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 Art of Weaknesses

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The Beginning: A stark white piece of paper.

In the Process: When passed through many hands over the years, the paper aged in yellow, got the crinkles, the creases and the bad stains.

In the End: A crumpled paper- A pair of hands out of curiosity unravels the crumpled paper, all he sees is many holes and cracks, any further dealings with it however gentle, will tear the paper. “Useless paper, trash it, it is getting in the way!”

The Making: Another pair of hands picks the crumpled paper from the trash bin, though he sees the holes, he sees the cracks, he wears a smile in delight as if he had found a treasure, “Great! I found it, this is what I want!”. He tears the paper into small pieces, throw into the blender to blend into a paper pulp. The pulp when mixed with water surfaced the impurities, the dust, and the fine sands. Whoosh! A recycled paper is created, but it speaks volumes- the right weight with the right strength, the even surface and the beauty of the paper texture, all in a perfect finishing touch.

This art of paper-making lies the eyes of an appreciated master and his pair of skilfull hands. He turns waste into beauty.

The Art of Weaknesses: Isn’t our life like that crumpled paper? A paper of mishandled holes and the cracks of life? No one knows the process of how each of us went through, all we see is just a crumpled paper, and soon be condemned as useless paper and shoot it into the bin.

Everyone of us has our own weaknesses, and all these weaknesses usually have a link to the past- an inheritance of the growing up years. Unfortunately, our responses and our actions often put people on the judgement seats without further cross-examinations of how these triggers came about- “Why are you like this and that…” Unfortunately, that paved the way for misunderstandings, impatience, anger, frustrations, disappointments and even weariness- “I have enough…”  Unfortunately, weaknesses tested all relationships- “I give up…” Unfortunately, so often the prosecution did not even look within themselves- “Nothing to do with me…”

If you counsel a girlfriend, she will share with you the problems and the weaknesses of her boyfriend. If you counsel a boyfriend, he will confide in you the same problems and the weaknesses of his girlfriend. Apparently, their problems have to do with each other weaknesses.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that they are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)” As we learn about life through trials and tribulations and grow, likewise we learn strength from our own weaknesses as well as from others. It is always easy to love someone who does not give you much problems, but God especially uses weaknesses to reveal each other vulnerability and grow in strength together through problems.

Everything that happened, there is always a purpose, a reason and a message. In every relationships, God always uses each other weaknesses to teach the other something. God does not use weaknesses to hurt or destroy each other, He uses weaknesses to do His work. God could be teaching each of us the limits of our own strength, our attitudes, our patience, our tolerance, our level of understanding and sensitivity to each other and thereon.

God in His New Testament has taught many truths that edified a relationship, here is a 7-keys checklist:

1. CHECK YOURSELF

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eyes? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)

We are always quick to remonstrate others’ weaknesses without even first look at our own. And problems do not merely existed as one-sided. Always first check yourself.

2. CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

All of us has a past. Our thinking, attitudes and actions were shaped by our upbringing, especially those with unhappy past inflicted a deep wound in their lives, there is always a struggle with the emotions. But instead of letting such weaknesses consumed us, make an effort with God’s Strength to crucify the old self and put on the new self, the other party should be encouraging and try to help in whatever ways he or she can.

3. ARE YOU LISTENING?

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Sad to say, most of us have ears but do not listen. More sad to say, all of us are quick to speak without listening first. The big picture would be incomplete with those missing little pieces, thus it gives way to so much misunderstandings and frustrations.

4. ARE YOU GENTLE WITH YOUR WORDS?

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. (Proverbs 17:27) A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31) Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23)

When we are frustrated; in a bad mood; or in anger, our tone and manner definitely will be harsh. Harsh words can be an outburst of rejection, such insensitivity may hurt the other person than you realised it. Bear in mind also the mentality of the recipient whether he or she is in a foul mood, simple words may misconstrued as otherwise. Quarrels are usually sparkled off from careless and harsh words, the gentle your words expressed, the less sensitivity will be induced.

Learn to be sensitive with your words for there is power when professed, they either bless or curse; or build up or tear down. Bad attitude is definitely not a language of love, therefore exercise self-control and gentleness, “encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)”

It is always better to talk face to face, or over the phone than through emails or sms as the tone and manner of words and the style of expression can be ambigious. When you voice it out personally, you can grasp the tone and manner better and also determine the receptivity of the receiving end.

5. HAVE YOU BEEN PATIENT?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Weaknesses of one teach another patience and tolerance. If God has been so patient with us and longsuffering with all our sins, what makes us to be less tolerant and patient with others? Love is patient and patience perseveres in love.

6. HAVE SELFISHNESS STANDS IN THE WAY?

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

“Why should I make the first move?!?”, “It is all her fault, I have nothing to do with it!”; “You can think what you want to think and say what you want to say, I don’t care!” Sounds familiar?

In almost every relationships, we each have our own expectations of the other, falling short of it, we let selfishness and pride reign and ultimately it gives way to disappointments, resentment and anger. No one is perfect, we should be humble and always think of the others more than yourselves.

7. ARE YOU FORGIVING?

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

Much as it hurts God for all our mistakes, our flaws, our sins, and He still forgives us times and again, do you have the right not to forgive others too? No one is infallible to flaws, mistakes and sins, thus we all need forgiveness one after another. Forgiveness is a gift from God, since He has so freely given us, can we deprive someone else of this gift too?

The Beauty:

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 records of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7-8) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-23, 26)

It is best to confront issues, talk about them than letting them remain as they are. The more you try to hide or avoid will eventually eat into you. Identify the issues to each other, recognise the triggers, admit your own vulnerability, pray and commit to God and deal with the issues with wisdom and tact. In such round-the-table confrontation, you would probably be in for a surprise of things you may have blindspots to.

No one can change a person but believe that if you have committed to pray for that person and the relationship to God, you can be sure He will be in control and something supernaturally happens in the process. God does beautiful wonders.

But it does not end with us resting on our laurels after the prayers. God works in the process. Each of us should try to learn how to communicate and understand each other better; build better trust and faith; accept and love each other despite the weaknesses; help each other to overcome the weaknesses and encourage each other to be a better person that God has intended for him or her.

The art of weaknesses is a lifelong learning process.

Do You Profess True Ambassadorship For Christ?

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While I was studying about what typifies a true Brand Ambassador* for a product- a Brand Ambassador has to reflect the spirit of the product he or she represents. He or she will be the mega-watt spokeperson for the brand.

* A person can be the brand itself, for example, David Beckham can be a brand himself, which he need not necessarily represent any club, since he has established himself well.

In a nutshell, a Brand Ambassador is someone who mirrors its personality (charisma), personifies its character (substance) and communicates the instrinsic benefits (values) of the product. And he or she endears consumers to the brand. The image of such Brand Ambassador has to be wholesome to uphold the good reputation of the brand so that consumers believe in its credibility and reliability. With such good standing, the brand will resound in every corners of the earth through viral marketing. That means everyone is watching! Any one wrong move will negate the brand equity. And the worst case scenario that can happen will be colossally inconceivable- consumers will boycott the brand and the brand value down to zero.

You guessed it, a lightbulb imbued me incandescently- JESUS-BRAND. You and I are called to be an Ambassador for Christ once we crossed over to His Kingdom. In other words, Jesus-brand is our divine birthright.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20

It is going to be our lifetime commitment. The challenge is, we got the whole world watching! Even the Prince of Darkness is abetting us to change allegiances.

The question is, what is the epitome of Christ Ambassadorship?

We have to burrow down to the essence of the brand- that is a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question- what makes Jesus for who He is?

1. Do you first seek passionately the Kingdom of Righteousness or indulge relentlessly in carnal pursuits?

2. Is your devotion perfumed like Mary or incensed like Martha?

3. Does your life reflect the transformation of a New Man or the stagnation of the Old Man?

4. Are you in sync with the Holy Spirit in your daily walk or desensitised by the burdens of your daily living?

5. Do you embrace the magnanimity of the Benevolent King or the heart of the unmerciful servant?

6. Do you embody the fruit of the Spirit or bear the fruits of the sinful nature?

7. Do you bless others with your talents generously or seek only to safeguard your own interest?

8. Does your conversation bespeak a Living Hope or blaspheme with faithlessness?

9. Do you see others with the compassionate eyes of Jesus or through a coloured lens of the self?

10. Do you resonate like a beautiful piano with the hands of love or resound like a hollow gong with a heart of stone?

11. Would you lose your life to respond to God’s calling or you rather keep your life and neglect His ministry?

In a nutshell, a Jesus-Brand Ambassador has to live a life like Jesus did; do like He did; walk like He did; feel like He did and see like He did. In other words, we are to be like Him.

Christ Ambassadorship is unquestionably no easy task, it is as austere as keeping the Ten Commandments. And the sweet side of the deal is, there is certainly a reward for doing a good job.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. – Matthew 16:27

Desire to have a fruitful Return Of Investment (ROI) to God? Start living with a befitting label.

1. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2

2. If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. – Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message) 

3. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:16-26

4. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? – Mark 8:34b-37

Satisfaction At Work

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It has always been an encouragement to me especially in my early walk trapped in prolonged darkness. And for the first time in 12 yrs I noticed this verse 13 “satisfaction in our labour is a GIFT fm God.” A carnal mind would strongly refute that satisfaction is a result of what we sweat for and a reward of our toil- “I deserve what I work hard for!”

Sounds familiar? Many people strived today because of discontentment and seeking satisfaction that never truly satisfied. They were not satisfied because they go after things that fade away or never meant for them to enjoy, they focus on their selves that subject to inconsistencies and fallacies of a fallen nature.

Satisfaction mentioned herein is not a promise of success or wealth, but that of an enjoyment of the fruits of our effort. The goal of our work is not to gain wealth and possessions on earth, but to serve the common good and bring glory to God- Because: (1) He is the ultimate Creator, Boss and Owner of our jobs; (2) He made us with the talents He wants us to put to good use for Him; (3) He wants our lives to be attestation and testimonies of Him, and (4) He wants to usher us in His Highest Plan for our greatest good, according to His blueprint for each of us.

So when we work unto The Lord, with the focus in pleasing and glorifying Him, our work will be enjoyable, satisfied and multiplied. (Having said this, it does not mean we will not face problems at work…)

Satisfaction is a gift from God, because of our obedience:

Whatever we do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (including one self), and we shall receive our reward. – Colossians 3:23-24; Ephesians 6:7-8

On another hand, there is also a flip side or a danger to being satisfied:

As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me. – Hosea 13:6

Awwww… God knows our hearts, what we are made of and even knows where we will b falling away… Pay heed that we shld always seek and find satisfaction in Him and not the things He made.

Read Ecclesiastes 3