Habits – It Begins With You

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Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. – John 8:34

When we do something, good or bad, over and over again, we fall into a habitual pattern, which either discipline or enslave us. Humans are by nature, creatures of habits, and experts said that it takes 21 days (daily) to form a habit. Our daily living is made up of good and bad habits. We grow up picking up habits from someone or somewhere, over time.

If you are a habitually latecomer, it is because you have “cultivated” a habit for being late, opposed to someone who is always on time, because the latter cultivated a habit to be earlier. The difference is, when both are given the same amount of time, it is a matter of what you do, a matter of choice and an act of will. Such habit can be changed – I recalled that my bible school fined latecomers a dollar, even if a second late, and no excuse shall be entertained. The $1-fine-tin was heavy in the first few weeks until it got lighter and lighter over time. This proved that latecomers can be trained to be on time.

Even Olympics Athletes train (almost) daily, they “beat” their bodies to follow very strict disciplines (1 Cor 9:25)- and they have the strongest will because they aim for the gold medal. Similarly, you will reap what you sow, if you will yourself to do it- if you truly want to break a bad habit or a sin, replace it with a good habit or a virtue, cultivate this discipline and sustain it for 21 days (or perhaps longer) continually.

Some examples:

  1. Need to get into the habit of doing Quiet Time (QT)?

Start picking up your bible (start with the easiest chapter say Proverbs or Psalms), make a commitment to spend say 15 mins to read 1 chapter, daily, every morning say 8am. Keep to 8am daily for 15 mins, over 21 days (or longer until it becomes a second nature to you).

  1. Need to get into the habit of praying?

Set aside a time where you would pray for 1 thing daily. Keep praying the same thing over and over at the same time until it becomes part of your praying routine.

  1. Need to break a bad addiction?

Whatever this addiction is, don’t SEE (including lust), don’t TOUCH, don’t HEAR (example gossip) and don’t BE there (example extravagant shopping) at all. Bible says “FLEE” from temptations. Turn to the bible instead since it is “live”, and keep to it, till you no longer feel “itchy” or tempted.

  1. Need to break the habit of ungratefulness / grumbling?

Write down 10 things you are thankful to God for the day, count each a blessing and show your gratefulness to God with verbalised prayers. Keep to it until you no longer feel the need to grumble.

  1. Need to break the bad habit of being late?

Find an accountability partner whom you would hold yourself liable to every time you are late- fine $10 or more (non-refundable), depending on the severity of this bad habit. Decide ahead to reach your destination say 10 minutes earlier (works better than being exact), buffer your travelling time an hour (or so) earlier, and work backwards. Commit to this over 21 days or longer until you form a new habit of always being early.

  1. Need to break the habit of wrong thinking?

Bible says replace our thoughts with thoughts that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, fixate about such thoughts (Phil 4:8). That is the power of focus- train our mind to think ONLY of thoughts that are good, say any truth from the bible that is most relevant to you, mediate upon it until your mind is renewed and transforms the way you think.

Basically it is to do something good to replace the bad, cultivate the good things and sustain it. It doesn’t matter how much time you need nor how best to go about it. The crux lies in your attitude- if you are willing to change, you will do it and change. Start small, little by little- patterns of bad habits can be broken by a new habit and transformation begins.

G.R.O.W.T.H

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It is pretty interesting to observe babies- when I helped to look after my baby niece. Such experiences have distilled many truths about growing up:

(a) Infants need food- they start with milk.

(b) Infants will grow up if they keep drinking milk. But when they reach a certain age, they can take solid foods, and grow into the next stage of life.

(c) Infants automatically cry for feed when hungry

(d) Because of regular feeding, infants grow bigger and stronger, and outwardly changed.

In the same context, God has much to say:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2); I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Spiritual babies eventually have to grow up. If their growth is stunted, it may be a result of not being hungry for spiritual foods. In order for growth to happen, we must first be thirsty and hungry in order to ingest any intake. The Bible tells us that God “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9). And spiritual growth has to be intentional; when one is truly hungry for the things of God.

How to be hungry for God and grow up? I was just inspired to “formulate” a growth strategy, which will lay the foundation for intentional growth.

G = GO to God for His Words and in prayers, daily (Jeremiah 33:3)

R = RELY on Holy Spirit always (Ephesians 3:20)

O = OBEY God moment to moment (Jeremiah 7:23)

W = WALK in the Spirit at all times (Galatians 5:25)

T = TRUST God day by day (John 14:1)

H = HUMBLE yourself in need of Him each and every day  (John 15:5)

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

Fake Label Christain

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True and False Disciples

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ – Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

I remembered a friend shared that a lady with imitation AAA rated (means very close to the real goods) Gucci bag checked into the actual Gucci store during its sales. She felt proud to own that label which was the envy of many. A sales representative caught her red-handed for carrying an imitation, and a police case was filed. The lady was then escorted out with glares by many bystanders. The consequence was unthinkable- She might go to jail for such a folly in passing off an imitation that could crown her to be a real Guccian.

Do you see any association to the passage about what God says about goats and sheeps in His Church?

Just by one label- Fake Christain.

And God has the eyes to see who carries such label and He labels them goats. And goats are casted out of His Gate. Many of us professed our faith and yet live a life only as a Sunday Christian. Many of us claimed that we believed and prayed the sinner’s prayer yet our lives are not reflecting true conversion.

Don’t be surprised, God also have something to say about those who are so fervent about God and involved in a lot of ministries but fall short of being a true believer because their hearts are far away from believing Him and acknowledging Him as Lord and Saviour. Read the verse 22-23 again- It addresses the group of people who did God’s work, mind you, and yet, God can see through their hearts.

Isn’t it scary to hear God telling you, “I don’t know you!” or “I never knew you!”? Would you really know you are truly saved? Do you think just having a stamp on your passport guarantees you an entry to Heaven? If so, everyone can have it easy. We can always chose to be a non-practicing Christian.

Let me give you an illustration- A General Practicioner (GP) is a doctor with a certificate that verifies his professionalism. What if this GP never practises medicine after graduation, can he still be a doctor? Will he still be seen as a credible doctor to the public who is seeking medical help?

Likewise, sure, we get an acknowledgment that we are christians when we prayed the sinner’s prayer. So what is next? Read verse 21 again- It emphasis the last line, “BUT (means by this condition) the one who DOES (be doer not hearer) the WILL (God’s purposes and plans for all of us) of my Father…”.

Verse 23b has an even solemn message- “Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Who are these people? Dictionaries define breaking God’s laws as being lawless as “not bound by laws”, “wicked”, “trangressor”, “disobedient”, “violator”, “immoral” and the list goes on. In short, it simply means, no regards for God’s Laws- You know about the rules yet you defy them. We are people of lawlessness because we sin from time to time. But take heart, that Jesus singles out “workers of lawlessness”. Workers work hard day and night with an intention (either for promotion or just to earn more money etc.). In interpreting this, if we continue sinning (it is already at work) and breaking God’s laws or principles intentionally (deliberate disobedience), God has an ultimatum- “depart from Me!”

For example, we all know that carrying imitation goods are prohibited. If we get caught by the original manufacturer, we are in big trouble because we break the laws. It is clear that we cannot escape from such laws. So knowing it, and we deliberately act against this law, would not justice has its way one day? Perhaps, if your conscience is working, you would have stop robbing someone of the copyright.

James summarised in James 2:14-25 (NIV) that the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Let’s check our hearts:

What are we truly- Are we REAL label for Christ?

Healthy Spirit, Fruitful Life

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Someone whom you find it so hard to love been banished into your cold palace.

Joy seems ephemeral especially in tough storms.

When the stresses of life seem overwhelming, peace stays transient in your heart.

Your iota of patience is challenged whenever dealing with an avalanche of frustrations.

Those barrage of unkind words afflicted woundedness to the heart.

And life’s disappointments always seem greater than God’s goodness.

There is simply no time in serving the Lord, reading the bible and praying faithfully.

Though bearing the name of Jesus, yet your mannerism do not reflect His gentle disposition.

Self-control is on the wane when confronted by a persistent sin in your life.

 

Everyone is watching. And they know Jesus through you by how you carry His Name.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. -1 John 4:13

Did you stumble others by your unloving, unkind and ungentle actions, impatience, grumbling attitude, lack of self-restraint and faithless deeds?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

On the surface, an apple looks scrumptiously healthy in pink, only to discover a few days later, the apple is infested with maggots. Much to one’s dismay, the imperceptible side of the apple was mucked. And one rotten apple can indeed caused the whole basket of apples to rot. The stark truth is, what is on the outside bespeaks what is in the inside and vice versa.

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. -Matthew 7:16-20

In a similar context of sin, anger for instance, can ignited a simultaneous combustion of reactive agents (emotions) that emitted explosion (sins); in your anger, would you able to exercise self-control and be gentle with your words and patient with your actions? In your anger, would your heart be at peace and react out of love and kindness? It doesn’t mean your fruit will be burned to zero ground, but it does affect the quality of your fruit which in turn affect the health of your Spirit. And the health of your Spirit determines the fruitfulness of the Spirit. And the fruitfulness of your Spirit determines the level of fruitfulness in your life as well as any spiritual endeavours that you have embarked on.

So, how do you rate the health of your Spirit on the scale of 9?

Here’s a prescription of 9 Vitamins to strengthen your Spirit on a daily dosage:

1. LOVE = 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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 record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

2. JOY = James 1:2-3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

3. PEACE = Ephesians 4:3

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

4. PATIENCE = Ephesians 4:2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

5. KINDNESS = 2 Peter 1:5-8

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. GOODNESS = Ephesians 5:9

for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth

7. FAITHFULNESS = 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

8. GENTLENESS = Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

9. SELF-CONTROL = Titus 2:11-13

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fruitfulness has to be taken place with an inner Spiritual transformation that will go outward characteristically. And a fruitful life comes from living healthily with a healthy Spirit in you.