“I Tell You The Truth…”

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I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.3 John 1:4 

Did it ever occur to you that some of Jesus’ words were affixed with “I tell you the truth…”? Nearly seventy times found in the Bible that Jesus is quoted as having said that famous liner. This revealed not only was Jesus concerned with the truth and to express what He had to say was the truth as it is, but to reinforce the importance of that truth in order to remind us to pay attention to it. 

We may all claim that “Of course, I know…”, but if we honestly examine our attitudes and actions, we had have to confess that we do not always measure up nor really act like we do. Sometimes the voices in the world can delude us into believing certain truths what our sinful nature likes and be deceived into endorsing them. We ended up feigning ignorance or take the truth with a pinch of salt and even dismiss it readily citing excuses on the weakness of human nature.

It is evident that nobody likes hard truth, much less to hear the truth being slapped to our face. Surely none of us like to be forced to accept certain truth as the Only Truth. But it remains a fact that as Children of Light, if we claim that we experience a shared life with Jesus and continue to stumble around in the dark, we are obviously lying through our teeth— we’re not living what we claim. (1 John 1:7A MSG)

The entire Bible is the Ultimate Truth, whether we like it or not. And that is the hard truth.

Here’s some of the stark truths that we may not like to hear but will stop us in our track to reflect over our walk with God:

  1. Is there a difference in our spiritual life now compared to where we were a spiritual baby? Do we experience true transformation since our first conversion? (Cross reference to Ephesians 4:20-24)

2. Judgement Day will bring to light our work and its quality will be tested with fire to reveal if it can withstand the heat. (Cross reference to 1 Corinthians 3:13). Do we have any thing to present to God when we come before Him one day? Will we be proven faithful to the things He entrusted us with or call us to do?

3. Not everyone who calls the Lord “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of God gets to heaven (Cross reference to Matthew 7:21-23). Will God really know us when He separates His Sheeps and goats on the Final Day?

4. All our deeds, big and small, whether spoken or unspoken, done or devising, blatant and hidden, will be recorded in the books, and we will be judged accordingly. (Cross reference to Revelation 20:12). How would we stand before God?

5. We all find it nauseating to have distasteful lukewarm food, and in the same figure of speech found in Revelation 3:15-16 which used to express disgust that God had for those who are lukewarm, in other words, lacked spiritual zeal. Would we still continue to be complacent as bench-warmer with a folding-arm mentality in our walk with God?

6. Do we come to God only when in need and treat Him like some cosmic vending machine expecting Him to bless us when we have not been spending time with Him, choose to go to Abba’s House only as and when we like, we neglect our spiritual growth, we complain about the chores of carrying out God’s work, choose to be disobedient to His commandments etc.? (Cross reference to Deuteronomy 28)

The truth is this: We can be­lieve in God and sin, but we cannot walk in sin and enjoy God’s Presence at the same time. 1 John 3:9 (NLT) says, “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” In addition, Romans 6:2 (NLT) says, “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? In other words, we should not want to sin. And the closer we are to God, the more conscious we are of sin, and the less we will do it. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil; he cannot toler­ate sin.” So if we walk with God, our eyes will be purified too to look on evil, and we will come to hate sin like God does, as the one who called us is holy, so we too should be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15).

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. – John 8:32

Image courtesy from Richard Chan

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)

“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).

Take Up And Cross (Part 2)

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I shared previously about denying my self- When I started to question my faith, I could no longer hear nor feel God, to the extent that spiritual journal for the last quarter of 2015 to the whole year of 2016 was unusually bare. I had lost the intimacy with God totally when I was in rebellion in my pit. Thereupon, I arrived at the next hurdle found in the same key verse:

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

The centrality of true discipleship is: 1. Take up the Cross daily. And I want to add in another parallel, 2. Crossing daily.

  1. The way of the Cross:

(i) A total dedication as His Disciples – For Jesus relinquished His rights as God and lived His Life solely in fulfilling His Father’s Will

(ii) Giving up our lives for the Kingdom – For Jesus had died on the Cross for the redemption of mankind. It calls for a full surrender of our lives.

(iii) It requires sacrifices that will cost us – Consider that God paid a very exorbitant price when He gave His Only Son to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins that Jesus doesn’t deserve to bear.

(iv) An instrument of death – It is a reminder that we need to die to ourselves, daily

Most of us stop at taking up the Cross, but yet to CROSS further because of limitations, fears, inadequacies, inconveniences, sacrifices to make etc. Simply, we haven’t arrive at denying ourselves. The first hurdle in the verse points to denying ourselves, upon which we can then take up the Cross. Then Jesus said, “AND follow Me.” “and” is found twice in the same verse, which emphasises a step-by-step call for action. It is a daily process, and not a one-time destination. There is no way we can move forward without first denying ourselves. (And by the way, denying ourselves apply for good times too, and not just the bad times.)

  1. The last hurdle will then be “Follow” Jesus. Following Jesus require crossing daily- Do as He did. 

I think, to summarise all the above is found in this verse-

He (God / Holy Spirit) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. – John 3:30

Just want to end my sharing with 2 more hard truths that never fail to rein me in:

Many of us can address God as God, but how about calling Him Lord? Having His Lordship, means He rules and reigns in every areas of our lives: work, finances, relationships, emotions, our heart and even our plans. If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

Life will always be a series of TEST but through them we can come out stronger and glorify Him in our TESTIMONY;

Our lives may be a MESS but they can be turnaround for His beautiful MESSAGE;

When we face TRIALS in life, always recall and remember, how God can bring us into TRIUMPHS.

“What Is It You Want?” The Trivial Things.

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Throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus jumped up and came to Jesus. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Rabboni, said the blind man, “I want to see again.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. – Mark 10:50-52

It has never occurred to me to pray to God for trivial things. I thought it was incredulous to ask a supreme being who does big things to do something so insignificant. Until a friend put into a new perspective that God is concerned what is bothering us even with the slightest matter! (Imagine God numbers every strand of hair on our head as delineated in Luke 12:7. That shows God is a God of fine details!)

I found it amusing to be asking God, in my 15-year journey with Him, to request Him to be my alarm clock as I needed to wake up earlier to rush work. (Lest you wonder, normal alarm clock doesn’t work on me……) Initially I prayed, “God, please wake me up earlier.” Indeed, I had been waking up earlier than my usual timing, but it was still behind time as planned. Until I decided to be more specific, so I prayed to God to wake me up at 8am.

Yes, you guessed it. I really woke up at 8am!

“What is it you want?”, God asks specifically. (Matthew 20:21)

“What do you want me to do for you?”, Jesus asks specifically. (Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41)

Therefore, be specific, no matter how trivial your request.

Don’t worry about anything (including what you worry that your requests may be too trivial for the Almighty); instead, pray about everything (yes, all the little things that bother you). Tell God what you need (specifically), and thank Him for all He has done (claim and receive by faith). If you do this (by praying and petitioning), you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand (and you be in for a surprise!). His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (just trust Him). – Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

On the other hand, even if we have yet to hear our prayers answered, Jesus encourages us to always pray and not lose heart, through a parable in Luke 18, about a persistent widow pleading her cause continually, until the judge had to grant her request. Although 1 John 5:14-15 reminds us that God hears each prayer: “And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we know He is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that He will give us what we ask for.” Our prayers have to be in line with the Will of God, as not everything is beneficial to us. We have to trust our all-knowing, loving God wants the best for us, and leave the outcome in His Hands.

Honey, I stumble the kid!

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Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. – 1 Corinthians 8:9

Spending time with a 13-month old toddler at home reminded me of an indelible verse my previous mentor etched permanently on my mind, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ, follow my example” (Ephesians 5:1). She taught us not by speech (since we can pick up from the bible) but by her actions. I had the privilege to be able to serve and learn in both married and singles ministries the past years. My mentor then never failed to correct me whenever I did or said something not befitting as a Child of God which I always remember her last counsel to me, “Whether you like it or not, people around you are watching you because you are considered a spiritual Senior.” Honestly, I didn’t like that, but that is a resounding truth to all of us, especially with pre-believers.

Aside to spiritual matters, there is another aspect of being a good example starts from the home. Home is where the foundation is built. It amazed me how impressionable my toddler niece is at such a very tender age- on one occasion I was fiddling with my hair, and she was mimicking me! In many instances, she picked up what I did more than what I said. I realised she is watching me and I have to be very mindful that I should not set a bad example.

Indeed, kids remember what you did more than what you said. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to become a stumbling block to any one. We all have the freedom to make choices each day, live the life we want, and to do what we feel like to do. But this freedom can cost us or another person something, and it may be too high a price to pay because what we do today will determine tomorrow.

Parents, God has entrusted you with great responsibilities to nurture His little children in your care, and how are you doing with this divine task? Imagine this- if we are always living a bible-less and prayerless life, not applying kingdom values as godly parents, and not promoting family altar time, how are we going to enforce spiritual disciplines to the kids? Thence what godly values would we be imparting to them?

Singles, we may not have kids at home to watch us, but we don’t have to wait for a kid to change us. Because we have our family, the world and God watching us too- Character is who you are when no one is watching. (Of course, this applies to parents too.)

Show example by what we do is the best lesson we can teach— just to mention a few examples— we don’t remind kids to do their Quiet Time when we as parents fail to have this daily discipline; we don’t teach honour to a kid when we dishonour others by not respecting other people’s time when we turn up late for appointments.

Yes, we are absolutely not perfect, but that doesn’t excuse us for not doing what we supposed to do, and knowing the right thing to do yet not doing it. Kids are watching around us, and would we like to be accountable for stumbling them? Let’s remember too, God is watching.

So prepare your minds for action, be completely sober [in spirit—steadfast, self-disciplined, spiritually and morally alert], fix your hope completely on the grace [of God] that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. [Live] as obedient children [of God]; do not be conformed to the evil desires which governed you in your ignorance [before you knew the requirements and transforming power of the good news regarding salvation]. But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your conduct [be set apart from the world by your godly character and moral courage];  because it is written, “You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 AMP

The change always first begin with you- you can, if only you want to. There is a difference between “I will” and “I want”- all of us can do any thing but not all of us want to; unless we want to, then we will do it.

So, how is our “inner” life thus far?

Courtesy photo (P1040652) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.