A Beautiful Exchange


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Whenever Our Heart Condemns Us


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God Sings……


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. – Psalm 143:8

I ever prayed for God to wake me up earlier so that I could start my day early. On two occasions while sound asleep, I heard my spirit singing in the morning, “I have my hope in Christ alone” repeatedly. It almost sounded like a soft alarm to rouse me from my sleep gently, but I brushed it off, “Aarrgggh, I need to sleep… Be quiet please…” But the spirit continued to sing, “No fear in death, no fear in life, I have my hope in Christ alone…” While fuzzy with sleep, I peeped at the clock besides me, it was showing exactly the time I had prayed to wake up!

On the contrary, I think God is also ministering to my soul when I consulted Him about some concerns I had while prayer-strolling the night before. In another occasion while I was sleeping, my spirit sang again, this time a love song (which I had forgotten the exact words). (And yes, it was also about time for me to wake up as scheduled.)

Such a gentle whisper affirming me of His Love that morning nourished my soul. It brought to my mind the verse in Psalm 143:8 where God brings word of His unfailing love in the morning, He will show the way when we entrust our lives to Him.

Sometimes God sings as His way in expressing His Delight, Love, Affirmation and Reassurance.

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17

Do you need to hear Him sings? Make a request to your Abba Father who desire to quiet you with His Love and sing to you.



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

A punctuation mark has just inspired me- a full-stop, in other word, “Period”.

We have all from time to time entertain the dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. But often God puts a period to where it should be. Although our life is a journey, our ups-and-downs are never a destination: Each hard knock is a school; each trial is a teacher, each experience is an education; each test is a testimony; and each challenge is your character development. And that is where we all need to learn where to put the “period”.

RECALL (Upward focus):

  1. God is All-powerful (Matthew 19:26). Period.
  2. God is Sovereign (Psalm 103:19). Period.
  3. God is our Refuge and Strength (Psalm 46:1). Period.
  4. God is unchanging, He is the same, yesterday and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Period.
  5. God is in control (Psalms 22:28). Period.
  6. God is our double-portion (Isaiah 61:7). Period.

REALIGNMENT (Inward transformation):

  1. Fix our eyes on things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). Period.
  2. Set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). Period.
  3. Guard your heart with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23). Period.

RESPONSE (Outward action):

  1. Wear your full armor of God daily so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). Period.
  2. Think of thoughts that are true, good and sound (Philippians 4:8). Period.
  3. Hold your mind steadfast on God and trust in Him so that you can have perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Period.
  4. Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22). Period.
  5. Do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5B). Period.
  6. Be anxious for nothing but pray for everything (Philippians 4:6A). Period.
  7. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6B). Period.
  8. Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Period.
  9. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 16:3) Period.

RETRAIN (Forward resolution):

  1. Always be on the alert and stand firm (1 Corinthians 16:13). Period.
  2. Be an overcomer (1 John 4:4). Period.
  3. Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Period.

And God will work things out in the end (Romans 8:28). Period.

Do Not Despise Small Beginning


Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (The seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world.) – Zechariah 4:10 NLT

While on the way to a friend’s office to help rectify some defective printing goods two weeks ago, I was doing my usual morning reflection on the bus- I expressed my deep gratitude to God again for an account that I never dreamt landing on my lap without prospecting it. I acknowledged that it was truly a divine provision from God– I had to be home-bound in June to help my parents to babysit my baby niece staying with us– Since then, this Client has been engaging me for small jobs each month. I ever paused to ponder over why their projects were all so budgeted. I reckoned that this Client might not trust me for a bigger project until I proved myself with all these small jobs. I was then reminded about a biblical principle to be faithful with the little so that I can be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Lo and behold, I heard a small still voice that followed after my train of thoughts, “Do not despise small beginning.” It amazed me how this liner was ever found in Zechariah 4:10 NLT!

Everything has a beginning, and usually started small, so that we can take one step at a time, and depend on him one day at a time. If we remain humble and faithful, relying on God’s blueprint for us, we will be on the road God has already mapped out for us. Above all, God calls for responsible stewardship in big and small alike, to honour Him in all we do. Since everything we have belongs to Him, so if we are faithful to what have been entrusted to us in both quantity and quality, only then can we be trusted with confidence to take care of bigger things. Nothing is insignificant to God- He looks at both our heart (attitude) and our hands (stewardship), and He will reward us in His due time.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ – Luke 19:17

P.S. And yes you have guessed it- after 3 months, my Client decided to engage me for a higher value project. I believe my earnestness paid off. And all thanks to God! May God continues to establish the work of my hands for His Glory sake!

Courtesy photo (P1040673) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.



The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.- Isaiah 26:3 NASB

I still do struggle with trusting God periodically, especially during trying times. The word, “Trust”, seems too abstract to me on how to really apply it effectually. Proverbs 3:5-6 taught that we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways submit to Him, and he will make our paths straight. The question is how to really trust God with ALL our heart? As emotional beings, our heart can be deceitful for we can easily swayed by capriciousness of being human; even if we get our feelings under control, our mind can still wander. Hence it has been my million-dollar question on how to really trust God under stress?

Until I found the answer in Isaiah 26:3, God will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him, because I trust in Him. I sum up TRUST as:


Reliance (on God)





Human strength fails because we have limited capacity, there is only so much we can do, but with the Holy Spirit living in us, we can be empowered and to persevere under testings.

Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

That is why we need to rely on God totally, only then can we pull through trials, trusting God to do what we can’t. And in any relationship, trust takes time to build, likewise with God. We can build a stronger trust in a never-failing God by:

(a) Recalling what He has done before and claiming what He can do for you now

(b) Recounting your blessings and be thankful

(c) Reminding yourself of His Love and how faithful He has been

(d) Remembering that God is Sovereign over everything on earth and is still in control

(e) Rejecting negative thoughts for what we worry about usually do not happen

(f) Resisting temptation of the flesh to manipulate things your way

(g) Refocusing on the goodness of God

(h) Relying fully on the Word of God and its living power

(I) Resting in quiet confidence that God will bring it to pass


These building blocks not only strengthen your trust in God, you will also find perfect peace in Him when you keep your mind steadfast to Him in trust.

When All You See Is Your Pain, Perhaps Then You Lose Sight Of God?


I was watching “The Shack” film at https://solarmoviez.to/movie/the-shack-19835.html (Thank God for the subtitles!)- I can relate to how the main character of the movie, Mack, struggled with God when he was plunged to the abyss of pain. In the process, He had an encounter with God, where Mack confronted Him why He allowed bad things to happen and why He didn’t stop the tragedies. God knew exactly how Mack was feeling, thus He had planned for Mack to meet Him at the Shack- the place where his pain began when he lost his youngest daughter. God was showing Mack that healing can only began at the place of pain when he let go and let God- Mack was stunned when God responded to his barrage of questions, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.” God had walked through with Mack his journey of inner healing thereafter.

I love this movie (except some parts are a little controversial, but as a whole, the key messages are sound and edifying). I was actually stumped at the point where God told Mack, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.”

Indeed, I lost sight of God two years ago when I went for a physical review. And the double whammy was when I was told I had a higher chance of getting dementia as a result of this deterioration. At that point, my world seemed to crash down and it was a very dark night. I could not help but sobbed convulsively almost involuntarily as fears seized me. I was an emotional wreck. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I bombarded God, “God, why is this happening? I thought You can heal?”, “God, are you there?”, “Is it not in your will to heal me?” and all the “Whys?”. I remember vividly, the first few weeks after my physical review, I could not worship at church service, and I could not even sing or utter prayers. I recall trying very hard to contain my pain, as if my heart was oozing blood profusely. Even well-meaning friends wasn’t able to offer the slightest comfort, and I found myself withdrawing from them instead. Over time, my heart gradually calloused, and I was in a spiritual spiral of decline when I wallowed in my own pit. That was not all, I was rendered dysfunctional and could not operate my business, I was incapacitated for almost six months.

I received no answers to all my whys, it was a vain tussle. This emotional and spiritual battle only I could fight, no one else can fight for me. I was well aware that the only way out of the pit was to climb out of it. I recalled how God had delivered from my financial crisis eons ago, He would not stop lifting me out of any deep waters (Psalm 18:16). And reality sank in when the last statement of accounts had jolted me that my savings had been dwindling, I realised then that I had been subsisting living without any income. The detachment from God had left a deep void in my heart and the spiritual deafness had made me yearned to hear from my Heavenly Father even more. I started to draw near to God, surrendering my pain and fears, and by His Grace, I received healing emotionally and spiritually. I will re-learn to trust Him for my physical healing.

Through this journey, I recognise that sometimes God allows “the pit experience” (pain) to happen in order for us to draw closer to Him, because it is human tendency that when life is going well, we may forget about Him. Isn’t it true that we pray the hardest in our most challenging moments? And we pray the least when we get too busy? (And yes, be warned that God does discipline us lovingly when we wander off..)

As the common adage that goes, “No pain, no gain.”- Pain is often a catalyst for necessary growth:

(1) that we emerge stronger with new level of faith, trust and refined character.

(2) as it changes us for good, if we allow God to deal with the issues in our lives.

(3) so that God’s strength be displayed in our weaknesses.

(4) to humble us to rely and depend on God instead of our own strength.

(5) in teaching us the value of being Christ-like in His suffering.

God always have a purpose in your pain, let Him walk you through your pain, only He can handle it far better than you do yourself. And your healing process will be shorter too.

“Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5 NLT) His grace is all you need, for His power is greatest when you are weak.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a TEV) 

Courtesy photo (P1040440) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.