“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
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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).

The Dangers Of Feelings

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The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT) He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. (Proverbs 28:26a)

Here’s a point-blank question: “Are you a person who do things based on feelings?”

If you have been living life based on feelings, that means you let your heart (emotions) rule more than your head (provided it is of sound and godly wisdom). But God has a different take about trusting our feelings because our heart is most deceitful.

Living in an era that is about “feel good in order to live good” or “live good in order to feel good.”, the society of today has conditioned us a “Follow your heart!” culture where it places a very high value on our own desires and emotions.

When we live our lives based on whimsical emotions, we become subservient to our feelings instead of God’s Spirit and His Word. Following our heart cultivates an attitude of self-centredness rather than yield to surrender. And the flip side is, we cannot become true servants of Christ if we are controlled by our feelings. For a life lived in God is not lived on the plane of our feelings, but of the Will of God.

When we allow our feelings to take the lead, we will end up making a lot of foolish and self-focused decisions, and ended up making a mess of our lives. We will also develop the tendency to pick and choose the ‘truth’ that appeal to us personally, and reject those that contradict what we want to hear or receive. Whenever we try to edit the ‘truth’ to be in line with our emotions or preferences, we are actually placing our own opinions and thoughts higher than God’s.

I confessed that I can’t recount the number of times I didn’t feel like going to church, leading cell group, going to cell meetings, going for ministry, going to meet someone in need out of inconvenience, and God knows what else. And I often brushed them off as it is human to feel like that. It is not uncommon for most of us.

Understanding how our feelings come in play and how we can overcome them is all based on this golden rule- “First decide (wisely based on God’s Word) then feelings will follow.”

  1. Feeling opposes faith

A feeling that is based on the ‘right moment’, “I don’t feel that my faith is strong enough.” versus a decisive choice to just believe, “I chose to have faith no matter what!!”

  1. Feeling is contingent

A feeling that depends on whether you feel like it, “I really don’t feel like forgiving this person.” versus a decisive choice to just forgive as an act of obedience, “I chose to forgive this person because I myself have been forgiven by God.”

  1. Feeling is double-minded

A feeling that can’t decide between ‘yes’ or ‘no’, “I am not sure if I feel like going to church.” versus a decisive choice to say ‘yes!’, “I chose to die to myself (whatever you are feeling at the moment) and just go to church.”

  1. Feeling is fleeting

A feeling has ‘moods’ which can swing anytime and commitments tend to be very short-lived, “I feel like doing this. And the next moment, I don’t feel like doing this anymore.” versus a decisive choice to persevere, “I shall keep to what has been set initially despite how I feel.”

  1. Feeling is natural

A feeling naturally derive from how we feel at the moment, “I feel like…. / I don’t feel like…” versus a decisive choice to yield to the supernatural, “Although I don’t feel up to it, but I can do it through Christ who strengthen me.”

  1. Feeling can cook excuses

It is human nature to base decision or act on our emotions, and we often blame our fallen nature for our sins. If we are honest enough, we are very good at cooking excuses based on how we feel.

A life controlled by feelings is not very healthy, especially when our spiritual walk will be affected, therefore it is high time to set right with God in this area.

Last but not least, we also need to be mindful that something that “feels” right doesn’t mean it is right. No wonder God says, those who trust his own heart is a fool.

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.

Do You Know You Can Lose A Skill You Have Not Use For A Long Time?

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Always remember what you have learned. Your education is your life — guard it well. – Proverbs 4:13 GNT

Do you know that when you have not cycle for donkey’s years, you will lose the skill of cycling? Kid you not, I have not been cycling for 17 years, and to my horror, I now struggle balancing the bike! I reminisced how I used to cycle along the stretch of East Coast Park in my heyday, and loved speed. Not long ago, I picked up cycling, and it unnerved me. After rounds of flustering attempt, I finally managed to cycle a short distance.

P.S. How did I get going? I simply recalled how I first learnt cycling myself when I was in my adolescence, without any help nor affixing the bike with additional wheels.

Similarly, if we have not utilise our God-given talents or apply the knowledge we have picked up from the bible regularly, they can easily dematerialise.

Proverbs 19:8 (GNT) says, “Do yourself a favour and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper.”

Therefore, do not take it for granted, it is to your own benefit to guard what you have learnt well- continual learning and application will keep you in good stead in your personal and spiritual life.

Look At Your Hand To Remind Yourself How To Have A TOTAL Quality Quiet Time

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I was inspired to share about how we can have a quality Quiet Time with simple “Rules of the hand” (in chronological order of priority / importance):

  1. Thumb = Eyes = Read > Ingestion
  2. Index = Ears = Hear > Reinforcement
  3. Middle = Mouth = Pray > Appropriation
  4. Ring = Mind = Mediate > Renewal
  5. Pinky = Heart = Memorise > Inscription
  6. Palm = Core = Act > Application
  1. We have to first read the Word of God in order to feed ourselves spiritually. The more we read, the more Light you allowed the Word to permeate into every areas of “darkness” (not necessarily mean negativity but can be a dull / passive spirit too) in us. For the word of God is living and active, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow… (Hebrews 4:12). Light and darkness cannot co-exist, therefore “darkness” has to flee even with a flickering light- the more light there is, the less room for “darkness”.
  1. Faith comes from by the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Sometimes a powerful encounter with God comes when He speaks either to you personally or through His Word. Tune your ears to supplement your reading. Hearing audio bible or devotions can be good ingestion too.
  1. It is a good exercise to appropriate the Word which we have read or heard by praying with it. God would love to have us to ask Him for anything. Our mouth is designed to sing and declare His Goodness, worship in praise, articulate what we want, verbalise His living Word that has power over principalities and internalise His Word when we speak. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2B)

P.S. When we verbalise our prayers, Satan and its demons hear and shudder. That is why warfare prayers are usually loud to deafen them.

  1. Our mind is often a playground for the devil and easily susceptible to deceptions. That is why it is so important to guard our mind as it is like a gate to our soul bypass our heart. The only way to guard our mind is to constantly fill it with the Word of God by meditating upon the Truths. And when we know the Truth, the Truth will set us free indeed (John 8:32). The benefits of meditation: (a) train our mind to be renewed by the Word of God, which in turn effectuate a change of heart; (b) it aligns our mind and heart to the center on God; (c) it reinforces spiritual discipline of believing and trusting God for His promises. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
  1. Writing aids memorisation. And we best remember things that we store in our heart. And our heart is the central part of our being: we feel, speak, react and behave out of which is from our heart. That is why God prefers us to imprint His Words upon our hearts. “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” (Deuteronomy 11:18 NASB) The heart of every matter is a matter of the heart: your heart is either a dead scroll or a living tablet, you reap either of the fruit you have sown in your heart.
  1. Last but not least, all our fingers can only work together with the palm to be fully functional as a hand. Our hand is designed to perform actions. Ever wonder why we open our hands when we are prayed over? That is a receiving posture of faith. When we don’t put to action what we read, hear and know, it is fruitless- Knowledge without application is abortion. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Look at your hand daily to remind you the importance of a TOTAL quality Quiet Time, and you will reap the full benefits of being fruitful in your walk with God.

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.