BE INTENTIONAL (6): Change Yourself First

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Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. – Romans 12:2 NLT

I once observed my two young nieces, a pre-schooler and a toddler, jostling with each other over a toy. The robbed child, indignant with sourpuss grumpiness, would then howl in anger and attempt a scratch or a snatch. At this juncture, I would intervene to parry the blow. “No, no, no! You can’t do that…” This incidence reminded me that our gut reaction to lash out doesn’t change as we age.

I once asked a friend this question- can a person who struggle with anger a patient person? I think, a person who has issues with anger may not produce evident fruits of patience and gentleness, as opposed to a person who is patient and gentle. 

It is innate that we all are quick to respond, whether in christlike manner or otherwise. Sometimes we spew out senseless drivel and hurtful speech when tempers frayed. Unmet expectations. Unresolved issues. Unsettled disappointments- Every pet peeve writes a check on our joy account. And bitter roots start to weed…

But, God’s grace is immeasurable, His mercy inexhaustible, His peace inexpressible. He can empathise with our human idiosyncrasies. He knows that for us to well and truly grow up, we must learn to grow out of our past and grow into our future. 

So instead of changing the other person, choose the way we respond.

Instead of seeking power and control, choose to response to needs.

Instead of pursuing perfection, learn from mistakes, acknowledge them and rectify them.

Instead of focusing on unmet expectations, choose to be realistic that men will fail and accept that only God can fulfill that void.

Instead of pointing finger at anyone, turn your negative emotions to God and let Him have the final say.

Instead of retaliating, leave your vengeance to God and let Him give the verdict as the Judge.

Have a brake on your tongue; hit the throttle on your ears. Pray this simple prayer,

“Without You, I am nothing.

Apart from You, I can do nothing.”

Partnering God and working with Holy Spirit will be rewarding. Let Him surprise you that the outcome is far beyond what you can apprehend. For God is a God of Miracles.

A Mess Into A Message: Your Story Is HIStory (“HIs-Story”)

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They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. – Psalm 105:18-19 NLT

In the earlier days as a new believer, I saw myself in a few visions where I stood before a congregation to share about God. Lo and behold, I was requested to share my testimony for a session, “Faith To Heal The Wounded Soul” at my church’s Women’s Encounter. I had to muster enough courage to stand ‘naked’ before an audience of unfamiliar faces just to relate my checkered past. At some point in life, I really hate my life, I always begrudged why my life was beset with issues and challenges that were hard to bear. My life was such a mess up- a broken home, broken body, broken life and broken dreams- health crisis, identity crisis, financial crisis, and family crisis, I had been through them all. I did wonder would my life turn out differently if I have known Jesus much earlier…… If only I stop being so obstinate, I would have avoided much hard knocks of life and saved myself from much bruises and injuries. Perhaps, I am bearing the consequences of my own rebellion and bad choices.

But I must brutally confessed that it is better to go through life with God than without Him. Life will be more bearable with an Almighty than to shoulder it alone.

And my story is HIStory (“HIs-Story”), that took me years of broken dreams and humble circumstances in order to break every ounce of pride and self-will, to come to the end of myself.

If you ever wonder why life can be a series of mess- adversity of failing health, failed career, failed finances, failed relationships, and broken dreams?

Ever wonder why are we on earth for, having to go through such crises in certain seasons of our lives?

Ever wonder why must we go through storms of life?

And ever wonder if we took one wrong turn, we have missed out God’s Best?

Even after much wrestling with God, we can never seem to find those answers with bended fists, brandished arms and clenched teeth. Most of life’s difficult questions are best answered when we go through things that try us the most, for those are the things that God allow to prove by the truth of the Word of God and His Sovereignty. And there is always Light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long, His purposes will always prevail. God certainly desire us to be freed, if only we allow Him a free rein in our lives- changes can only happen when we embrace them openly.

We are made for more than just managing problems in life, that whatever we are going through act as catalysts in experiencing God’s Purposes, Grace, Power and Glory, that unfold a greater story. And the good news is, even if we missed an opportunity, took the wrong turn or made a wrong decision, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). God is much bigger than our disobedience or mis-calculation on our part, isn’t that comforting to know our entire life won’t be thrown off course? Everything in life has His gentle Handprints, but you hold the pen to your story.

Some of the staunchest Christians I know are people who had periods in their life when they questioned the Bible, Christ, and God.  But as they continued to examine the matter, there was overwhelming evidence that only “the fool hath said in his heart, there is not God.” In God’s economy, you must go down into the shadow of grief before you can scale the heights of spiritual glory. You must come to the end of self before you begin to live. When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.

– Billy Graham

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

Critical Spirit. The Little Things. Relational Injuries.

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. – Romans 14:13

 

At times we don’t feel respected.

At times we don’t feel being cared for.

At times we stepped on the other person’s feelings.

At time we brushed each other the wrong way.

At times unkind words lashed out heedlessly hurtful and regretted later.

At times we get disappointed.

 

Crowded schedules. Money pressures. Communication problems. Midlife crises. Emotionally inaccessiblity. Insecurities. Fears.

And there’s never time to talk. Disconnected.

When you do talk, frustrations stirred instead.

Our own share of human frailties in one way or another irritate the other. All those little things sank your heart like the Titanic.

Difficulties in relationships arise out of unresolved relational hurts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and when they are not dealt with, those little things become issues themselves. Eventually, they grow to become relational injuries.

 

The 7-key checklist of relational injuries:

1. Acceptance in love or expectation?

(a) What is your expectation of the other person whom you are relating to?

(b) Has your expectations get too much in the way?

(c) When he/ she failed to meet your expectations, do you withdraw?

 

All of us are made different, and grow differently as well, the first step is learning to discover “What do you want?” When you let your expectations get too much in the way, it may pave the way to idolatry in your heart. When you truly love someone, you accept the person as who he/she is, not what you think he/she has to be. Remember, no one is perfect, including yourself. Even God loves and accept the way you are but, He is not done with our flaws yet. Acceptance comes with true love.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT, second edition).

 

2. Responding in love or rejection?

(a) Have you been sensitive with your words and actions?

(b) How do you responded to someone even when you feel lousy?

(c) What is your language of love?

As a picture says a thousand words, so do your words and actions painted that as much. It is often contradictory why you can be patient, gentle, kind and understanding to the people who are not close or dear to your heart, but you often the “ugly split-personality” when you are with your loved ones- you are not so patient, you get angry and upset, you often lashed out unkind words, you get frustrated easily and you feel unappreciative towards them and they often get your cold shoulders. Have you ever paused for a moment the emotional injuries you have done? Consider why your dear ones have been a “punching sandbag” than a “hugging pillow” to you, it makes a whole world of difference when you spend time to share what is bothering you than to throw them around like cold turkeys. Just as you thought the other person is disconnected, chances are you, yourself probably haven’t been emotionally accessible either!

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

 

3. Finger-pointing to edify or tear down?

(a) Do you always point out the other person’s faults more than you readily label your own?

(b) Have you first seek to understand the whole situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?

(c) Do you demand changes from the other person?

The attitude of “That’s your problem, not mine!” is deceptive- don’t you have a part to play too? Put yourself in a scenario in a court room where you stand in as a prosecution witness in a difficult case. During cross-examinations by the Defence Attorney (DA), he will try all ways and means to pull you down by finger-arrowing your credibility and character flaws, the more you tried to defend yourself, the heavier the onslaught of verbal abuses. And you left wounded by his hurtful insinuations and unjustified judgement. Are you one who is such a Defensive Accuser (DA)?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

4. Giving up your rights or demanding your rights?

(a) “Why should I?”

(b) “I expect you to be… …”

(c) “I have the final say!”

If you struggle with this area, you may have problems with pride. When one is full of himself or herself, he/ she always think himself/ herself is better than the other, thus it is hard to relinquish his/ her own rights. They usually struggled in accepting people who give them problems and who are weaker than them spiritually and emotionally. This category of people are very protective of their rights cos they always think they are right. Their expectations fall in line to what they think it should be and how he/ she should be, they are never understanding nor apathetic to consider how the other person feels or where he/ she is coming from. In any relationships, we are taught to be humble and submit to one another in reverence.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:!0) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

 

5. Shallow understanding or mutual understanding?

(a) Have you been communicating?

(b) How understanding have you been?

(c) Do you understand how a person’s background has some way influenced the way how he/ she think, feel and act?

How well do you understand yourself and the other person? Understanding is a crucial fundamental in all relationships to work, and it is paramount to foster better understanding through daily communication. In times of silence, there is tacit understanding too. Understanding the background of the person whom you are relating to, can give you a better and clearer picture how certain thoughts, feelings and actions can be triggered. For him/ her to understand you better, be honest about how you feel and what you think, instead of trying to do something to get his/ her attention. All of us think and feel differently, be open to share so that in each other you will learn something and know each other better to deal with the differences. All you need is a heart to listen.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

 

6. Pain and gain or close and strain?

(a) What is God teaching you through the other person?

(b) Did you apply what you have learn that God is teaching you?

(c) Are you avoiding the issues?

What is your approach- do you avoid pain or confront and gain? When you close in to a relationship, you strain it even more, the wounds may fester. And anytime when the same situations happen, it will playback the old scores. Unfortunately, the way to learn is often through unpleasantries. Pain is God’s Refining Fire.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

7. Praying with an open heart or clenched fists?

(a) Have you been praying for a breakthrough?

(b) Have you pray for God’s ultimate control and His way in your relationships?

(c) Have you try praying together?

Prayers open door to miracles, for our God is a God of Transformation. Go to Him with all your emotions, surrender your rights and expectations at the feet of His throne. Look to Him first as He will lift you up in due time. He always leave the door open for those who are weary and wounded. He has a special place for them. He is always there in assurance. And He hears you and trust that He will do something. His love never fails.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. – Philippians 4:6-7 CEV

 

All relationships goes a long way, but take heart, all is not lost yet. Give each other space, take time to do your own reflections, pray about the issues, be honest with yourself, take time to share your thoughts and your feelings openly to the other person, confessed to each other your vulnerability and mistakes, discuss with each other how to overcome barriers so as to solve those nagging issues, last but not least, be committed to making healthy changes and mean it. It takes time and courage.

There may be someone in your midst who is hurting. It is always worthwhile to confront it than to take a passive stand, even though you have prayed and trust God would do something about it, but that does not mean we should be doing nothing! How can you reap the fruit when you never bother to sow the seed? God moves as you move, you never know till you try however difficult it can be but God will supply His Strength, Grace and Mercy to keep you through.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Keep at it, those little things CAN and WILL GO AWAY. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift too. Don’t give up.

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)

 

When Forgiveness Is Hard……

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Having been in certain ministries with people, coupled with my own personal journey, I am compelled to share my experiences on this hard-to-put-into-practice- forgiveness. Hope in some ways it brings to light the issues in our lives.

Love does not keep any record of wrongs that others do – 1 Corinthians 13:5B

Do you know, relationships, especially marriage, self-destruct, not because of petty accumulation of all the little things nor the deepest hurt? It is simply because of unforgiveness- It is the unyielding refusal to forgive.

It is naviety to think we can be immune or trained to be invulnerable- No relationships are spared from hurts and any person escapes unscathed. Yet certain wounds seem to scar for life. Why?

“Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” – Matthew 18:21-22 NLT

Impossible to forgive? Sure, no one says it is going to be easy. Let’s try counting seventy times seven to practise forgiveness. And yes, that will be impossible to keep count too. Forgiveness is on-going, even daily, until you no longer feel the same intensity as the offence first inflicted upon you.

You may not forget the hurt, but you intentionally chose not to hold the person who hurt you in ransom. Again, again and again…

You may get flashbacks, but you made a minute-quick decision to close the door to that memory. Again, again and again…

You may feel the hurt (who would not anyway?), but you are resolute to release the right to get even. Again, again and again…

You would certainly think the person do not deserve it (who would not think so anyway?), again, again and again… forgive.

You certainly would not feel like forgiving (who does anyway?), again, again and again… forgive.

You may think it is so unfair to let the person go so easily, again, again and again… forgive.

Forgive, because you are doing yourself a great favour- for you free yourself from emotional imprisonment, from the past and the future. Otherwise, the past will always continue to hound you. The past is past, and you would not want to relive the past now do you? The past can’t be changed, but you can change the now and the future, so why would you not prefer to? The air of liberty is definitely more breathable than the malodorous stench of your own prison. And the person who suffered de facto is you — for all you know, the offender whom you hold ransom, might have forgotten the offence and living life happier — while you are still licking the same wound?

So why do many keep playing old records? Because they chose to do so and allow themselves to reopen the wound. How can one keeps licking the same wound and expect it to heal completely?

Forgiveness does not equate forgetfulness. Neither does it mean to condone the mistake.

Forgiveness isn’t contingent on the behaviour of that person either.

Forgiveness does not mean resuming the relationship in the same level of trust instantly — for trust has to be rebuilt over time for the relationship to be fully restored — forgiveness is our part in reconciliation with the offender.

In a nutshell, forgiveness is unconditional — the offender nor the situation will change — and is instant.

Remember, if you have experienced the grace of God, how could you withhold the same grace you have been given unmerited? If you truly understand the magnitude of how much you are forgiven — look at Jesus, before breathing his last nailed on the Cross for our transgressions, “Father, please forgive them (you and me), for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) — then true forgiveness comes easier.

Rend your heart, the bible says in Hebrews 12:15 Phillips, “Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others” 

If you are feeling the same, thinking the same, reacting the same and behaving the same- chances are, there is no true forgiveness from the deep recesses of your heart. It is time to do something on your part and let God handles the rest.

Let the true Love of God change you first, let go of the hurt, and release forgiveness to those who hurt you, for He loves you too much to have you hurt. Remember too, God loves the other person just as much too. Only the true Love of God can heal — take heart that God does not keep archives of our wrongs — so take His Heart instead, and you will get a new heart eventually.

The Environment Just Won’t Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aarrggh! Ggrrr….

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

Testing… testing… testing…

The people you find irritating may still be irritating;

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

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

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

The people who hurt you may still hurt you.

Do they still deserve your compassion?

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

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

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

Compassion is self-giving, not self-keeping.

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

Testing… testing… testing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offenses. Cold Love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 7 Virtues To Transforming Your Relationships And Your Character

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In the church, we have heard a lot about the importance of having faith, trust, love, holiness and perseverance. We have also been taught that our mind and words have hidden power that either edify or destroy, whether with husband, children, parents, colleagues or even the people whom we are trying to reach out to.

Yet, in life’s tsunami of challenges, we are often greet with situations that not only challenge our spiritual credentials, but also affect our relationships. I have discovered treasures in the bible that help to transform our relationships and even our character:

1. The virtue of LISTENING

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.” “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”” – 1 Samuel 3:9-10 NASB

2. The virtue of SILENCE

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. – Proverbs 17:27-28

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14

3. The virtue of PATIENCE

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. – Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. – Proverbs 15:18 

Love is patient, love is kind. – 1 Corinthians 13:4 

4. The virtue of HUMILITY

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:5b-6

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. – Isaiah 66:2b

…he crowns the humble with victory – Psalm 149:4b

5. The virtue of DENYING YOURSELF

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:3-8

Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. What out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives. – Hebrews 12:15TLB

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

6. The virtue of REST

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:28-29

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  – Exodus 33:14

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” – Mark 6:31

7. The virtue of FOCUS

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27

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.

Do You Profess True Ambassadorship For Christ?

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While I was studying about what typifies a true Brand Ambassador* for a product- a Brand Ambassador has to reflect the spirit of the product he or she represents. He or she will be the mega-watt spokeperson for the brand.

* A person can be the brand itself, for example, David Beckham can be a brand himself, which he need not necessarily represent any club, since he has established himself well.

In a nutshell, a Brand Ambassador is someone who mirrors its personality (charisma), personifies its character (substance) and communicates the instrinsic benefits (values) of the product. And he or she endears consumers to the brand. The image of such Brand Ambassador has to be wholesome to uphold the good reputation of the brand so that consumers believe in its credibility and reliability. With such good standing, the brand will resound in every corners of the earth through viral marketing. That means everyone is watching! Any one wrong move will negate the brand equity. And the worst case scenario that can happen will be colossally inconceivable- consumers will boycott the brand and the brand value down to zero.

You guessed it, a lightbulb imbued me incandescently- JESUS-BRAND. You and I are called to be an Ambassador for Christ once we crossed over to His Kingdom. In other words, Jesus-brand is our divine birthright.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20

It is going to be our lifetime commitment. The challenge is, we got the whole world watching! Even the Prince of Darkness is abetting us to change allegiances.

The question is, what is the epitome of Christ Ambassadorship?

We have to burrow down to the essence of the brand- that is a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question- what makes Jesus for who He is?

1. Do you first seek passionately the Kingdom of Righteousness or indulge relentlessly in carnal pursuits?

2. Is your devotion perfumed like Mary or incensed like Martha?

3. Does your life reflect the transformation of a New Man or the stagnation of the Old Man?

4. Are you in sync with the Holy Spirit in your daily walk or desensitised by the burdens of your daily living?

5. Do you embrace the magnanimity of the Benevolent King or the heart of the unmerciful servant?

6. Do you embody the fruit of the Spirit or bear the fruits of the sinful nature?

7. Do you bless others with your talents generously or seek only to safeguard your own interest?

8. Does your conversation bespeak a Living Hope or blaspheme with faithlessness?

9. Do you see others with the compassionate eyes of Jesus or through a coloured lens of the self?

10. Do you resonate like a beautiful piano with the hands of love or resound like a hollow gong with a heart of stone?

11. Would you lose your life to respond to God’s calling or you rather keep your life and neglect His ministry?

In a nutshell, a Jesus-Brand Ambassador has to live a life like Jesus did; do like He did; walk like He did; feel like He did and see like He did. In other words, we are to be like Him.

Christ Ambassadorship is unquestionably no easy task, it is as austere as keeping the Ten Commandments. And the sweet side of the deal is, there is certainly a reward for doing a good job.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. – Matthew 16:27

Desire to have a fruitful Return Of Investment (ROI) to God? Start living with a befitting label.

1. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2

2. If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. – Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message) 

3. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:16-26

4. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? – Mark 8:34b-37

Careless Words Can Kill

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Being a familiar recipient of past scorns, I could very well relate to careless words. What really hold me on good ground is the verse that God is ultra-stern on- “But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting for every (empty, careless, idle, thoughtless, worthless or useless) word they speak. For by your words [reflecting your spiritual condition] you will be justified and acquitted of the guilt of sin; and by your words [rejecting Me] you will be condemned and sentenced.” – Matthew 12:36-37 AMP

Imagine, every words are recorded in God’s account that we ultimately have to come before Him on the day of judgement. If you read verse Matthew 12:37 carefully, it is “by our words, whether we be justified or acquitted of the guilt of sin…” Woah, scary isn’t it?

If we are truly honest, we all are guilty of careless words whether with another person or even with God:

(a) Broken promises

(b) Empty words

(c) Tongue-lashes from anger

(d) Gossips count?

(e) Grumbling counts?

(f) And the what-nots…

Prov 12:18 says “Careless words stab like a sword”, which literally mean it is as good as (attempted) murder.

It took me years (including being trained under as a cell leader to lead by example) to really master the art of silence whenever I am upset or angry (the latter is not of my personality to arrive at). Simply, it is harder to remain silent than to react because silence is Strength under Control. It is a lot much easier to flare. Apart from remembering the preceding verse, the other verse is Proverbs 18:6-7, “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

Let me give you an illustration- All of us has a battery life in us, that indicate our strength. Aside to indicate our energy level, it also indicates our emotional quotient. Imagine you scold somebody very harshly, the battery life in that person will minus a bar or more depending on the severity. It can be dangerous if the person’s battery life is left with a bar… We can either choose to top up the person’s battery life with kind words or deeds or rob the person with unkind words or deeds. So the take home point is, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Proverbs 18:21

What kind of fruits are you reaping? In other words, it should be “heaping” in your life? If we have been recipients of the magnitude of God’s Grace, Forgiveness, Mercies, Gentleness and Love, is it too difficult for us to show in our human weakness even a portion to others?

P.s. To clarify- it does not mean I have perfected it, none of us can arrive there. But we can only get better with the help of Holy Spirit if we lead a spirit-filled life. 🙂

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

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The Porcupine. Or the Prickle-Pig. The unlovable hallmark of this spiny rodent is its 30,000 erectile sharp barbed quills which can really imbed skin-deep. The quills ballooned like a giant pin-cushion when provoked and the quills will lodge in the predator’s flesh when brushes against it. The quill expands and cause the wound to fester which slowly leads to death of its predator.

All of us are porcupines aren’t we? We can be prickly in times of anger, frustration, irritation and in the throes of bad attitudes, we dislodge our quills to the conflicting person in moments of impetuousness, impatience, insensitivity and unkindness. All of us are either densely-quilled or sparsely-quilled, either we are sharp and shrewd or unassuming and naive, but we all have “quills” due to each flaws of our character.

A lashing of hurtful words = Few quills dislodged.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

An outburst of anger = Few quills dislodged.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

A harsh criticism = Few quills dislodged.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

A rude remark = Few quills dislodged.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

An insensitive action = One quill dislodged.

Ouch!

A rejected gesture = One quill dislodged.

Ouch!

An untrue confrontation = One quill dislodged.

Ouch!

(The list is inexhaustive…)

Can you count how many of your “quills” has been embedded into another person’s heart? Needless to ask, your answer would probably be “I don’t know.” Any idea how vulnerable when tempers fray and fuses blown? Don’t be surprised those quills left behind are innumerable. The aftereffects either be the wounds are oozing profusely or the flesh has hardened, thereby birthed forth wrath, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and any grudges, causing ANY relationships to strain. One crack. Two cracks. Three cracks. Cracked!

The porcupine is a very vocal animal, it makes noises when it is disgruntled or riled, there are streaks of attitude in a porcupine. Aren’t men nature similar? We grumbled in dissatisfaction, we tongue-lashed in fury and we show our attitudes in times of differences.

How then can two prickly porcupines still get along with each other? Don’t raise the quills! You need to learn with one another to interact with the right tone and manner, relaying the right messages, adopting the right attitude, conveying the right responses all with the right words and actions at the right time, and through the right mode of communication.

Deep Love

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Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].- 1 Peter 4:8 Amplified Bible (CF: Prov 10:12)

This verse dropped in on me this morning. I expounded on it in different translations, and prompted to share it as my Quiet Time thought. May it illuminates you in the same light.

In essence, we know in 1 John 4:8 that God is Love; we love because He first loves us, and having experienced His unconditional but perfect Love, it will naturally overflows out of our heart through His Spirit in us, which enable us to love others. God forgave us out of His deep Love for all of us (in spite of whether we really love Him or not), and cast our sins into the depths of the sea, never to remember (Micah 7:19). The Blood of the unblemished Lamb shed on the Cross had covered over our multitudes of sins that we can be redeemed from our unrighteousness and restored to His Righteousness. God demonstrated a Greater Love when He laid down His Life [He’d first died to Himself] for His friends (us).

Unfortunately, in this fallen world, our love is flawed because we are imperfect. Our hearts are also full of strifes, giving rise to carnal desires because we often walk in or led by our flesh, that give full play to sins. Relationships suffer as a result, when love becomes conditional to what we think, how we feel and how we behave.

God has already provided His model of Love in that verse- In seeking to Love first, we are walking in the Spirit, and not the flesh:

(a) Truly loving someone makes us kind to his/ her imperfections, charitable toward his/ her faults and overlook the imperfections of him / her, insensible to their errors.

(b) We will be able to forgive and be reconciled to those who hurt us with the Love of Christ, who died for them too. Their sins and offenses will not be held in custody against them because true love is not easily angered nor keeps record of any wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5b).

Last but not least, Apostle Peter enforced that “Above all things”, literally in spite of all offenses: how hurt we are, how we feel, who is right or who is wrong, we should put in place a love that is deep and unconditional, modeling after God. For true love never fails; it can cover over a multitude of sins. It will be useful to recall why you love that person in the first place.

And remember too, we are just as capable of hurting others; and imperfect as we are, liable to go astray, we all have occasion to cast ourselves on the charity of those we love.

Mother Theresa inscribed a poem, “Do It Anyway” which is a good reminder for us-

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Under the Carpet

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One sultry weekend afternoon, a young wife decided to keep the house spick and span as it had been quite a while she last cleaned the house since her monstrously hectic work schedule. The husband comfortably retreated into his couch to read the papers while the wife vacuumed the floor.

As she lifted up the carpet, to her dismay, she found a cruddy avalanche of dust, loose hair strands, cobwebs, food crumbles that had invited an army of ants. The cacophony of noises from the vacuum cleaner and the wife’s shriek irritated the husband.

“Look honey! You should have help to clean the house when I have been busy. See, what is this under the carpet?!?” the wife hollered with frown furrowing her forehead.

“Is this my problem?!? What has it got to do with me?!? You are supposed to clean the house! But all you do is work, work, work!” the indignant husband bellowed.

“What are you trying to imply?? You have a part in this house too! It is also your responsibility to keep the house clean, don’t dump all the dirty work on me? All you ever care straight from home is your television, your papers and your computer!” the wife engaged the verbal war.

Flames of anger danced in the husband’s eyes, he retorted involuntarily, “You think about it, are you any better?? When I first know you, you weren’t like this but now you are always over-reacting over nitty-gritty stuffs. Remember the last time you…”

The wife interposed with glint of intensity suffused her eyes, “Why are you bringing up the old scores?!? Why everything I do I can’t seem to be doing it right in your eyes?!? You are always picking on me in this and that…”

Fingers-arrowing. Incessant-brawls. Emotional-vehemence. Disconnected in a bad note.

Cold wars blanketed the house for days. Eventually the couple decided to reconcile by glossing over the conflict, “Let it go and move on.”

However, an angel was sent on a special mission to intervene between this couple. He gathered both the husband and the wife, “Remember the ruckus both of you have about under the carpet? The more you sweep anything under the carpet, the more it’ll grow? Why not seek to clean it up when the dust has not yet settled, it will be a lot easier to maintain this house cleaner then. Both of you have a part to play and the responsibility to keep this house clean. Here’s a lesson for both of you from Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

“The strongest of marriages is one which has weathered the most storms. Look around you, is there any relationship that is not fraught with problems? It is in learning to deal with problems that surfaced each other’s weaknesses that both parties will learn to overcome in patience and perseverance. As all of us are different, thus the way we relate to each other is different too- in the way we think, the way we react, the way we perceive and the way we feel and even the way we expect. It is like putting two individuals of different backgrounds and attachment styles which may have caused the variance in preconceptions, the frictions and the blows.

But problems have purposes, and it is always in problems that you can understand each other better and improve the relationship. Issues are always best to iron out face to face than merely glossing over them or sweeping them under the carpet as unintentional or intentional relational injuries may resulted in woundedness. Such woundedness can cause the relationship to strain. Thus anytime when the same context happens, it will play back those old scores that has been buried. Anything that falls short of our expectations can hurt. Pride can hurt. Demands for our own rights can hurt. Indifference or insensitivity can hurt. Lack of understanding can hurt. Lack of communication can hurt. Tempers can hurt. Unkind words can hurt. Impatience can hurt. Any weaknesses can be like a thorn in another person’s flesh.

Remember, all of us has weaknesses and we are all learning over time. Remember, the God who will never leave us just as we are.”