“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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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

The Only Way To Defeat Darkness Is Light

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

A tagline from a movie trailer flashed, “The only way to defeat darkness is light.” It reverberated to me that the world is getting darker…… The recent surge of suicides reported in the news, reinforced with campaigns in promoting awareness about depression and mental illnesses, and triggered by a recent traumatic event, it hit me that the scariest part actually isn’t darkness itself, it is when there is no light inside of us – a spiritual darkness that has inconceivable repercussion on a person’s soul that will beget physical consequences.

Let’s supposed a room encounters a sudden power outage, and it is enshroud in complete darkness. Any normal human being would react with a panic at an instance; most of us would cringe in anxiety of the surrounding darkness, which as a result render us immobilised with fear. And the longer we sit in that room, darkness will loom to be larger that it seems to be. Eventually, we held in hostage by its principalities.

If anyone walks in the dark, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.- John 11:10

We certainly cannot war against darkness with our mere flesh and strength, it is the principalities behind it that require spiritual weapons. Just as a physical light lights up the room of darkness, spiritual light (inside of you with the power of Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and prayers) can cause darkness to flee too!

Therefore when there is no light inside of us, we can’t activate its power, we will be like a walking dead, and life will seem like an abyss of darkness. The only way to defeat that darkness is light.

In Him (Jesus) was life, and the Life was the Light of men (John 1:4). Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5).

But the sad reality is, many of us get so accustomed to the darkness over prolonged period that we do not want to turn on the light, or rather we refuse to do anything to seek the light. Some of us have succumbed too easily; some of us held on too tightly to the chains that bound us to our own dungeon and not ready to face the light. The truth is, God has already provided the options for us to be freed, the key is whether we have let go and let God.

David prayed, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” – Psalm 142:3 GNT

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I (may) sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. – Micah 7:8

Get up, search for the light, turn on the light, walk towards the light and look to the light. Darkness will have to flee even with a flickering light, no matter how small or weak is the candle wick, let the light shines.

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.

When A Gift Becomes An Entitlement 

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Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:16

Recently Singapore launched a 50-page “Do’s and Don’ts” education booklet for the Chinese visitors to Singapore, reminded me of a few incidences that even the locals can be ugly- Since the Land Transport Authority (LTA) implemented the Priority Queue system at bus interchanges, I had been curtly annoyed by elderly folks who cut my queue from behind without gesturing to give way, some even knocked unto me without a word of apology. As much as I accord respect to the frail and the elderly, but I must confessed it is hard to condone such ungracious mannerism. Have it not been Holy Spirit to rein me in, I think I may retaliate with a sharp glare at them.

In the same context, as Christians, we are given the gift of freedom through our salvation. And as the sons and daughters of God, co-heirs with Christ, we can enjoy everything God has provided (1 Timothy 6:17B). As much as we are blessed in many ways as a result of this relationship, if we are not careful, we will also abuse such blessing when we expect our rights as a form of entitlement.

In today’s culture, the entitlement mentality is rampant in our society. You will hear discontentment shouting, “I deserve better!”, “I deserve more!”, “I’m entitled to more than I’m getting”, “What else are you going to do for me, God?!?”, “When is my prayer going to be answered, God?!?” and the list goes on. (Pause for a moment to imagine how God feels when His children are throwing fists at Him? Put yourself in His shoes and look at your kids treating you the same……)

The drawback to such expectation is, we feel that we deserve something from God and that He owes us something! But nothing could be further from the truth- God owes us nothing.

Which of you whose servant comes in from plowing or shepherding in the field will say to him, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat?’ Instead, won’t he tell him, ‘Prepare my meal and dress yourself to serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what he was told? So you also, when you have done everything commanded of you, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” – Luke 17:7-10

The bible says our wages of sin is death and we deserve to pay our dues. In other word, what God owes us in wages is death! Have it not been for the mercy and grace of God, we would go to hell. Thanks be to Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our sins that we can now live as free people. Such a great gift cannot be an extortion to demand our rights. We should instead response with gratitude that we now have an eternal life with Jesus and be thankful for everything- Blessings from God are His gifts out of love for us to enjoy, it is not meant to be entitlement for more.

 

Courtesy photo (P1030904) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

The Past Provides Clues To What You Are Today

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Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. – Ephesians 2:1-3

I was watching a Korean drama, “Criminal Minds”, where the scenes depict how perpetrators were who they were because of their traumatic upbringing and sadistic exposure to the depravity of humankind during their childhood. Although the drama may be fictional, it contains distressing truths on:

(a) how the environment at childhood can shape innocent minds and frame a human’s psyche, and parents play a very crucial role in teaching and upbringing of their offsprings;

(b) we can sink deeper into the deep abyss of deception and come under the diabolical influence of devils which lead us to commit more evils.

The bible has warned in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” And everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4), and everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

I have often heard many professed, “I am born this way.”, but the truth is, the past — our childhood and growing years — provides clues to what we are today: what we think, how we feel and why we behave in a certain way. The environment (including the people) we were brought up in holds the key in shedding light to this misconception.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

We all have a past, but the past should no longer hold us in bondages to the acts of the evil ones, nor should we be continuing to live and walk in darkness. No matter how painful to open that door to the past, true healing can only come when we face it courageously. God is gracious and love us too much to go through pain all at one go, just like an onion, peeling comes layer by layer until it reaches the core, where God deals with us gently and lovingly, if only we allow Him to. Give that key to your prison to Jesus, He will hold your hands and walk with you through it. Only then, can you walk in true freedom and be who God has created you to be.

P.S.

Parents also play a crucial role in bringing up their kids responsibly in God’s ways.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18)

Courtesy photo (P1040075) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Enslaved

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

The modern day world of the fallen times, we all come under pressure by people and things around us which resulted in some form of enslavement: some are slaves to social media; some are slaves to fears; some are slaves to the opinions of others; some are slaves to the expectations of others; some are slaves to past hurts; some are slaves to pornography; some are slaves to alcoholism; some are slaves to materialism; some are slaves to money; some are slaves to work; some are slaves to recognition; and the whatnots.

Whether we are aware or not, sometimes, our enslavement can be a form of escapism or as a coping mechanism, consciously or unconsciously. But God does not designed us this way nor intended for us to be enslaved by anything perishable in this world. That is why we need freedom in Christ. Only by knowing the truths, Christ can truly set us free indeed (John 8:32). Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). And as a believer, we have the Spirit of the Lord in us, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Sin is no longer our master, as we live under the freedom of God’s grace (Romans 6:14). Though we all were once slaves to sin, but so long as we wholeheartedly obey the Word of God, to which we are committed to live in genuine repentance, we will surely be set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:14

Call sin a sin, and recognise that we all need help to deal with the issue. We must humble ourselves to cry out to God. True transformation can only happen when there is genuine repentance. We can deceive others, but we cannot deceive God, we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It is better to quickly do something about our enslavement before sin gets full-blown which resulted in death (James 1:15). Therefore, let us not misuse our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13).