The Practice of Love

The kids and I gather together this evening. I had been desiring for our family to have a gathering in the evenings to read the Bible, talk about what we have read, each give thanks for the day, then pray. But I know that my beloved husband can’t be easily invited to such. He sings praises, worships and prays every night for more or less two hours. Gathering with the family for the purposes I have mentioned is a thing he’d rather not join. This saddens me but I was determined to start with our two kids.

Hannah and I have been meeting to read the Bible and discuss, but this time, we include soon-to-be five-year-old Tim for he also needs a lot of teaching and praying over.

Lately, I have been thinking deeply on how to honour God more in my life. I felt that there must be something more to all the things that I do, something that is wrought by the Lord in and through me. I know that I lack and I err and I fail to follow through all that He wants me to  be and to do.

So the three of us gather together, forming a small circle (I don’t want any of the Lord’s words to fall to the ground). We talk about love. I point out to them that we are not loving the way the Lord Jesus wants us to. I tell them that sometimes we choose to be impatient, unkind, ungentle to one another. I point to myself. Why do I let myself speak harshly at times and snap rather than pay attention? Why can’t I completely rein in my temper and just be known for my gentleness? Why can’t I stop myself from answering back their dad when I am hurt? Why can’t I just take the pain and keep quiet? Most often, it’s my pride that gets hurt. So then, why can’t I just kill my pride? Didn’t the Lord tell us to pluck out our eye or cut off our hand if these make us sin? To have a meek and quiet spirit is still my earnest prayer.

“If I am not known for my gentleness, what am I known for? What are we known for?” I ask them, voice cracking. Why would you shove your brother to the side? I am looking intently at Hannah. Why can’t we love just like the Lord loves? Tears find their way out.

“We can’t stay like this”, I tell them. But I also tell them that I’m thankful I’m hurt and broken this way, for that means I’m not numb to God and His commandments. For if one has become numb and unmindful of God and what He thinks, one has become barren, spiritually dead. I am thankful for His tuggings at my heart for I know I am fully feeling, knowing, seeing. I am fully awake! The tears flow freely.

And I tell them more, like the Lord’s commandment (well, more like an urgent plea) to His disciples before He was taken to be crucified.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35, emphasis added)

We will be known as the Lord’s disciples by the way we love  one another.

“Can we begin to practise love, really, intentionally practise love everyday starting today? Just like how the Lord loves us?” I ask them. The Lord is not harsh nor unkind nor shoves nor shouts at us. Hannah nods sincerely.

I hold Tim’s face. His still-baby skin feels so soft in my hand. I tell him about loving by showing respect. I tell him what is love and what is not. I explain, I implore, and I am held in awe by how his beautiful eyes grow bigger and rounder. His eyes have opened and rounded to the full and I am amazed at the beauty of the faith of a child. If only we could easily open our eyes that big and round and fix them to Jesus, just like little children do. 

Maybe then we would not miss anything. Maybe then we could practise love everyday, even every moment.

We end with prayer. I pray and reach and cry out to God. I offer up our lives; we are His. For only in His light do our uglinesses vanish and we are changed. And we love Him so, with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Copious tears keep streaming down. We have been touched.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Cause Your Face to Shine

(Meditating on Psalm 80)

I sit in front of my laptop, not really knowing what to write for Journey Through the Psalms Friday. I had planned to write about how the Lord Jesus had shown His marvellous light to the youth who had come to the Jesus Miracle Youth Crusade Freedom Concert with so much expectations in their hearts. They had heeded the call and humbly come, hundreds of them. And the Lord Jesus did not fail them. Yes, gloriously He shone forth to the hearts and souls of these young people and filled them with His love, forgiveness, and Spirit. He filled me, too.

I wanted to write about all that, but today, the Spirit seemed to be leading me to a different path. Just a few hours ago, I felt so weary and my spirit was down. Husband and kids had gone to the Planetarium and Robot Zoo, a trip which I planned, and as usual, I was home alone with the maid. I baked chocolate cookies but they didn’t come out as expected. I just wanted to cry, not just because I was left alone neither because the flourless cookies turned out to be one messy, sticky heap. I know it is something more.

Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:3)

I had thought the straying youth needed this – for God to shine on them so that they will be saved. But I realized that I needed Him to shine on me just as much as the youth did. I had been wanting and earnestly working to be freed from all personal desires and wants and dreams and plans – to die to all these – and just desire God and what He wants for my life. I need His love to complete what’s lacking in me, specifically my love. Without Him expanding, deepening, growing my love, I am just a miserable woman fighting her own daily battles and barely winning.

Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine. (v. 14)

They arrive. The kids run to me saying, “Thank you, Mom”. Then I know what’s filling my soul with sadness: I just want to let my life be a pleasing offering to God who gave me everything I own. I just want to let go of all the thoughts about self – unrealized dreams, unwell body – and be an unwavering light to these young people; show and give them Christ by how I live Him.

Cause your face to shine on thine servant, O God! Strip me off of all that offend and clothe me with thine righteousness and kindness.

The tears fall. I hope that I have touched heaven’s throne of grace.

Discipline

Are you scared already just by reading the title (~ smile)? But seriously, we do need this just as much as our kids do. We bring out the letter of Paul to the Corinthians, dust it up, bring it under the light, and study closely:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-28 NLT)

Highlighting these:

Run with purpose in every step.

Discipline the body, training it to do what it should.

Do it for the eternal prize.

In and after all your teachings, do not let yourselves be disqualified.

The danger is that, we may get used to doing those things that are not spiritually profitable, ways and practices that are unpleasant in God’s eyes, and our consciences may adapt to them and embrace them in the passing of time. The way we use our minds, eyes, lips and hands, and how we store up stuff in our hearts in everyday life – these will either lead us to a life that honors God or offends Him.

Here are just some of the things we may get used to practicing:

Being unable to concentrate in God during worship service or in private worship and prayer time. Letting the mind roam and focus on other things that distract communion with God. ~ (And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment – Mark 12:30)

Complaining, cussing, judging others, comparing, competing in the mind. ~ (Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things arejust, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things – Phil. 4:8)

Maintaining a thought life that glorifies covetousness, materialism, malice. ~ (But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints – Eph. 5:3);

Letting resentments, ill will, hurts, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, pride be stored up in the heart and multiply. ~ (Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice – Eph. 4:31; Therefore, lay aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking – 1 Pet. 2:1; For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there – James 3:16)

Not making the practice of examining own motives. ~ (But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy – James 3:17)

Letting the eyes see and read things that make the heart and mind impure. ~ (…be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless – 2 Pet. 3:14; Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Thess. 5:23)

Letting the tongue get used to speaking harshly, abrasively; snapping at the spouse, the kids. ~ (Let your gentleness be known to all men – Phil. 4:5; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness – Prov. 31:26)

Being carried away by an unsaved relative or friend to gossip. ~ (Do not cast off [your] first faith.  Do not be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which [you] ought not. … manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully – 1 Tim. 5:11-14)

Striving against the husband: criticizing, sermoning, not submitting to him or honoring him. ~ (Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives – 1 Pet. 3:1)

Spending too much time online and neglecting to spend time with God and reading and meditating on His Word. ~ (Continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers – Acts 2:42; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word – Acts 6:4)

Giving more priority to social networking, TV, phone, going out than to tending the home and the family. ~ (She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. – Prov. 31:27)

Giving more importance to fashion and how one appears to the world rather than on how to be a light to others, reflecting the Lord’s beauty and showing Christlikeness. ~ (Let others see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves – 1 Pet. 3:2-5)

 It is easy to read the Word regularly, yet, when this is not lived out in everyday basis, in every opportunity and situation, it will not have its mighty work in our lives. Walking in the Word and practicing all its teachings need our conscientious, diligent, intentional, steadfast efforts. We need discipline.

Linked to A Holy ExperienceBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartPink SaturdaySpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodThe Beauty in His GripTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well, We are That FamilyProverbs 31 Thursdays

God Sends Us Teachers

I’ve proven this many times, that when I earnestly pray for something to happen in my life, for instance, for me to be more long-suffering, the Lord will give me a tremendous challenge, like a mountain to climb, as His answer to my prayer. No, He doesn’t just put it into my heart, but brings me to a situation where I’m face-to-face with the “teacher” and I am to learn my lesson the hard way.

And oh, for those devotional bloggers like me, haven’t you experienced that when you wrote something to encourage and edify, you will then find yourself in a situation where you’re challenged doubly hard from what you’ve written? And before we blow it, the warning signs stop us dead in our tracks and yes, we realize with much dismay that we are being tested whether we can practice what we preach or not!

The best and most precious lessons in life may be heard in the pulpit, but they are always learned outside of it, that is, in everyday life. The best teachers may not be those who stand in the pulpit, but those people that God puts into our lives to make us learn, whether we like it or not. They could be our spouses, our kids, a neighbor, our employee or our employer, a colleague, a friend, or even a stranger.

Recently, we have been praying earnestly for God to give us maids according to our requirements. But the agencies we dealt with gave us ones that really stretched our patience. For months, different kinds of maids marched in and out of our home, as mutual dissatisfaction was felt between us and them. It was really frustrating to find out that there are hardly maids nowadays who are well-trained and who work with dedication. There were even some who treated us badly, despite of us treating them well.

I couldn’t help asking what is really wrong. I know we’ve been given the wrong persons, but still I wanted to understand and maybe then, it would work.

I can honestly say that I had reached the end of my rope, that I.am.finally.done.with.maids.from.the.agencies. But just when we think that we can no longer contain, God stretches us some more, making a room, and that thing that we think has no more hope in us, God paves a new way, a better way. And when I stopped to consider, I realized that all these spell G-R-O-W-T-H. The Lord does not only teach us through difficult people and situations, He makes us grow through them! Growth in faith and in love is ALWAYS a good thing!

So, we get another maid, and when I observed that she is not well-trained in homemaking (for she doesn’t even know how to sweep well; this would have easily irritated me – really, there is a need for me to deal with my “type A” personality!), I let love flow instead. I tried to understand that here is a young mother who needs to work for her three-year old baby; here is a young woman who needs to be taught and trained and treated with respect and love and much patience.

So, you see, it’s the Lord paving a better way, the way of the Spirit. The Lord always leads us to the narrow road. It is hard, but if we yield to His leading, He also will provide the strength and inspiration necessary to deal with such a difficult challenge, and the end of it is peace. So, our family opens up streams of kindness and care for her, and her doubting heart opens up to us and she begins to feel — happy with her work.

Then the Lord rewards us by giving us another maid (for our household needs two), that is, according to all our requirements. My beloved mother brings her to us from our province, exactly what I’ve been praying for.

Our family has definitely learned a most valuable lesson: the most excellent way is the way of love. Putting into practice Romans 12 in everyday:

Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

Related:

My gratitude list ~ thankful to the Lord for:

  • this song His Strength is Perfect sung by the beloved pastoral workers in church on Father’s Day. It’s just perfect, it reminded me of God’s enduring mercies.
  • Finest Choir singing Agnus Dei which made my spirit soaring again; the powerful presence of the Lord lingering made worshiping beyond words, making spirit and body tremble, hardly containing the glory of it all! We praised up a storm!
  • His manifest presence in everyday – my durable riches I wouldn’t trade for the world! People of the world take joy in their material wealth, but I take great joy in the Spirit of the Lord!

The Transforming Power of Love {Christlike Love}

(photo source: Google images)

Deep in my heart and soul, I’ve always believed that love – genuine, sacrificial, relentless love – has the power to bring about healing – in body, heart and mind – and transform a life. I get this principle from the basic truth that pure love can never be separate from God Himself and His unequalled, unsurpassed power. This is the power of His love.

And by it we have been redeemed, our lives have been cleansed and changed, our broken hearts and bodies have been healed, and our minds have been renewed.

This same love, when we let it grow and flourish in us, and we yield ourselves to be empowered and guided by it, will do its mighty work through us in the people that we live with and encounter in our lives. For the Lord Jesus Himself commands us to love like He loves us (John 15:12).

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us(1 John 4:12 NLT)

It is through loving others the way He has loved us that His love is made complete – perfected – in us. As He is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).

Having laid out these truths then, we know that we have been given the power to love: speak love, show love, act love, live love.

I believe in the power of this: to love by showing our genuine care by doing sacrifices to the one who is sick and suffering; to make one feel truly and deeply loved by our tender touch, a touch so earnest it soothes away pain, and compassionate words that bring healing.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, 
   sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Prov. 16:24 NIV)

Kind words are like honey—
sweet to the soul and healthy for the body
(Prov. 16:24 NLT)

If kind words touch the soul, the seat of all human faculties, how much more will the body be touched and healed? If, as the Lord Jesus, so are we in this world – will not His words spoken with all faith and love by us bring healing?

He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions. (Ps. 107:20)

By the way we show our genuine love and make others feel they are loved, I believe this will touch and affect them in positive ways and inspire them to become better persons. We have heard of the phrase, “You bring out the best in me”, but it is really the Lord Jesus being “seen” in and through us.

Who am I becoming?…
Could they recognize You in my life?
Who am I becoming?
Can they see Your face in mine?

~ from the song Becoming by Shannon Wexelberg

Isn’t this the very purpose of our being shining lights, reflecting the brilliance of God’s light, His love and mercy, so that others may be spurred to look deeper into their hearts and examine their ways and be encouraged to seek the Lord more and follow Him?

This,

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance(Rom. 2:4 NIV)

Couldn’t we show God’s kindness, forbearance and patience in the way we treat others and handle our relationships? Wouldn’t it be very helpful in our pursuit of peace and harmony with the [difficult] people in our lives if we relentlessly show His goodness for we know that this leads them to repentance and amend their ways?

But we know for a fact that when we have been hurt, we sometimes let our hearts be “paralyzed” and for a time, stop its activity to love, forgive, and show goodness and long-suffering. Might it be a spiritual “cardiac arrest” arresting all activities of love? But this,

…[Love] is not self-seeking. (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV)

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor. 13:7 NLT)

has shown the very essence of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ: it persevered in the midst of enormous pain. The very thing that pierced His heart and hurt Him beyond words – us – was the one thing which kept Him at the cross to show His immeasurable love to the end.

And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world(1 John 4:17 NLT)

Let us live like Jesus here in this world.

Linked to Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, Women Living Well, Women in the Word Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Faith-filled Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty, Walk With Him Wednesday, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

Dealing With a Difficult Marriage Part 3: Don’t Let It Change You for the Worse But for the Better

(photo source)

In this series:

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 1: Do Not Dwell in Your Hurts for a Long Time
Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 2: Make a Firm Commitment to Obey Gods Word No Matter What 

It is not our job to change our husbands. That’s an impossible task to do. Until we accept that fact, we wouldn’t stop trying and then failing and being frustrated with the futility of our efforts. Changing a person’s heart is the work of God. That’s why we should never grow faint in offering constant, earnest prayers for ourselves, our husbands and children, for only God can do wonders and miracles in a person’s life.

But, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, there are things that we can do to help improve ourselves and our relationships. When we find ourselves in a difficult marriage, we may become bitter and deteriorate into an “ugly”, pitiable person, or we may become a better, stronger, more beautiful woman of God, as the Lord has intended us to become by putting us into our difficult situation in the first place. He wants us to be overcomers.

Many times in the Book of Revelations, the Lord Jesus speaks of the wonderful blessings for those who overcome. We must understand, therefore, that as long as we are at the center of God’s will for us, He will deliver us from whatever difficult situation we are in. In the meantime that we are waiting for Him to transform our marriage, we may focus ourselves into doing the following:

       1.  Live Past Our Disappointments

As long as we adhere to the belief that we have married the wrong person and that he is hopeless, our married lives will become exactly that – beyond repair, hopeless. We can never think and see any good thing about him and our situation. We become torn between thinking of maybe-a-happier-life without him and living a life that does its best to completely ignore him. In both situations, we know that these are not the will of the Lord.

But if we understand and accept that the Lord put that person in our life, especially as sacred a commitment as marriage, then we can rest in the thought that we are not in the wrong relationship but only a difficult passage of our married life. And we can stop thinking that there could be a better life outside of it. On the other hand, we can trust in the Lord that He is with us in this and thus, we will be emboldened to recommit ourselves into the marriage and do our best to make it work.

        2.  Keep the Stance of Constant Forgiveness

This doesn’t mean that we delight in evil or rejoice about injustice, for love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out (1 Cor. 13:6 NLT), but we do it to liberate ourselves from the burden of unforgiveness, keeping the Lord’s words to forgive “seventy times seven” (Mat. 18:22). Meaning, we should forgive even until we have lost count.

When he seems to be unremorseful, we pray. We pray for grace to forgive even that, too, and rest in the truth that God is righteous and just.

       3.  Re-examine Ourselves

As we wait for the Lord’s help, we can spend this time to search our hearts. Turn the waiting period into a cleansing time wherein we strain to really look inside us and examine our attitudes that might have been annoying to our spouses. Since we realized we cannot change our husbands, then we can turn our attention to ourselves. Maybe there are still things in us that we need to work on and improve. Maybe when we have removed the “mote in our eye”, we can begin to see that it’s not really “a beam” that is lodged in our spouse’s eye (Mat. 7; I intentionally reversed whose is the mote and whose is the beam)! Meaning, maybe if change started in us, removing those things that, upon our thorough studying, irk our spouses, things will improve.

      4.  Make Our Baseline Love, Peace and Friendliness

Maybe we have lived in on-and-off hostilities too long that we have become used to treating each other unterderly. Both partners have become used to criticizing, snapping, and even insulting each other.

Start making your baseline love, peace, and friendliness. Meaning, do not automatically think that the other is hostile making us react in the same way, but always presume that he means well, even if sometimes, he slips. Let nothing fall below this baseline where hostility resides.

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. (1 Pet. 3:11 NLT)

This is most effective if both spouses agree amicably to set this as the standard and commit to keeping it.

Practice dwelling on the side of love, peace and friendliness all the time, and not on the side of animosity. If one feels that the other is deliberately and actively being antagonistic, do not do the same. Instead, remind him gently but clearly.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15)

       5.  Be a Shining Light

Never forget that we were created for God’s glory and the best way to be that is to be a shining light to others, showing them that He lives in us.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat. 5:16 NIV)

So, that being our motivation, let our actions give glory to His name: treating our husbands with respect and loving and caring for our family unflinchingly even if we’re hurting.

Next Monday, by God’s grace, Dealing With a Difficult Marriage Part 4: Focus on Your Marriage and Not on Others’ Marriages.

******

My weekly gratitude list – thankful to the Lord for His gifts:

  • the uniting power of need and trials
  • having a sweet, restful slumber with my little Tim, all warm and chubby curled up beside me and snoring away ~ 🙂
  • the beauty of words that give light and heal – grace from the Word
  • morning by morning, waking up to new and refreshing inspirations from my Lord and King!
  • learning that our new housekeeper does nails, too!