I have been cutting down from social media activities since the beginning of this month, and it has led to an increasingly greater quietness within. I don’t know how long this season will last — the last time God led me into this, it was for 10 years — but I’m enjoying it. I wonder if this is a little of how the saints of old felt when they retreated into the cells of their monasteries or into their caves to seek Him.
“A little” as I’m not living the ascetic lifestyle they lived, but as I cut down on my activities, I become more aware of how social media saps our soul and distracts us from ourselves. Conversely, as we step away from all the noise, we become aware of the inner stirrings of our heart and so can tend to them; as we tend to them, a greater wholeness and quietness settles within.
Most people I know live in frantic interaction with others and pay scant attention to their own selves, and it’s to their loss. Frankly, I think many people don’t want to look at what’s in their heart. But as we do, as we pay attention and tend to our own heart, the reward is peace and quiet within and a greater awareness of the presence of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)
(Picture was taken at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens).
For some weeks now, I’ve had a small group practice meeting one-on-one and affirming the good qualities they see in each other.
In Asia, this is counter-culture. In most Chinese families, children are seldom praised. The only exception is when a child gets no less than an A grade or is admitted into a well-known university — think Ivy League or Oxbridge. The metric for worthiness is performance, usually to do with academics, not quality of character.
So, meeting regularly with a group that desires to find their positive attributes and articulating them to each other is rather unusual. The result has been much self-discovery as each person realises that traits they take for granted are unique, and a blessing to the community.
I can’t reverse thousands of years of Chinese tradition through these exercises, but seeing people light up as their good qualities are blessed, is a reward in itself. And second, having them internalise these truths in their quiet time have resulted in greater self-confidence and so, a greater ability to tackle the challenges that life throws at them.
We’re still a work in progress, but I hope that affirming one another will be a lifestyle. When we are blessed, we are empowered to bless others.
I am really grateful to Rebekah Scott for her course in Unveiling Beauty, that started the ball rolling for me.
“When will the inner healing process be complete?” I was asked the other day.
My answer was, “It won’t be complete as long as we’re alive.” Because the passion of God is for us to be His bride, without wrinkle or spot. Because His passion is for us to “Be holy, because He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
And because of that, He permits the devil to test us. His Son got tested, His disciples got tested. And we believers will get tested.
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts (Proverbs 17:3)
God’s purpose for the test is that we be refined and be a better version of ourselves; the devil’s purpose is that we flounder and stay stuck in a rut.
A friend asked about the conflicts that she faces in community. I said these were opportunities for her to discern if:
It’s an old wound or wrong belief that is being surfaced for her to deal with;
It is the other party’s issue and nothing to do with her at all or,
More commonly, both are somehow at fault and both need to do better.
As we become a better version of ourselves, we become more wholesome, showing more integrity, shining brighter for the Lord. What we say and what we do, matches. And God’s purpose for our lives is made manifest.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus called out the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and embarrassed her? As an Asian growing up in an Asian society, it’s practically taboo to cause a person to “lose face”. But Jesus isn’t someone who’d just conform to cultural norms, as we well know. Here’s the passage:
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8, NIV)
Here is someone carrying a deep, secret shame. A woman’s menstrual flow is considered unclean in biblical times, and to have it ongoing for 12 years, for the doctors to discuss her case and for this issue to be quietly whispered about in her neighborhood — she must have felt so alone and outcast.
And so, she hears of this man Jesus who had the power to heal. Quietly, she sneaked up under the cover of the crowds and received healing from the anointing that was just overflowing from Him. She desired to sneak away quietly too, but it wasn’t to be so.
Jesus called her out in public. Trembling in acute embarrassment, fear and shame, she testified to her healing to those around her.
There were a few reasons why Jesus called her out: First, this public testimony served to tell the neighborhood that she was “clean”, and there was no need to shun her. Second, making her speak out about it made the healing real to her. Third, it gave Jesus the opportunity to affirm her faith — not just because she went to Him, but that she persisted for 12 years to look for healing and didn’t give up. Indeed, she had faith that she would be healed, and she was.
But I also think that Jesus was enabling her to take a stance against the strongholds of shame and secrecy that had been haunting her for over a decade. In order to be free, she had to do the opposite of what she had been habitually doing, and Jesus made her take the first step.
Do you need to take a stance against the stronghold of shame and secrecy? For sin — whether you did it, or others did it to you — opens the door to shame, which opens the door to secrecy. Secrecy gives the enemy the power to mentally torment. Mental torment, as we know, often results in physical ailments.
Confession to the right person is powerful and effective to stop the cycle.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5, NIV)
It is difficult to be reconciled when betrayal occurs. If the betrayer still remains in the community, both parties would distance themselves. The usual reaction of the betrayer is to pretend it “never happened”, minimize it and brush it under the carpet, or just “disappear” without explanation. Or all three.
But that didn’t happen with Simon Peter. We know he had great difficulty forgiving himself when he realized he had betrayed the One he loved. Scripture records he wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). In a time of pressure, he folded. We can imagine the anguish in his heart, the self-accusations and self-condemnations as well as quite likely the attacks of the demonic on his mind.
But Jesus, the Master Reconciler, knew Peter had a good heart. He invited Peter back to Him and to his destiny in a series of steps.
We know that after His resurrection, Jesus appeared by the Sea of Tiberias while Peter and two other disciples were fishing. When John recognized Jesus standing on the shore and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”, Peter jumped into the water to meet Him, leaving the other two in the boat. One can imagine the joy he felt, and also the shame, the deep sense of unworthiness, and also the deep desire to make things right.
At His request for fish, Peter immediately went to the boat and pulled the net of 153 fish ashore — all by himself. All his actions showed “I am sorry Jesus, I love You, please forgive me, let me make it up to You.”
But Jesus didn’t address the matter till after He had prepared breakfast and fed His men. The meal was important. We eat only with friends, and He showed Peter that he was included in His community.
Then came the three famous questions, “Do you love Me?” Each time Peter said, “Yes, I love you,” it nullified each of his previous denials of Jesus. With each “I love You,” Jesus gave Peter a command. First, feed his lambs. Then, take care of His sheep. With each declaration of love, came an increase in responsibility. It showed Peter that Jesus hadn’t lost trust in him.
When Jesus questioned Peter’s love for Him the third time, he was hurt, and he again affirmed his love for His Lord. With that third affirmation came the command to feed His sheep, as well as the prophecy that Peter would die by crucifixion. With the three declarations of love, Jesus re-established Peter’s office as an apostle, re-established his birthright to be one of the writers of scripture and his destiny to be a martyr for Him.
We’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan numerous times. A lawyer wishing to justify himself asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And our Lord launches into a story of this poor guy travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, who gets attacked by robbers and is left for dead. The priest and the Levite see his limp body and pass by, but the good Samaritan stops to help.
And Jesus says to the lawyer who asked the question, “Go and do likewise”. The Samaritan is the model do-gooder. So it seems.
But I wonder if Jesus was countering the lawyer’s legalism and emphasis on performance with another legalism: “Go and do likewise.” Was it meant to show the lawyer that truth without wisdom and God’s guidance is a trap?
I know of someone who gave two years of her time trying to help her neighbor who was in an abusive relationship. She listened to her neighbor’s story; she met the abusive boyfriend. She heard the daily quarrels, she was there when police were called.
My dear friend, whose motto is “Do Good,” asked me to come and help. I came, and after 2 hours of listening to her neighbor, I came to the conclusion that she didn’t want help, she didn’t want advice, she didn’t want prayer — although she had said so the day before. She only wanted an additional person to listen to her daily drama.
“One and done,” as my American friend would say. I left.
You cannot help those who don’t want to be helped — even if you see that they desperately need it.
Here’s another illustration:
A well-known prophet was the son of missionaries in Brazil, living deep in the jungle, next to the Amazon river. Every so often, his evangelist father would take his motor boat and chug off to preach the gospel to the villagers, tend to new believers, or go down the river a long way off to get fresh supplies. The river was unpredictable. Sometimes, there were storms and the waves would be so rough that ships could be wrecked in the rocks below.
On one such day, when his father had taken his boat down the river, a storm arose. The wind and the waves were violent, and a ship was wrecked. They heard sailors screaming for help. But there was only his mother and the children. He remembered standing there, watching the sailors struggling in the water and knowing that he didn’t have the strength to swim out, and his mother was standing at the banks, helpless, because she didn’t have the strength either.
After an eternity, they heard the sound of their father’s motorboat in the distance. Father had the boat, father knew where the rocks were, father had the strength and the equipment to help. And his father saved everyone.
Some of you may be struggling with the fact that you saw someone in need, and you couldn’t help. You were too young, or you didn’t have the strength, or you didn’t have the wisdom. And every time you hear the story of the Good Samaritan, you are reminded of your “failure”, and the devil is tormenting you with that memory.
God who sees all things, sees your heart. The Lord recognizes your desire to do good. He also knows that you didn’t have the strength, the wisdom and the resources to help.
Let go of that toxic memory; leave it on the Cross.
// Prayer //
I command the accuser of the brethren to leave; you will no longer condemn those who couldn’t help because they were too young, they didn’t have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom to help someone in need; Lord, will you remove the poison of those accusations, restore their soul and give them peace. Grant them insight and knowledge of Your true heart towards them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
This post is for those who’ve been praying seemingly forever for breakthrough in the family.
Family strongholds are formed through multiple generations of sin, rebellion and iniquity and it takes future generations living rightly before they can be cleared away.
It means being the first in our generation to change learned behaviour that seems normal, but is actually destructive. Many strongholds have become so normalized we don’t know it’s there. For example, a family value such as being loyal to one another becomes twisted when it becomes “right or wrong, we will fight for one another.” In contrast, a godly value would be “we’ll stand up for one another when it’s morally right” but “we’ll correct one another when we’re wrong.” Some families don’t have that perspective and lawlessness becomes the norm.
A bold prayer we can pray is, “Lord, is there anything I need to change about myself? Can You show me?” And then, stepping back mentally and examining our own thoughts and actions, owning what is actually functional and what isn’t, and determining to change the latter so that relationships would be far richer in future.
It also means not turning away from God and judging Him when He isn’t answering our prayers within a certain timespan. It means we find where His grace is flowing and dwell there, and not fretting when He’s seemingly not working on our most pressing problem.
For example, His grace could be on our work or our studies, but not in our personal relationships. By all means, we should work or study hard in the field that gives us much fulfillment, AND trust God to work on the personal issues in His own time. Change takes time. Changing a whole family system takes much more time.
The Israelites had to wait over 400 years before they were freed from Egypt, and another 40 years for a whole generation of slaves to die out before the freshly formed nation could enter the Promised Land. Death is part of God’s order when He wants to bring in a new order. He answers prayers by raising up new generations to break new ground. In my case, He raised up the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation before the family breakthrough came.
Someone once said that the only way to defeat the devil is to be willing to wait forever for God’s answer. It’s true.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
As a teen, my constant day-dream as I rode the bus to or from school was: “What would it be like, to be at the right place, at the right time, saying the right thing and to the right people?” What I was wishing for was synchronicity.
At 31, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ. Subsequently, He sent the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 (NIV)]:
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
The Spirit prompts us to use our gifts “for the common good”. We are to give messages inspired by Him. Words, spoken or written, can be like a surgeon’s knife; used skillfully, it can cut out a tumor; used carelessly, it creates great damage. So I learned to use my words carefully, and in the right manner.
God sets it up so that I’m with people who desire to be set free. Often times, I can help through my prayers and intercession; sometimes, I can’t. There’s something blocking and both my client and I can’t discern it. But when one uses words carefully, there’s no damage done. She hasn’t improved, but she isn’t damaged further either. It leaves the door open for another time, another session, using a different tool, to get freedom.
One superpower that I wished for, and was given, was the “message of wisdom” — words spoken at the right time, in the right place, and the right manner, to the right person.
Get healing for your issues, and don’t give up until you find the right therapist.
You know what your issues are: that loss of love, that childhood trauma, that sense of abandonment, that low self-worth — the list of hurts and wounds that the human race encounters is a long one.
And don’t give up.
Don’t give up just because the first therapist you saw was insensitive and you didn’t feel heard; don’t give up because the subsequent counsellor was judgmental; don’t give up because the next inner healing practitioner was jealous when God came in a wondrous way to minister to you and you became more whole (Yes, that happened).
There’s one out there for you, keep searching until you find.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.