get rid of the clutter, only then can you truly be liberated when you let go and let God.

E: EXERCISE your faith

“According to your faith it will be done to you!” – Matthew 9:29b

Faith is like muscle, the more you exercise to work out your muscle, the more it can be stretched, strengthened and hold well when tested.

W: WORK with God

“You will not succeed by your own strength or power but by My Spirit” – Zechariah 4:6

If you do what you always do, you will get what you have always gotten- working with fail finite strength will produce limited or barren result, but working with the Supernatural (with God) you will be where you never think possible.

A Beautiful Exchange

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To all who mourn in Israel He will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory. – Isaiah 61:3 TLB

(Studies shown that in the Biblical times, it was the custom for people in great mourning and difficulty to lay down in pile of dirty ashes.)

Today marks a new beginning: a new chapter, a new hope, a new milestone, and a renewed spirit. “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 34:19A)

Matthew 9:17 cautions that ”no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

So in order for the new to arrive, we have to get rid of the old.

The bumps and curves of life in the past year may have left us wounded with hurts and crushed by disappointments. We may even wallowed in that stinking puddle of pain, anger, bitterness and resentment. In our sub-consciousness, we may even be angry with God.

Yet our loving and gracious God doesn’t want us to remain in the ashes of the past; He wants to trade our brokenness for healing and restoration; He wants to exchange our ashes for the better (beauty). A beautiful exchange that wasn’t merited; His promise is far greater than the sum of our past, failures, mistakes and agony.

But that can only happen if we let go of what has been holding us back, and let God does His Work. Only then can we experience true freedom when we have totally release what we have been holding in our hands- if you need to forgive someone or even yourself, forgive; if you need to get rid of an unhealthy habit, rid of it; if you need to overcome the carnal nature of the flesh, crucify it.

It all boils down to a choice, we have to choose not to let what has happened to define us, and allow God to use those things to refine us. All our tears and heartaches are not without purpose, for our desert experiences seek only to draw us closer to Him so that we can learn to trust Him more.

So don’t waste another day sitting in the ashes, for we have a future ahead that can be filled with beauty. God has already done a beautiful exchange, we just need to trade up and return to Him as a new ‘wineskin’.

“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” – Isaiah 44:22 NASB

Let Jesus In (Teach Me What I Cannot See)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What do you SEE? 

(a) What have veiled your eyes?

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

(c) Did you overlook His Will for you?

(d) Have you missed His Way?

 

  1. What do you HEAR? 

(a) What have blocked your ears?

(b) Have you been missing His Voice?

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

 

  1. What do you FEEL? 

(a) What have choked your heart?

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

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

(d) How is your compassion quotient?

 

  1. What do you UNDERSTAND? 

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

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

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

(d) How is your relationship with God?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(d) How is our Christlikeness quotient?

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

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

Whenever Our Heart Condemns Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money Matters

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Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich. – Proverbs 21:17

I had a deep reflection while on the way home last Friday after cell, because it was a subject that was very close to my heart- Money Matters. I chanced upon Proverbs 21:17 which warns those who indulge in carnal pleasures and sensual gratifications, and spend time and money in such a way, are very likely to be poor, and not rich in or towards spiritual things. Dictionary defines pleasures as extravagant living, expensive feastings, and costly leisures or entertainments, and we have often heard that where our money goes to tell a lot about us. And interestingly, according to Ecclesiastes 5:11 NLT, it also warn that the more you have, the more you spend.

I retrospected my life now to the time I was steeped in debts before I gave my life to Jesus. It was a joke that my best subject in Accounts had flunked me in life- poor financial decisions reaped bad consequences. That catastrophe had forced me to live the other spectrum of life: back to the basics- one pair of jeans, one pair of shoes, one bag and one tee-shirt. (Lest you wonder, irrespective of style, cut, type, colour, function, it was just one item only.) Believe me or not, I literally wore them like a set of uniform. Plain Jane? Boring? Sure, but I had no means to indulge. I even had to stay away from shopping lest I be tempted. Till a time my mum had to encourage me that it was high time to change my wardrobe a little as I seemed to live like a tattered beggar. Whenever I needed to make a purchase, I had to prayerfully consulted my Chief Financial Officer (God of course) a few times, “Should I or should I not?” Now that my life is better, I no longer lived that pathetically. However I have to guard myself against all covetousness with a “want versus need” evaluation. But of course I still do make imprudent decisions at times.

Last Friday night after some insightful revelations by the author, I was nudged spiritually, and stumped by a myriad of questions I could not answer:

“Why do you need another pair of shoes?”

“Why do you need another top/ bottom?”

“Why do you need to travel to so many countries?”

“Why do you spend money on immaterial things?”

“How do you spend my money? Have you consult Me?”

“What do you think pleases Me?”

I am no Saint to be sharing this, but I felt in my Spirit to pen down what I had received: Whether we all like it or not, if we are honest, how we spent our money only seek to indulge the “self”: I want to look good; I want to feel good; I am entitled to spend the money because I have worked hard for it; I deserve to reward myself; I need comfort food or things; I want to achieve my dreams; and all on the wanted list.

Some helpful questions to ponder:

  1. Are you sure the money you have are yours?
  2. Who give you the right to spend what pleases your flesh?
  3. Are your “want”s your “need”s? So are they necessary or rather essential for you to live?
  4. Are you doing what God wants you to do?
  5. How have you been sowing in the Kingdom of God?
  6. Why are you so uptight in giving generously to the kingdom purposes of God when you can spend extravagantly on what you love?

Look at Jesus: just a pair of well-travelled sandals, perhaps a few pieces of weather-beaten garbs, and a basic appetite for simple meals.

I am sure some of us will rationalise that Jesus lived in the old era but now we have much choices, therefore the application is not relevant in today standard of living; some of us may also justify “I don’t spend on expensive things” so it won’t hurt, but I do concur that it isn’t about the value, it is our attitude of the heart: what if God asked, “How about you give what you supposed to spend it on, to bless someone who needs it more?”

Listen to how our heart respond, we will get the answer.

Money is the second most referenced topic in the Bible, where it is mentioned more than 800 times. God had first laid the blueprint so that we would not get consumed by the world. We will need God to help in our weaknesses in this area- be humble, God will spotlight the areas that we need to work on.