2021 Weekdays' Topical Devotion

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2021 Devotion

Will of God

Will of God - day 1
Day 1: 29/11/2021: What Is God’s Will For Me?
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Day 1: What Is God’s Will For Me? [By YKYK]
QT: 29/11/2021 (Monday)

https://www.esv.org/Luke12:6-7
https://www.esv.org/1Peter4:10-11

Since I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour at the age of 12, I heard from countless of sermons and bible studies in about knowing God’s will. Even recently, I asked myself “What exactly is God’s will” and bought a book “How to know God’s Will” (Wayne Grudem) to assist. Because this can be a confusing thing for many, we often put our lives on hold until we “hear from God.” The truth is, we have heard from God about this very topic. To understand God’s will, we must go to the Bible for guidance. There are godly people around us who will have insight and advice that can be valuable. But it is vital that we seek God’s truth above all. No amount of human reasoning or input can replace what we find in the Bible.

God’s will is specific, and it is also not. It is specific in that we can read what God has in store for us. But, it is not specific in that maybe we are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, “What is God’s will for me?” Maybe we should be asking a more simple, profound one: “What is God’s will?” This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have good plans for you specifically. He does! Nor does it mean that He isn’t personally concerned with you. He is! As written in Luke 12:6-7, even our hairs are numbered by God! And it doesn’t mean He hasn’t gifted you to do specific things on earth. He has! As it is written in 1Peter4:10-11 that every man received a gift "to serve one another". It’s just that God’s will and plan on this earth are to accomplish His purposes, not ours. God is the Heavenly Director, orchestrating His plan on earth and we get to play our part in it.

Some things are easy to discover while others require faith and patience. Grudem’s good friend, author and pastor John Piper describes two wills of God. Firstly, His will of decree and secondly His will of command. God’s will of decree can’t be undone; it will happen. It is often considered to be unknown or a mystery. God’s will of command is what God commands us to do. The disobedient disobey these commands. These are things from the Bible that we know we have to do. Over the next few days of this QT this week, we will discuss the different aspects of God’s will that has been on the hearts and minds of many followers of Christ.

Application: When you think of God’s will, what comes to your mind? [YKY 29/11/2021]

Will of God - day 2
Day 2: 30/11/2021: The Known Will of God
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Day 2: The Known Will of God [By YKYK]
QT: 30/11/2021 (Tuesday)

https://www.esv.org/Luke16:10
https://www.esv.org/1Thessalonians4:3
https://www.esv.org/1Thessalonians5:16-18
https://www.esv.org/1Peter2:15

There are many Bible verses on what it means to do God’s will. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, God wants us to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks always. In 1 Peter 2:15, God wants us to do good. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, God wants us to avoid sexual sin. In Matthew 22:37-39, Love God and others. In Ephesians 4:29, God doesn’t want us to utter corrupting words (this applies to gossips too), but only words that build up others. In Colossians 3:9, God wants us to be honest. In Luke 12:33, God wants us to be generous here on earth, so as to invest in eternity. In Philippians 2:4, God wants us to consider the interests of others too.

It seems like such an odd mix of guidelines to follow, doesn’t it? Be joyful, pray a lot, show gratitude, do good, don’t be sexually immoral, no gossiping, be honest, be generous etc... But surely there is more to God’s will than that, right?

It is so common for followers of Christ to desire to make great strides in the kingdom of God. We want to change the world but don’t consider it very important to change our part of the world, let alone ourselves. We get laser-focused on the will of God that is unknown to us and push the known will of God aside. The unknown will of God is much more exciting and grand to us. The known will of God, which includes numerous dos and don’ts tends to be boring and monotonous. We want to know what He has for us tomorrow but we disobey Him today.

What if we re-directed our desires to know God’s will and do those wills of His that we already know? I may not know the path ahead for me when it comes to my career in Shimano 20 years ago, but I know that it is God’s will for me to help others today. I may not know Ms Rebecca Koh will be my wife 10 years ago, but I know that it’s God’s will for me to give thanks in all things right now. And I certainly don’t know what will be my financial situation 15 years from now, but I know that it is God’s will for me to be generous with our time and resources now.

In Luke 16:10, God is looking for people who are faithful. Faithful in the "little" things first. Let us be loving, kind, generous, honest and grateful people because it is in the small, seemingly ordinary things in life that give us a glimpse of God’s greater plan. It is often the completion of ordinary tasks that leads to extraordinary outcomes.

Application: Do you tend to think of God’s will in a “more grand” sense and not in day-to-day living? What is one area of your life that would fall under God’s known will that you need to obey? [YKY 30/11/2021]

Will of God - day 3
Day 3: 01/12/2021: The Unknown Will of God
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Day 3: The Unknown Will of God [By YKYK]
QT: 01/12/2021 (Wednesday)

https://www.esv.org/Luke22:39-46
https://www.esv.org/Romans12:1-2

More than 20 years ago, while attending a worship service, the preacher asked the congregation a question. He asked who will like to know God’s will and know from God what will happen to you few years down the road. I recalled not many people put up their hands and I was one of them. Then, the preacher looked towards me and mentioned my name, pointed out that it was good to know God’s will but I might not like to know what would happen to me years ahead because human are easily dissatisfied. My life will be very bored, knowing what would happen.

There is so much about God’s will that we don’t know. No matter how smart we are or what we try, we will never know what is going to happen in the future. Not only that, but there are things we pray for or even beg God for, that won’t happen as we desired. We will still have questions until the day we depart this earth.

While we can’t know it all, we can know more of God’s will. It’s true! In Romans 12:2, God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect and that we would be able to test and prove it. But in order to do that, we have to do something that can be quite a challenge. We must remove our needs or desires to conform to what everyone else is doing and instead allow our minds to be transformed by God’s power. This is not easy! It is challenging because we are surrounded by influences that are far from godly.

At every turn in our lives, we get bombarded by new ideas, new fascinations and new people. New things aren’t bad by themselves, but we need to know which ones pull us away from God. In order to hold firm any part of God’s unknown will, we have to allow Him to transform our minds. With a transformed and renewed mind, when are enabled to seek and follow the known will of God and the do the things that He had called us to do.

Think about it. When we were living in sin, giving in to every harmful temptations that cross our paths, how likely is it that we will be able to truly recognise what God’s will is? We wondered why we can’t sense God's leading, when it was obvious we were wrapped up in the pleasures of this world then.

But when we obey God’s known will by loving others, choosing not to gossip and walking honestly in our lives, it would be easier to recognise God’s unknown “good, pleasing and perfect” will. This is because our minds have been transformed. Let us start our daily opportunity to cast aside the unbiblical standards imprinted on us, and cling to God's truth instead. As we do, we seek the power of God’s Holy Spirit to transform our minds. And with transformed minds, God will reveal to us the specifics of His will in His perfect timing.

Application: When it comes to the unknown will of God, what are the things that you wish you could know now? Instead of focusing on what will happen, what do you sense God is calling you to do right now? [YKY 01/12/2021]

Will of God - day 4
Day 4: 02/12/2021: How Specific Is God’s Will?
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Day 4: How Specific Is God’s Will? [By YKYK]
QT: 02/12/2021 (Thursday)

https://www.esv.org/Psalm119:105
https://www.esv.org/Proverbs3:5-6
https://www.esv.org/Proverbs12:15
https://www.esv.org/James1:5-6

Over the past two days, we have talked about both the known and unknown wills of God. But there is one more aspect of God’s will that makes so many followers of Christ nervous. We often want to know just how specific His will is.

Should I buy this house or that house? Should I go to this college or that college? Should I marry this person or that person? Should I take this job or that job? The Bible does not answer these kinds of questions specifically nor does it say, “You should be a doctor,” or “Marry Brandon next year.” Maybe we need to take our specific questions to the Word of God and see how our desires and questions line up with the truth from God’s Word.

Is there one perfect person for you to marry? Probably not! If that were the case, then if one person chooses the person they shouldn’t have, then everyone else’s choice is wrong. Instead, what we do when it comes to spending our lives with someone is to use wisdom and ability to judge what's best. It does not mean God won’t answer a specific prayer we pray. God loves us and often surprises us with exactly what we asked for! But most of the time it is wise to allow God’s Word to be our guide, for it has plenty to say about decisions we should make.


Questions to ask:
1. Would this choice contradict God’s truth?
2. Is this the wisest decision? (financial, relational, emotional, etc.)
3. Are any fears guiding my decision? Why?
4. Would I regret this in a week, month, year or ten years down the road?
5. Which path brings me the most peace?
6. Have I sought Godly wisdom from the church community God has put you in?

Just a couple of months ago, I used the same above questions to guide me to sell my house in Bartley and buy a new one in Hillview within 3 weeks period. I was given a choice of 2 houses within my budget to choose from. One in Hillview and the other one in Dairy Farm. I seek opinions from my F3.1 cell group brothers during one of our brothers gathering at Railway Mall. I also seek for wisdom and guidance from God to choose one of them as buying house is a big financial and emotional commitment. My heart's desire was to go with the Hillview house because that's where my grandparents used to live 50 years ago. Guess what? After my prayer and waiting for answers from both developers for a few days, God opened the Hillview door and closed the Dairy Farm door! It was easier to choose thereafter.

Too often we live with anxiety about making the wrong choice. We all make some decisions we wish we hadn’t. Making wrong choices is often what leads us to make better choices in our future. But regardless of the choices we made, God still love us. With a renewed mind that is led by God’s Spirit, we can confidently be victorious with God's guidance and the choices we make as we earnestly seek Him.

Reflection: Were you frequently paralyzed when it comes to making big decisions? List a few things that you are fearful about and ask God to reveal His truth to you. [YKY 02/12/2021]

Will of God - day 5
Day 5: 03/12/2021: God’s Absolutes
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Day 5: God’s Absolutes
QT: 03/12/2021 (Friday)

https://www.esv.org/Matthew22:37-39
https://www.esv.org/Matthew28:19-20

When it comes to the will of God, there is so much more we know than don’t know. God’s Word is full of direction for us if we would have eyes to see. He has so much for us to do on this earth, not to earn His love, but to live out this abundant life on earth that we have been promised through Jesus. Instead of constantly thinking about what we wish we knew about God’s master plan, what if we focused on becoming who God wants us to be instead? When we do this, we will know what we should do.

Often, we want to know what we should do. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus pointed out that the greatest commandment given to us is to love God with our entire being. Not just a part of ourselves, but our whole selves - body, soul, mind, and spirit. Jesus also taught that loving our “neighbour as ourselves” was incredibly important—second only to loving God. It is easy for us to love ourselves. We almost always make sure our needs are met. God calls us to love others the way we will care for and love ourselves.

My anchor verse is in Matthew 28:19-20. Since we are followers of Christ, we are to take what we believe and invest it into others. God desires that everyone will come to know Him. Because we follow Jesus, we carry the antidote to the eternal sickness of sin that the world has. The gospel of Jesus is what the world needs to hear. This good news, which is what the word gospel means is for everyone. So, whether someone knows Jesus as Saviour and Lord or not, we can still share the good news with them.

When we focus on the most important callings that God has given to all followers of Christ, we will become less preoccupied with the unknown part of God’s will. As we forsake the customs of the world and instead choose to renew our minds, knowing what God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is will be made clear to us.

Reflection: How well are you following these absolutes of God? Loving God, loving people and making disciples? [YKY 03/12/2021]

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2021 Devotion

Reconciliation Before Restoration

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 1
Day 1: 15/11/2021: Job
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Day 1. Reconciliation Before Restoration: Job 15/11/2021. Monday

THE ISSUE
The pandemic is not over and might not be over anytime soon. The wish for life to be restored to normal grows dimmer with each variant surfaces. Can Christians be reconciled to the realities of life's disruptions, be reconciled to God BEFORE things get "restored" to normal again?

The Book of Job has been interpreted variously (1) to view life in the midst of suffering, (2) to examine who is the wise one, (3) reflections on the consequences of obedience/disobedience (retribution). This week we want to examine the concept of "Reconciliation Before Restoration"—starting with the person Job.

THE POINT:
Job was reconciled to God's actions in the world BEFORE his own RESTORATION!

THE EVIDENCE
Job lost family and possessions, suffered physical afflictions (Job chapters 1–2). The "why" was not found by Job himself, nor friends and family (Job chapters 3–37). If Job could not even know the simple facts about the external world (Job 38:1–42:6), how could Job fathom the wisdom of God who created it?

Subsequently, Job responded in silence (40:3–5) and submission (42:1–6). In these verses, Job admitted "I am of small account; what shall I answer you?" and "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

God endorsed Job's actions by telling Job's friends "And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:8, ESV)

Indeed, "The LORD accepted Job's prayer" (Job 42:8). We thus see the coming to terms of Job with his present plight BEFORE any restoration of all that he had lost. This restoration only occurred in Job 42:10-17, after Job "had prayed for his friends" (42:10).

TAKE AWAY
We suggest that it is the LORD way of search out those who really trust Him and worship Him for who He is—the God of the universe as described in Job 38:1–40:2, the God of justice and power (Job 40:6–41:34). Would you make peace with God today by faith, even before your yearning for restoration/solution to your current problem comes to pass?

Can this "reconciliation before restoration" be your way of expressing your faith in Him now, regardless of whether a benefit comes out of it to you specifically in the future? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 2
Day 2: 16/11/2021: Hadassah/Esther
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Day 2. Reconciliation Before Restoration: Hadassah/Esther 16/11/2021. Tuesday

TODAY'S PASSAGE: Esther 2:5–7
[5] Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, [6] who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. [7] He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. (ESV)

She is known more for her Persian name—Esther which means "star" / "fortune" / "felicity" rather her original Jewish name—Hadassah, which means "myrtle", named after a beautiful flowering plant in Israel.

She and her parents, relatives and countrymen were part of the exile to Persia (the reign of Ahasuerus, 486–464 b.c.). Detached from her own land and now an orphan in an alien and unfamiliar culture, Esther had many reasons for destructive self-pity.

Nevertheless, she rose to be queen of the land by "coincidence" and the unseen hand of God. She was challenged by her uncle, Mordecai, to save the Jews from genocide, "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV, emphasis added). Esther resolved to courageously plead with the king and remarked, "...and if I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16b).

We learn about divine providence even though God's name is not mentioned directly in the book. Yet human responsibility requires Esther and Mordecai, you and I, to act with courage and perseverance in God's cause, even when circumstances are desperate, not normal, nor restored to what we view as status quo yet.

Returning to status quo might not come in this pandemic of the 21st century, nor during Esther's time of forced exile, destruction of homeland and religious activities. She and Mordecai were still in exile, i.e., no restoration to previous status quo. But "such a time" before restoration is the time to know and do God's will!

Take Away Let us find reconciliation between our present plight and doing God's purposes, when things have not been restored to "normal". It is the life of faith in The LORD, for all people who claim to be His people, then and now. [RSP,16/11/2021]

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 3
Day 3: 17/11/2021: Ruth

[Video] https://youtu.be/QcN9E2EuI2w

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 4
Day 4: 18/11/2021: Habakkuk

[Video] https://youtu.be/dIGRbTZvn1Q

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 5
Day 5: 19/11/2021: Jesus Christ

[Video] https://youtu.be/yGmrNssVgzI

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 6
Day 6: 22/11/2021: Example of Paul

[Video] https://youtu.be/QUji6oCdDyU

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 7
Day 7: 23/11/2021: Hebrews 11
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Day 7. Reconciliation Before Restoration: Hebrews11 23/11/2021. Tuesday

TODAY'S PASSAGE: Hebrews 11:1-40
In this religion where faith is central, we have to practice reconciliation before restoration because "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (11:1). The future is certain and assured, therefore we must tune our present emotions/outlooks in view of that certain future.

The examples in 11:2-5 and the rest of the chapter showed that reconciliation of our present plight with the certainty of that assured future blessing promised by the word of God, "pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (11:5b-6).

In fact, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." (11:13) Do not fret when we don't receive the promises immediately because the sovereign God will be faithful to His promises, sooner or later.

"And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (11:39-40) reminds us that from the distant past till now, all people of faith are the same (not apart): they live life now fully convinced and reconciled to God's hand in the world of their time, including His mysterious works which we do not always fully comprehend. Be man and woman of faith today!

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 8
Day 8: 24/11/2021: Thief on the cross
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Day 8. Reconciliation Before Restoration: Thief on the cross. 24/11/2021. Wednesday

The first criminal railed at Jesus. But the "other" criminal on the cross reconciled his present plight "big time" before his "legal criminality" (and many other problems in his life) was resolved.

TODAY'S PASSAGE: Luke 23:39–43
[39] One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” [40] But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? [41] And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” [42] And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [43] And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (ESV)

But the main thing WAS resolved—he found Jesus Christ and trusted Him. There was no opportunity for the second criminal who spoke (v. 40) for many things:

1. There seems little hope for an acquittal because the execution HAD BEGUN;

2. There seems little hope for a "not guilty" verdict because he CONFESSED before the executioners that "we indeed just, for we are receiving the due rewards of our deeds" (v. 41);

3. Physically, he can't DO much, because his hands and feet were IMMOBILISED with nails on the cross already;

4. There is LITTLE TIME left for any medical first-aid, because there was much bleeding at major points with little hope of any procedures to stop it.

But that thief did the two most important things: (a) he confessed his sins publicly in the presence of Jesus; (b) he expressed his acceptance of Jesus and identification with Jesus' mission and kingdom with the extraordinary "when you come into your kingdom" (v. 42).

Application: What a person sees with the physical eye might be bleak (as in the situation of both the 1st and 2nd thieves who spoke), but the one who is reconciled to God's kingdom plan (2nd thief) WAS RESTORED in the BEST possible way possible at the very point when it counted the most—reconciliation and restoration to the God who created him!

As your current situation is likely to be better that the abovementioned criminal(s), you have a statistically better chance of success. God bless your day!

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 9
Day 9: 25/11/2021: Peter
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Day 9. Reconciliation Before Restoration: Peter. 25/11/2021. Thursday

Some of us experienced long periods of "drought", or hanging on to assets that have negative values, or waiting for a turn of events of some kind that not happened yet. Peter also had a big unknown hanging over him for a long period of time of his life—manner, place and time of crucifixion.

TODAY'S PASSAGE: John 21:17–19
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (ESV)

Explanation: Jesus named Peter "Cephas" which means "rock" in Aramaic or "Peter" in Greek respectively, but performed less solid than a rock should. Yet Jesus foretold that Peter would die a martyr (hands stretched out), probably crucified. Early church historians pointed to Peter's martyrdom in Rome.

In addition, "And carry you where you do not want to go" (21:18b) points to the disparity of where he was and where he wanted to be. Many of us wanted to be in situation A, yet finds ourselves in situation B still. The difference between A & B might not be vastly different for many of us. But for Peter, facing crucifixion at the END of his life is definitely traumatic. But in this manner of death, Peter truly "followed" the LORD in Jesus' "Follow me" challenge of verse 21:19b. Furthermore, knowing the ending at the start of Peter's ministry-post-Jesus left the unknown hanging throughout that period.

Conclusion: Even though Peter is the representative No. #1 and enthusiastic disciple of Jesus, Peter had famous weaknesses (e.g. denying the Lord three times and shooting words off his hip so called). Nevertheless, Peter was not bogged down by Jesus' prophecy of Peter's manner of death without giving the location. Instead, Peter's weakness and subsequent growth in courage and service made him the supreme example of the power of the risen LORD on a disciple who is developing and growing.

Peter rose above his faults, was reconciled with Jesus' will for Peter regarding manner of death, and restored to became a towering figure in church's history. Will you also do reconciliation before restoration today?

Reconciliation Before Restoration - day 10
Day 10: 26/11/2021: John
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Day 10. Reconciliation Before Restoration: John. 26/11/2021. Friday

John the apostle was closest to Jesus and loved by him. At the cross, Jesus transferred the responsibility of care of his mother Mary to John. Nevertheless, from the passage below, John experienced much trials and tribulations also.

TODAY'S PASSAGE: Revelation 1:9–11
[9] I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. [10] I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet [11] saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (ESV)

John was exiled on the island of Patmos. This was "on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus". Yet in spite of "the tribulation" and "the patient endurance" required to move on with life, the message given by God through John was that "God will win!" The sovereign ruler of the universe will destroy evil, wipe away tears from believers' eyes, rescue them. Meanwhile, believers are to look forward to the transformation of creation. God will be with His people forever.

Reflection: Who is the LORD of the universe. The Roman emperor during John's time (Domitian, AD 81-96) started the imperial cult, where the worship of the Roman emperor flourished. Domitian also claimed the title "Lord and God". You would be an outcast in the job market and society, if you were not part of this cult. Acknowledging Jesus as "Lord and God" is likely to be fatal. Who are you acknowledging today?

Application: John in Revelation proclaims hope, and we must keep our eyes focused on this hope in order not to fall. Christ was already victorious on the cross. This fact is to bring comfort to the faithful who are now suffering.

In addition, this hope also calls for repentance from those who have compromised their faith. This hope requires standing against accommodation to surrounding culture and false teachers (2:20–24). Ephesus had forsaken its first love (2:4), while Pergamum and Thyatira followed false teachers (2:14–15,20). Sardis has a reputation for being happening, but is really dead (3:1), and Laodicea remains lukewarm (3:16–17), and therefore, not effective in God's kingdom.

Let us have hope that looks forward to that day when God will judge evil and live among his people in a new heaven and new earth. As Jesus had predicted in John 15:18 - "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (ESV). In Jesus, we have victory in the midst of suffering. Be reconciled to that now.

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2021 Devotion

Blessings

Blessings - day 1
Day 1: 08/11/2021: During Worship
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Day 1. Blessings: During Worship. 08/11/2021. Monday

What actually happens in the "Benediction"? What are the benefits? How necessary is it?

"Bless", "Blessings" or "Benediction" is the pronouncement of the favour of God upon an assembled congregation as part of the various worship service, e.g., during Holy Communion, Baptism, or at the Conclusion of the service.

In many Eastern Orthodox churches, and most Protestant churches, the Holy Communion usually end with a blessing spoken by the senior clergyman present. Eastern Orthodox and Anglican churches might name it "Blessing", while most Protestant churches would name it "Benediction". There are a few precedents in the Bible:

OT Examples
Genesis 27:28 "May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine." (ESV)

Numbers 6:22–27 [22] The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [23] “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, [24] The LORD bless you and keep you; [25] the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; [26] the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. [27] “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (ESV)


NT Examples
Luke 24:50–53 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, [53] and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. [12] Greet one another with a holy kiss. [13] All the saints greet you. [14] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (ESV)

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

2 Thessalonians 2:16–17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, [17] comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (ESV)

Hebrews 13:20–21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, [21] equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)


REFLECTIONS:
Many regard the practice of benediction or blessing as merely a ritual of dismissal, but it is actually a pronouncement of God’s gracious favour, given by ministers on the authority of Holy Scripture to faithful believers. In this part of the worship, Christians are assured that the grace of God the Father, the love of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit are with them.

Looking back these 30 years, I see with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears, that the pronouncements during worship and Baptism come to pass in every detail powerfully. How should we then behave, and what should we then be thinking during Benediction?

How has God used the words that you say to others?

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Blessings - day 2
Day 2: 09/11/2021: A Statement on Relationship, more than Benefits
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Day 2. Blessings: A Statement on Relationship, more than Benefits. 09/11/2021. Tuesday

Do we, or can we expect benefits/gifts from God when the Benediction/Blessing is said near the end of the worship service? Is it wrong to desire a gain for ourselves for attending worship? No, but there is a more important reason.

"Benediction", "Blessing" or "祝福" have been frequently understood via the benefits conferred on the recipient, be it prosperity, power, health or fertility. "Bless"/"blessing" (barak) is used about 400 times in the Hebrew Bible (88 times in Genesis, 83 times in Psalms, the rest are spread out equally). The content, value and size of what is received by the recipient, however, seems secondary in a "Benediction".

In fact, the primary focus when the Benediction/Blessing is pronounced, is rather the STATEMENT OF RELATIONSHIP between parties, more than "What do I get?"

The blessing makes known the relationship between the parties, e.g., (1) between God and an individual—Abram [https://www.esv.org/Gen12:1-3], or (2) a group of persons—the second generation of Israelites at Moab before crossing into the Promised Land [https://www.esv.org/Deut7:14-16], (3) between God and worshippers @MCI or online.

The relationship between God and the recipients have already been established. God then blesses the recipient with a benefit on the BASIS of that relationship.

REFLECTIONS:
1. Do you participate in the worship/Benediction to DECLARE and MAKE KNOWN your relationship with God there and then, so that the rest of the world might know of this special relationship? Are you merely looking for a benefit (or avoiding a punishment) when attending worship service?

2. Describe what did you do with the past benefits that God had already bestowed upon you.

Stay tuned for Day 3: How can we "bless" the LORD if He already has EVERYTHING?

Blessings - day 3
Day 3: 10/11/2021: Bless the LORD? How to?
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Day 3. Blessings: Bless the LORD? How to? 10/11/2021. Wednesday

How can we "bless" (barak) the LORD if He already has EVERYTHING? Is "blessing" the Creator who created and owns everything a misnomer?

The Psalmist "bless the LORD" (Psalm 16:7), utters "The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock" (Psalm 18:46) & "I will bless the LORD" (Psalm 26:12). There are other verses where the "direction" of the blessing is from mankind to God (e.g., 2Chronicles 20:26, Nehemiah 8:6).

EXPLANATION: If "bless" was merely to transfer benefits, then the misnomer stands because God has everything and doesn't need anything from us to sustain Himself. PAYNOW doesn't work directly for the Creator too.

But if "bless" was primarily a declaration of RELATIONSHIP—a statement of RELATIONSHIP—then we understand the Psalmist correctly (see Day 2).

Psa 89:52, Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen. Ps 96:2, Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Ps 100:4, Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! The Psalmist was declaring his privileged positive relationship with The LORD. I know Him! I have interactions with Him! We are in a relationship! Receiving some material benefits out of this relationship becomes secondary as we grow in the knowledge and experience of Him.

Translators might use "praise" to translate "barak". Indeed, in praising/blessing God in worship declares your relationship with God, acknowledges and honours Him publicly (online, among your family/children). On the contrary, missing participation in worship, or not singing or uttering words of praise that are powered by the foundation of a sincere, real and ongoing relationship with God falls short of the ideal.

REFLECTIONS: When you bless/praise God in worship, do you recall that day in the past where a RELATIONSHIP with Him was started, and you now respond with gratitude and thanks today for how He led you so far?

Stay tuned for Day 4: If the person giving the benediction happens to be a person that you tend to switch-off when listening to him, does this affect the efficacy of the benediction pronounced on stage during worship?

Blessings - day 4
Day 4: 11/11/2021: Efficacy reduced by the Pronouncer's Status?
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Day 4. Blessings: Efficacy reduced by the Pronouncer's Status? 11/11/2021. Thursday

What if the pastor giving the Blessing is a sinner? Or he did not "gain your respect" (whatever that means)? Or that he failed to prevent you from dozing off during sermons. Do these affect the efficacy of the benediction pronounced towards the end of the worship service?

"What is transferred in a blessing, if any?" Can God be forced to "bless" you by the mere pronouncement of the words ("manipulated")? Do the words themselves have any "magical" or "spiritual" power?

Scholars are divided: (1) Yes! (2) Limited, & (3) No! A comprehensive study still awaits. But we have a few perimeters to live within.

Firstly, the famous blessing of Numb 6:22-27 (https://www.esv.org/Num6:22-27) was pronounced by Aaron their first High-Priest. That fact that Aaron was formerly the builder of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32) was not a bar to him holding that appointment.

Secondly, the other famous blessing of 2Cor 13:14 (https://www.esv.org/2Cor13:14) was said by Paul, the one who formerly was "still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the LORD (https://www.esv.org/Acts+9:1-12). Even as Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans, he confessed that "the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (See Romans 7:19-25).

Thirdly, a person who "cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psa 66:18). Yet no human, including born again Christians, can be totally free from sin before that glorious day. Perfection of the pronouncer cannot be a pre-requisite, or else the whole exercise is futile from the word go. No one should even project the aura of spotless holiness.

Fourthly, the efficacy/sufficiency of a cheque drawn on a bank does not depend on the bank, nor payee but the Account holder/giver/payer of that cheque. Interestingly, a cashier's order's efficacy again depends NOT on the payee but the bank—the payer in fact "disappeared" from face of the cashier's order totally. This example (though imperfect) points to God as the effective giver of all blessings, past, present and future—including what is presently pronounced on this specific worship day.

Fifthly, if the conduct of the pronouncer is pivotal, then the recipient's bad conduct might also prevent him/her from receiving any benefits under that benediction, isn't it? 五十步笑百步。Say people say yourself!

Thus, when the blessing is pronounced, we bow our hearts/heads in humility, open our hearts to be thankful, move by faith to courageously receive the benefits, fearlessly declare a Statement of Relationship between God and ourselves, confess that we are doomed if the LORD was not merciful, open our mouths to utter "Amen", that The LORD is our God, and we are "blessed" to have this RELATIONSHIP with Him, before the watching world.

May God bless you all! Bless the LORD!

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2021 Devotion

God's Will for the Young at Heart

God's Will for the Young at Heart - day 1
Day 1: 01/11/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. God's Will for the Young at Heart: Portraits & Definitions. 01/11/2021. Monday

God's will is searchable for those who are still young at heart (regardless of age), and ready to move and journey with Him.

Portraits
Scenario 1: JJJ is a bundle of conflicting desires. She has good grades and a very good score on her SAT, and she's been accepted to an excellent school of engineering. But JJJ also has a tender heart for children, especially poor children. She's been involved for the past couple of years in caring for children in a homeless shelter in her city. She knows that an engineering degree will open a lot of doors for her future, but her heart is really with the children. She has asked different people for advice, and their input is as conflicted as her desires.

Scenario 2: BBB loves music. He has played in a band for a couple of years, but he's really interested in being a producer. He has big plans to move from his home in the kampung to "music city", where he believes he'll have the best opportunity. His father, however, insists that he go to college and get a degree. He doesn't want BBB to "throw his life away" on the "empty dream" of a career in music (his father's definition).

Scenario 3: SSS won a scholarship to a fine university far from home, but her close friends are going to schools nearby. Her parents aren't rich, but they said they're willing to pay the tuition if she wants to stay closer to home. She knows that would put an added financial burden on her parents, and she's having a hard time weighing the options.

Scenario 4: MMM has been looking forward to joining the Navy since he was in JC, but his father's landscaping business isn't doing well, and he could use MMM's help. His father isn't putting pressure on him to join the business, but his girlfriend is begging him to stay so they can get married.

Definitions

- Discovering the will of God for a career path, marriage, place to live, and other major choices is one of the biggest challenges of adolescence. Virtually all teens struggle with these decisions and need some guidelines and insights to make wise choices.

- Some of the choices teens face are moral issues, questions of right and wrong, such as involvement in premarital sex, stealing, or lying. Many decisions, however, have no moral implications. They deal with questions of desire, opportunity, and the best fit for a person.

- With Scripture to lead the way, we assess all relevant factors with the "mind of Christ" and God's calling for decision making, even though Scripture doesn't point to which car to buy, house to stay, or vocation or vacation decisions.

- Scripture does, however, delineate the "circle of freedom" within which we should make choices.

- In discerning the path our lives should take, the answers to the following questions should align:

1. What does our heart tell us?

2. What do the people closest to us say?

3. What does our community of faith affirm?

- Since many of the decisions we have to make are between two good options, the choice is often not clear. In these times we must depend on past experience, the advice of people we trust, and our own sense of Gods direction. If we are seeking to live a life that is pleasing to God, we can be sure He will guide our choices.

Stay tuned for day 2: Assessment Interview.

God's Will for the Young at Heart - day 2
Day 2: 02/11/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. God's Will for the Young at Heart: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 02/11/2021. Tuesday

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 [16] Rejoice always, [17] pray without ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)

Assessment Interview
To get the discovery & recovery ball rolling, ask:

1. Tell me the choice you're concerned about today.

2. What are the options you have considered?

3. If you picture a future in each career path [pursuit or relationship], what do you envision for each one? Which one seems most attractive to you? Why is that?

4. What would your teachers, coaches, parents, and friends say are your talents and skills? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?

5. Are there any biblical principles or directives that are guiding you? If so, what are they?

6. What input have you gotten from people who know you best? Do you value their insights into your life?

7. As you pray, do you have a sense that God's Spirit is leading you in a direction? Explain it to me.

8. What are the doors that are open to you at this point?

9. Are you willing to do God's will if He shows it to you clearly?

10. On a scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (completely), how well would you say you are obeying God and pursuing Him now?

11. How will you be convinced that you know what God wants you to do?

Wise Counsel
Teens (and their parents) can become quite stressed about important choices. Decisions about education, career, and marriage are crucial ones for anyone, but fear of making the wrong choice can cloud the real issues and confuse even those who sincerely pursue God's best. We can trust that God wants us to know and follow His will far more than we want to. He is a loving Father who delights in guiding His children. We can rest in His love and be confident He will lead us.

Some parents insist that their perceptions and desires are undoubtedly the best for their children and they aren't open to any conversation about their child's desires and opportunities. God has His creative, determined and disciplined way of dealing with such pride.

Parents need to realize that their "child" is becoming an adult and increasingly needs to be treated with respect. Open dialogue is far more effective—for the immediate choice and the long-term relationship—than demands for compliance.

Not all questions about God's will have a clear-cut answer. Moral issues are spelled out in the Bible, but sometimes, even those have nuances and different applications that must be considered. There is no guaranteed formula or certain matrix a teen can use to determine the best path for the decisions without moral implications, but the following should be considered:

Desires. What does the person really want to do? How long has she wanted to do it? Is it just a sudden impulse 三分钟热度 or a deep, long-simmering desire?

Gifts and abilities. Does the teen show aptitude for this path? In relationship decisions, what effect do the two people have on each other?

The Scriptures. Does the Bible speak directly to the choice? If not, are there biblical principles that apply?

Wise input. What is the considered opinion of mature people who know the teen and have experience in guiding young people toward God's will?

Opportunity. Is a door open, or does the teen long to do something that simply isn't possible? For instance, a teen may want to be a PhD-level scientist, but if she scored very low on her SAT and can't get into tertiary, that dream may have to be relinquished. Or she may think being a professional musician would be exciting, but if she lacks talent, she will need to find another career choice.

The Spirit's nudge. When the teen prays and seeks God's wisdom, what is the sense she has about God's leading? We must be careful here. Some of us mistake our desire for God's Spirit, or in relationships we may confuse aroused endorphins for God's stamp of approval.

Quite often God unfolds His will as we walk with Him one step at a time. Trusting Him as we move through life is the key to a faithful journey.

Stay tuned for day 3: Action Steps

God's Will for the Young at Heart - day 3
Day 3: 03/11/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. God's Will for the Young at Heart: Action Steps. 03/11/2021. Wednesday

We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. —C.S. Lewis

Action Steps

1. Have Confidence in God
Usually teens don't come for help about major decisions unless they are confused and discouraged about their inability to figure out what path to choose. One of the tasks of the counselor, then, is to demonstrate confidence that God will reveal His will and that the teen will discover and follow it.

You can be sure that God will direct you, but His answer may not come quickly. It may unfold gradually. Put your confidence in Him and be patient.

2. Grow in Your Commitment to God
You may feel like a tangled mass of conflicting desires, but if you have a heart for the Lord and are willing to obey Him no matter where He leads, you will know His direction.

To help you become increasingly obedient to the Lord, it is very helpful to have somebody in your life to disciple you in God's Word and help you be accountable to making wise decisions. Find a godly youth pastor, or mature adult to walk with you as you make difficult life decisions and learn to obey God's commands.

The commitment to obey is a prerequisite to knowing God's will. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 Paul writes: "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil" (NLT). In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

3. Become Familiar with the Ways God Guides
Some teens think that God will speak to them in a vision or that His plan will magically appear to them in some super-spiritual way. You must understand that God has already been guiding you and shaping your life. He will continue to lead you if you trust Him.

The elements God uses to guide us include the Scriptures, our desires, open doors of opportunity, the counsel of people who know and love us, and the Spirit's nudging. These don't create a formula, and God works in different ways in people's lives, but throughout history, people have found God's path through these means.

4. Consider the Implications of the Options
You may be focused on how you feel and what you want right now, but you need to consider the long-term implications of your options.

For a career choice, try to "shadow" someone for a few days in your field of interest. For a JC choice, visit the schools you are considering. In a relationship, project how current patterns of relating will play out years in the future. Your counselor can help you do this.

Stay tuned for day 4: Scripture & Sample Prayer.

God's Will for the Young at Heart - day 4
Day 4: 04/11/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 4. God's Will for the Young at Heart: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 04/11/2021. Thursday

Scripture
James 1:5–6 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. [6] But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (ESV)

God delights in revealing His will to His children, but He wants us to trust that He will, indeed, lead us. When we ignore His leading. we can effectively miss what He has for us.

Romans 12:1–2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

To discern God's path we don't have to be super spiritual, and there's no magic involved. We do need to spend time with Him and be willing to obey as He leads us. As our minds are renewed by the work of the Spirit and as we grow in trusting God, we find that our lives are increasingly in tune with God's heart. We learn to want what He wants, to care about the things He cares about, and to let our heart break about the things that break His heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 Rejoice always, [17] pray without ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)

God's will isn't always something "out there" in the distant future; it's responding to God in faith right now, thanking Him, trusting Him following Him in caring for others and being involved in His work this minute.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (ESV)

Luke 11:9-10 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (ESV)

Jesus promises to give us everything we need for making decisions that please Him as we move through our lives. He can be fully trusted to lead us.

Sample Prayer
Father, my young friend needs wisdom in making decisions. Make her heart receptive to the leading of Your Spirit, and free my friend from fear of making the "wrong" choice. Give her confidence in the truth You have revealed in Scripture. Bring godly counselors into her life to help her sort through confusing choices. Guide my friend with Your peace that passes understanding ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Peer Pressure

peer pressure - day 1
Day 1: 25/10/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Peer Pressure: Portraits & Definitions. 25/10/2021. Monday

Portraits
DE had been a model child—kind, responsible, and relatively successful in school and sports. His parents were thrilled when he got into the church's youth group. A few months later DE and four others were arrested. After youth group one Sunday night, they broke into a warehouse and stole some things. "It was kind of an initiation" DE told his parents.

EF had always been an attractive girl with lots of friends. She began dating FG, one of the star players on the basketball team, and they began staying out later and later on weekends. Her mum talked to her openly about the dangers of premarital sex. EF insisted that her mum had nothing to worry about, but a few weeks later, her mum found spermicide hidden behind the toilet paper in her bathroom closet. When she confronted her daughter, EF exploded, "Do you think FG would date me if I didn't have sex with him?" she yelled.

GH just wanted to fit in. In tertiary he had a hard time finding a group of friends. After a while he became desperate and was willing to do anything to be accepted. He began drinking and smoking clandestine stuff with a bunch of loners who had banded together, and before long he was thinking about using a "controlled drug" (under the Misuse of Drug Act) that some of them had bought. He felt as if he needed to keep up or else be left behind—again.

Definitions
Peer pressure is social pressure on somebody to adopt a type of behaviour, dress, or attitude so that the person will be accepted as part of a group. The pressure might come directly from others (peers), or self-imposed after observing others and responding to that pressure by yourself.

Students can't avoid it but they can learn to identify it, resist it, form more healthy alliances (positive peer pressure), and navigate their way through it toward healthy adulthood.

A study of the differences in resistance to peer pressure at different ages showed the following:

— Being observed by peers during risk taking activities doubled the amount of risky behavior among middle adolescents, increased it by 50 percent among undergraduates, and had no impact at all among adults.

— In mid-adolescence the susceptibility to peer pressure is most consistently seen in antisocial behavior, such as cheating, stealing, or trespassing, and this is especially true among boys.

— In early adolescence teens have not yet established their own sense of identity, so they are less able to resist peer pressure. During this time, they express the desire for emotional autonomy most strongly, which ironically makes them more vulnerable to peer pressure.

— In late adolescence, teens have developed more of their sense of identity, which enables them to resist the real or perceived demands of their friends.

A survey from a Western country reported that 24 percent of those engaging in sexual acts indicated that they really did NOT want to do so—pressured more often by their partner than their friends. Teens may also feel that they need to become sexually active to demonstrate their love and commitment.

Today young people feel tremendous pressure to look sexy and be sexual, which leads not only to sexual behaviours but also to underage drinking and drug use.

Instead of growing and preparing to be the right one (rather than be fixated with how to select a right one), some do date just because others are doing so and not doing so become antique. With morality decaying in many places, hanging out with wrong company probably increases the chance of alcohol and drugs abuse, incidents of unprotected sex, and with it, sexually transmitted diseases.

In some countries, not all, adolescents who are sexually experienced are more likely to engage in delinquency. When teenage girls engage in violence against other girls, they are often fighting over boys, to protect their status in the peer community, as an attractive, desirable person.

Stay tuned for Day 2: Assessment Interview, for Teen and the Parents.

peer pressure - day 2
Day 2: 26/10/2021: Assessment Interview
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Day 2. Peer Pressure: Assessment Interview. 26/10/2021. Tuesday

Do continue to pick up the signs by asking the following questions of yourself, or the one you are helping:

For the Teen
1. Tell me why you came to see me today. Do you perceive that you have a problem, or do your parents think you have a problem?

2. How would you describe your relationships with your friends? How do you help each other? What are some ways you have a positive impact on each other?

3. Every relationship has positives and negatives. What are some negative effects of these relationships?

4. Every group has its own culture and set of behaviours. What does it take to fit into your group of friends?

5. What are some things you're expected to do that you really haven't wanted to do (maybe at first)?

6. If you say no to any of the expectations of the group, What happens? How do you know this will happen?

7. If you continue to respond to your friends in the same ways, what does the future look like for you? In other words, how will the influence of the group shape your life for years to come?

8. Do you want to learn how to resist the pressure to do what the group expects?

For the Parents
1. What was your teen like when he was a child?

2. Describe your relationship over the years from childhood until now.

3. Tell me about your teen's peer group. How did he get involved? What concerns do you have?

4. When you've tried to talk to your child about the influence of the group on his life, what happened? How did your teen respond? How did you then respond?

5. What do you like and appreciate about your teen? What are his strengths and talents?

6. Out of ten messages you send your child each day (verbal and nonverbal), how many of them are positive? How many are negative? What kind of impact does this ratio have on your teen?

7. The ability to resist peer pressure is a function of self-confidence and a strong sense of identity. What can you do to help your child have confidence in who he is and feel good about his future?

Stay tuned for Day 3: Wise Counsel.

peer pressure - day 3
Day 3: 27/10/2021: Wise Counsel
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Day 3. Peer Pressure: Wise Counsel. 27/10/2021. Wednesday

Adolescents in their early teen years are more vulnerable to peer pressure because they haven't developed the identity and confidence to chart their own course. It's ironic that popular students are more vulnerable than those who are less popular.

Joseph P. Alien, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, says, "Popular kids tend to be the most vulnerable. They pay attention to what their peers value. And at fourteen or fifteen, when their peers value experimenting with alcohol, they're going to be right there."

Adolescence is an awkward age, full of starts and stops, successes and failures, and changes in desires, emotions, friendships, and physiology. Often teens feel insecure, which compounds their fears. Instead of trying to control and manage every activity and relationship or giving up and not being involved at all, parents need to be their kids main source of stability, support, and encouragement.

Teens may act like they don't want their parents' input, but most of them do. In a positive, supportive environment, when parents talk about things that matter—in their life, the teen's life, the school, and the world—teens will be interested. This means that parents should talk about important issues, like drugs, smoking, sex, and other risky behavior, before problems arise when the child is in early adolescence and throughout the teen years.

Parents need to overlook most if not all of their teen's mistakes, offering only to help in any way they can. They should save any correction for genuine defiance.

Stay tuned for Day 4: Action Steps.

peer pressure - day 4
Day 4: 28/10/2021: Action Steps
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Day 4. Peer Pressure: Action Steps. 28/10/2021. Thursday

For the Teen

1. Find a Positive Group of Friends
— It's difficult to fight peer pressure when you're involved with people who do things you don't want to do that can get you in trouble.

— Friends who encourage you to drink, do drugs, engage in premarital sexual activities, steal, bully, and participate in other delinquent activities can lead you down a path you otherwise wouldn't choose to go. Remember, the Bible says, "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor. 15:33). Though it may be one of the most difficult things for you to do, you must find a positive group of friends who will build you up, not tear you down.

2. Confide in a Mature Adult Counselor/Guide
— You will need someone in your life to give you wisdom, understanding, and support, especially when you are feeling strong pressure from your friends.

— Go to your parents, pastor, teacher, or another mature adult and ask the person to help you through your difficult situation. We all need somebody wiser and older than we are to speak truth and be a support network for us.

3. Join a Youth Group or Club
— A youth group, sports team, or school club can be a safe haven where you will find influential friends and discover skills, hobbies, and activities you like and are good at. When we're connected with influential people and doing things we're good at, we can find a healthy identity that helps us discover who we are. When we have a healthy sense of who we are, fighting off peer pressure is easier. In fact, you can bless them with godly peer influence.

4. Seek God's Guidance
— Pray about what you are going through and ask God to give you strength and courage to face peer pressure.

— Doing daily devotions is a great way to help you get though the struggles at school or with peers. Spend time praying, reading the Bible, and writing down how you feel about what happens throughout the day.

— Ask God and a godly person in church to help you walk through these situations so that you develop confidence in who you are and in the decisions you make.

For the Parents

1. Share Your Hopes, Not Just Your Fears
— Parents need to focus on the positives and paint a verbal picture of a hopeful future for the teen. You can voice your fears, but sparingly, unless there is a legitimate concern.

2. Listen
— Everyone wants to feel heard, and teens especially need to know that their parents respect them enough to listen to their point of view. You may not agree with your child's thinking on every issue or concern, but you can show respect by really listening.

— Your teen will know you are really listening intently if you ask follow-up questions or say, "Tell me more."

3. Be Honest about Your Struggles
— Too often teens feel that they are their parents' projects, things to be managed instead of people to be loved. Treat your teen with respect by sharing your life with him, including talking with him about your hopes and fears.

4. Celebrate More than Punish
— Many teens feel their parents are always on the lookout to catch them doing something wrong. Turn the tables: always look for things to affirm and celebrate.

— Be genuine but be liberal. When you have to correct, it should never be assumed that your teenager understands the reason he is being disciplined. The guidelines and expectations must be clear, fair, and mutually agreed on. Then the teen will more readily accept the correction.

5. Build Trust
— With your adolescent your goal should be trust, not control. Think of the things that build trust between people and treat your child that way, with honesty, fairness, respect, and open communication.

— Trust isn't built in a day, and in some relationships there is a lot of damage to resolve. The process of resolution, though, is a great way to begin building a loving, respectful relationship.

Stay tuned for Day 5: Scriptural Guide & Sample Prayer!

peer pressure - day 5
Day 5: 29/10/2021: Scriptural Guide & Sample Prayer
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Day 5. Peer Pressure: Scriptural Guide & Sample Prayer. 29/10/2021. Friday

Scripture
Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (ESV)

It's not rocket science: we become like those with whom we spend time. 近朱者赤近墨者黑。Parents of teens can't dictate every moment of their children's day, but they can talk openly and honestly about wisdom, trust, and the impact of today's relationships on tomorrow.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

The battle for someone's heart is waged in the mind. The pressures of the world to fit in and belong aren't seen only in adolescence. All of us feel this pressure. As examples to their children, parents can share their own struggles and their commitment to walk with God and please Him above all else.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

Parenting an adolescent is one of the most challenging roles in a parent's life. We sometimes feel confused, alone, and disappointed—in our teen, in ourselves, and maybe in God. But we can always turn to the Lord and trust Him to be our strength in times of weakness. Those are the times when we really learn to depend on Him.

Sample Prayer
Heavenly Father, even when we are tempted, You never leave our side. You understand our weaknesses, Lord, because Your Son was tempted too! Give my young friend wisdom and strength to fight peer pressure, rather than just conforming to the norm. I thank You that our identity is not defined by our friends but by You, by Jesus, and His sacrifice to set us free. Bless this teen with affirming, godly friendships. Teach him to say no to his sinful desires and find his delight in You ...in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Discipline

discipline - day 1
Day 1: 18/10/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Discipline: Portraits & Definitions. 18/10/2021. Monday

Portraits
AB's father wanted to discipline him for stealing a biscuit from an ice-cream seller. His mother, however, wanted to allow him to develop into a "street smart kid", whatever that means. AB knows about this difference, and schemed to get the best of both worlds. AB KNOWS stealing is wrong. However, AB has been playing his father against his mother for a while, just to avoid being disciplined for an obvious wrong, while manipulating his father to get ice-creams all these while.

BC spat at the church pastor. BC's parents saw it and was aghast. Others thought that the boy's behaviour was "cute" and had posted his comical actions on social media that resulted in many hits. BC's parents are at a loss of whether, when and how to discipline BC.

CD wanted to move out of the house and stay with his gang of drug taking friends. His parents objected but are at a loss of what to do—knowing that further attempts to discipline would result in further and complete disconnection.

Definitions
Discipline is one of the most misunderstood of all parental responsibilities. It has come to mean punishment, whether physical or the withholding of privileges. The intent of discipline, however, is to help guide and instruct a growing child.

Parents need to understand the nature of the period of adolescence so they aren't surprised by the conflicting emotions and needs of their teens. With some insight into the conflict going on in their teen's life, they can provide support and guidance instead of being threatened by the teen's struggles.

Adolescence is a time of increased stress and experimentation when teens are attempting to carve out their own sense of uniqueness that is separate from their parents.

Some teens are compliant and pleasant during this transition time in their lives, but many resist their parents in their attempts to be separate. While this period is challenging for parents, it is important to remember that this season is especially challenging for teens.

Parents need to find the right blend and balance between their child's growing independence and their need for direction. The type of discipline they use and how they administer it are very important.

In 1990 Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay, in their practical and encouraging book Parenting with Love and Logic, identified the following parenting styles: drill sergeant (authoritarian), the helicopter (permissive), and the counselor/consultant (authoritative). Sometime later, a fourth parenting style began to appear called the neglectful parent.

Drill sergeant/authoritarian parents are inflexible, lecturing, and controlling. They use harsh words and humiliation, display anger, punish, and may be cruel. They are domineering, critical, pushy, intrusive, shaming, and demanding. This parent sends the message: "You can't think for yourself. I have to think for you. You are stupid, and if left up to you, you will make bad choices and mess things up."

Helicopter/permissive parents are overprotective and doting, and they do not hold their teens to a specific standard. They use emotional control and guilt, are intrusive, and demand compliance "for your own good." They insist on making decisions for their teens, take over when a child neglects his responsibilities, and make excuses for him when he fails. This parent communicates: "You are fragile and weak. You need me to think for you and take care of you. You will not be able to survive the pressures of life without my protection and help."

Counselor/consultant/authoritative parents are supportive and empowering. They believe in their children and welcome mistakes as opportunities for their children to learn valuable lessons. They treat their teens with respect and build a relationship of trust. They share personal stories of success and failure, offer insights, guide them in exploring alternatives, and allow natural consequences. These insightful, effective parents communicate: "You are a pretty neat kid. I believe you can figure out how to handle life; and even if you mess up, you are just the kind of person who will learn from your mistakes and handle things differently next time."

Neglectful parents are absent, physically and/or emotionally, and unavailable. They are indifferent, distant, self-absorbed, unstructured, detached, and uncaring. These parents impart the message: "You are not important to me. You are not worth caring about. You have your life to live, and I have mine. Try not to cause me any problems, because I really don't care to be involved."

To which category do your parents or you yourselves belong to? Any link between the two?

Stay tuned for Day 2: Assessment Interview.

discipline - day 2
Day 2: 19/10/2021: Assessment Interview: for Teens & Parents
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Day 2. Discipline: Assessment Interview: for Teens & Parents. 19/10/2021. Tuesday

Self-discovery is important and brave—both for the parents and the teenager. Can you quieten down for 2 hours and jot down the answers in a jotter book? It would probably be life changing—for both too.

For Teens
1. How would you describe the environment of your home and family-comfortable, loving, strict, legalistic?

2. How do you relate to your parents? Do you trust them?

3. What boundaries have your parents set for you (dating, curfew, driving, and so on)?

4. How do your parents discipline you?

5. How do you respond to your parents' discipline? How does it make you feel?

6. What specific things do you think are unreasonable in your parents' discipline? Have you expressed this to them?

7. What are some reasonable compromises in the family rules that you could suggest to your parents?

For Parents
1. How did you relate to your parents when you were a teen?

2. How did they discipline you? How did you respond?

3. (Explain the four parenting styles outlined yesterday.) Which of these best describes your parenting style? What has the impact of your style been on your child and on your relationship with your child?

4. Describe the level of trust between you and your child. When do you enjoy being around each other? When is there tension?

5. Describe the most pleasant, positive period in your relationship with your child, even if it was years ago. What contributed to that experience? What is different today?

6. How do you and your spouse view discipline of your child? Where are there points of common ground? Where are there disagreements? How do your disagreements affect you, your relationship with your spouse, and your relationship with your child?

7. (Explain the nature of adolescence and the child's task of creating a separate identity.) As your child creates his own identity, do you celebrate or are you threatened by the difference and the distance it causes? Explain your answer.

8. What is your hope for your relationship with your child? What would a respectful adult-adult relationship look like a few years from now?

9. What can you do to be sure you have that kind of relationship? What are the barriers to achieving it?

10. What is your next step in determining how to be the parent God wants you to be for your teen?

Stay tuned for Day 3: Wise Counsel.

discipline - day 3
Day 3: 20/10/2021: Wise Counsel
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Day 3. Discipline: Wise Counsel. 20/10/2021. Wednesday

For the Teen
The adolescent years can be a rocky time for parent-teen relationships. A teen may be simply trying to express his independence and figure out who he is, but his parents may interpret his behaviour as rebellion and enforce unreasonable discipline. If teens are to survive—and enjoy—their teenage years, the key is honest communication with their parents, rather than manipulating, lying, or overreacting. While simple conversation may not seem like the "cool" thing to do, much of the conflict that parents and teens experience could be eliminated if they would talk to each other.

Rather than giving their parents the silent treatment and refusing to talk to them, teens need to learn to express intelligibly what they are feeling. Encourage teens to sit down with their parents and express their frustration with the restrictions they are placing on them. Rather than lashing out at their parents, they should suggest plausible compromises to rules they feel are unreasonable.

Teens must be careful to approach their parents in a respectful manner, remembering that they are called to honour them, whether or not they agree with their rules. They should listen to their parents and really try to understand where they are coming from. If their parents seem unpredictable, constantly changing the rules about curfew, borrowing the car, having friends over, and other issues, teens should suggest that together they write out what is expected and what is not allowed, so there is no confusion.

Remind teens to thank God for their parents. Whether or not they feel love for them right now, God has given their parents to them as a gift. They should look for the positives and learn from them, while expressing their appreciation for all their parents do.

For the Parents
Authors Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller observe that often the parent, in an effort at correction, focuses on controlling the teen's behaviour at the expense of their relationship. They insist that discipline isn't complete until the relationship between parent and child is restored and strengthened.

Punishment focuses on past misdeeds, but genuine discipline focuses on the child's growth, future, and increased wisdom. Too often parents take action to control their child's bad behaviour out of anger. Discipline, however, has an opposite motivation—lovingly wanting to point the child in a positive direction.

Parents need to avoid extremes in their reactions, which might include yelling and violence, smothering attention, or neglecting the child and walking away. If the parents need time and space from a heated conversation to think and come up with a plan of how to respond to a child's defiance, they can take a time-out to regroup. In most cases parents need at least 20 minutes to calm down and think clearly (and maybe call a trusted, wise friend for advice).

Parents should give the teen a chance to explain. Sometimes parents misunderstand their child's behaviour or words. It's never a bad idea to ask a child to explain his perspective. Listening often clarifies things for both parents and their children. Children can be asked to come up with appropriate consequences. Too many parents dictate consequences to their adolescent children, but the kids don't feel respected.

Instead, after talking about the situation, a parent can ask, "What do you think are the proper consequences for this?" Often teens will come up with consequences that are more severe than those of their parents. When this happens, the parents can scale them back as they help their children grow in their belief in themselves.

Some parents are so controlling that they debate every decision their teens make. This is a big mistake. It's much healthier (for everybody) to let smaller choices pass without comment, and engage in meaningful conversation about those that really matter.

When parents threaten but fail to back up their threats, children become confused and tend to see their parents as not really believing what they say. Parents should not set requirements on their children that they aren't willing and able to back up.

At the same time, since parents are prone to be as reactive and overly emotional as their teens, they must be willing to apologize quickly for mistakes and sins. Teens long for relationships with their parents (and everyone else in their lives) that are genuine, and that means that people "own" their faults. When parents are willing to admit their mistakes, it goes a long way toward building trust.

Stay tuned for Day 4: Action Step!

discipline - day 4
Day 4: 21/10/2021: Action Steps for the Teen & Parents
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Day 4. Discipline: Action Steps for the Teen & Parents. 21/10/2021. Thursday

For the Teen

1. Discipline Yourself
Realise that, while you may dislike your parents' rules, there will always be rules in life. "There should be no rules in life" is ALSO A RULE. Don't just hold your breath until you can get out of the house; learn to discipline yourself.

Begin to develop personal standards. Don't make decisions just because "Mum and Dad said so". Learn to make wise choices and accept the consequences (good or bad) and take responsibility for them.

Own up to your mistakes. Don't lie or hide what you have done. Honesty is always the best option.

2. Talk about Your Frustration
Immature people overreact to or ignore what bothers them. Mature people listen and respond. Rather than yelling and stomping off to your room, learn to put your feelings into words. Many times needless conflict stems from miscommunication.

Talk about the issue at hand, rather than attacking your parents. Just because they won't lend you the car does not make them "horrible parents". Avoid sweeping generalisations in talking about an issue. When emotions flare up, it's easy to blow things out of proportion.

When you are angry or hurt, take a step back and try to understand why your parents have set the guideline they have. For example, if you haven't completed your homework, it is reasonable for your parents not to lend you the car.

3. Choose to Respect Your Parents
Respect for parents is not an option in Scripture—it's a command. Upon attaining the "age of majority", your legal status/autonomy do change, but they are forever your parents.

Remember that your parents are people too—people who have sacrificed a whole lot for you since the day you were born. Your attitude should be one of gratefulness for all they have done, not making demands and bossing them around. Learn to serve your parents. For a change, ask what you can do to help them. It will do wonders for your relationship.

4. Work toward a Compromise
Rather than insisting on your own way, look for common ground as you talk with your parents. Controlling your frustration can be extremely difficult, but remember, if you can't control yourself, your parents are very unlikely to grant you more freedom.

Listen to your parents' reasoning and try to respect their decisions even if you don't agree. Remember, you're not the "boss" of your own life.

For Parents

1. Listen
Few adults have the patience to listen to and really hear their adolescent. Let go of your agenda, at least at first, and do all you can to try to get inside the head and heart of your teen. Start by asking questions.

Most children are tempted to lie when they believe that are in trouble. The skill of listening creates a climate of trust and understanding that will allow the truth to come out. An important goal of a parent is to be a good listener.

2. Guide
It's time to shift your approach to your teen, or child as young as twelve, from being his authority to being his guide. To be a fair and responsible guide, you need solid information. This is where listening is important.

As a guide, your task is not to tell your teen how he violated a rule and let you down. The best way to be a guide is to lead your child to discover for himself what happened and why, and what needs to be done in the future. Your role is to continue the conversation until your teen sees the issue as it is, even if you need a few time-outs along the way to ease emotional tensions and calm yourselves down.

3. Negotiate
Once you have convinced your teen that you care and understand, you have proven your commitment and compassion. When you have helped him comprehend and own his transgression or poor decision making, you are ready to help him face the consequences of his action.

Most parents simply impose sanctions that are usually punitive and rarely make much of a dent correcting the cause of the poor behavior. It does not work to try to shame a teen into changing his behavior. First, listen to your teen and help guide him into admitting and acknowledging the infraction.

Next, work with him to bring to light the contributing circumstances and thinking that caused the problem and the reason they caused it. Lastly, require your teen to help determine the discipline for his behaviour. Keep in mind that it is important to establish a monitoring process to ensure that what you decided together actually happens. If it doesn't work or doesn't happen, then you come back together, discuss it, and decide on an alternate course of action.

4. Stay Consistent
At this time in his life your teen will need you to stay as consistent and available as possible.

5. Be a Student of Your Teen's World
To be a student of your teen's world means you get to know well the people who influence him. This includes teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, and other parents, especially the parents of the kids in your teen's cluster.

It's most important to become a supportive and engaged friend of your children's friends. Many parents think that their teen wants them to disengage and back off from his world, but the opposite is true, as long as the parent does not invade the child's world.

While invading your teen's world would include possessiveness and a desire to micromanage, engaging in your teen's life can powerfully reinforce your love and support, while giving your teen freedom to make his own decisions. Engaging in your teen's world requires time and effort, but the results are definitely worth it. Engaged parents learn to value what their teenager cares about (i.e., sports, dance, music, theatre) and find ways to encourage his natural talents.

6. Maintain a Commitment to Dialogue
It is the parent's responsibility to make sure the lines of healthy and warm communication remain open between the parent and child. Dialogue is two-way-respectful discussions that contribute to the trust and depth of the relationship in a way that ultimately builds up both the child and the parent.

7. Hold on to Your Role as the Adult
You are a parent, but you are also a caring and committed friend. Sometimes friends say difficult things, and sometimes friends intervene in the best interest of their friend. By virtue of the role we have as parents, we have the responsibility, even mandate, to make sure our friends are well served, well cared for, and well developed.

It is fine and good to be your child's friend, provided you never lose sight of the fact that your role is one of authority, leadership, and careful setting of boundaries.

Stay tuned for Day 5: Scripture & Sample Prayer!

discipline - day 5
Day 5: 22/10/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 5. Discipline: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 22/10/2021. Friday

Scripture
Hebrews 12:6–13 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” [7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? [8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. [9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. [11] For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

[12] Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, [13] and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (ESV)


Discipline is an important aspect of raising children. But parents must always remember to administer discipline within the boundaries of and toward the goal of providing training and instruction for children that will lead toward a maturity that is focused on serving others.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)

As parents, our task changes as our children mature. All along he way, however, our job is to equip, guide, and train them. By the time they are adolescents, our job isn't to control them any longer but to help them discover their "bent" and become healthy, confident young adults.

Proverbs 3:11–12 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, [12] for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (ESV)

Discipline is not usually fun when it's happening, but God's Word affirms that discipline is for our good, not merely to punish us. God wants to shape and change us to be more like Jesus, and one of the main ways He shapes a teen is through the influence of his parents. God disciplines us out of love. He is always working for our good, even when it hurts.

Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (ESV)

Midcourse corrections are part of life. God's wisdom constantly challenges our assumptions and guides us along the right path-and sometimes, He uses parents to do that!

Sample Prayer
Lord Jesus, help us learn what You have in mind when it comes to discipline in the family. Give these parents honesty, mercy, wisdom, and gentleness in consistently and lovingly disciplining their teen. Give them an extra measure of Your grace so they can respond to conflict constructively, rather than lashing out in anger or neglecting to deal with the problem at all. We pray for the teenager as he is growing into an adult. Make his heart teachable and willing to accept instruction. We pray for good communication and that You, Jesus, would continue to build a healthy relationship between these parents and their child ...in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Stay tuned for Week 43.

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2021 Devotion

Career Decisions

career decisions - day 1
Day 1: 11/10/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Career Decisions 11/10/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS

"I wanted to be a pilot when young, but my eyesight deteriorated. Subsequently, I wanted to go into a bio-related sector. But I had missed the chance of doing biology as a subject (a requirement then). In the end, I ended up doing something that is my second choice. My first choice looks impossible now. Will I ever be happy as a working adult?"

"It's your second year, DEF" said the woman behind the desk at the university registrar's office. "You need to declare a major. Have you given any thought to what you want to do?" DEF bit her lower lip. She has been trying to decide on a career path but really had no idea what she wanted to do.

"BBB is going to be an architect like his father," his mother proudly reports in a housewives' afternoon tea chat group. BBB looks down at his shoes. He wants to make his parents happy, but architecture has never felt right to him.

DDD was adamant, "We take on jobs not because we like it, but because it brings back bread for my family. If you want to enjoy your job (like going on a tour), you PAY OTHERS for it, not others PAY YOU for it. So let's forget about the fanciful dream of finding a job that we actually like, it doesn't exist."

DEFINITIONS

As teenagers finishes their tertiary education, they begin to think seriously about their future career. Choosing a career can be a daunting task, and often teens are pressured to make career choices before they are ready to do so.

It is normal for teens (and even mid-career adults) not to know the career path they want to take or divert their paths elsewhere. It is also normal for tertiary-aged adolescents to change their career path (and their majors) several times.

Often a teen's career choice depends on gender. A sports career is a timeless favourite for young men but has never made the top twenty for young women. Similarly, early education is more popular with females than males.

APPLICATION:

Throughout this pandemic, we hear of people contemplating change of career by choice or nudged to do so due to economic realities beyond our control. Difficulty in co-working with superiors or subordinates are frequent stress multipliers leading to loss of zest in work. Monday mornings are the hardest workdays at times.

Nevertheless, let us commit our children's career paths, even our own career paths, to God. We pray to God not only to grant us clarity of His will in career path or path changes, may God also grant us a heart of thankfulness, journey with Him in joy and gladness, a journey of enjoyment in do His will. God can change hearts—other's and ours—so let us trust Him even in career decisions.

Proverbs 21:1 - The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (ESV)

career decisions - day 2
Day 2: 12/10/2021: Assessment
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Day 2. Career Decisions: Assessment 12/10/2021. Tuesday

Assessment Questions

Based on the circumstances, you may want to give these career counseling questions to your teenager or even yourself or talk through them together to determine what type of career that he or she may want to pursue currently.

Your discussion should help to identify areas of interest and passion. Ask follow-up questions if needed to further explore how that person's interests can be honed as marketable skills.

1. What are your passions? What interests do you have that get you out of bed in the morning?

2. What accomplishments and achievements have you made thus far? (Even small victories/accomplishments should be listed.)

3. Describe your personality and temperament. What do you love to do?

4. What sort of work attracts you?

5. Do you like to work with your hands?

6. Do you think you would prefer social, relational, or political work?

7. Do you think you would like work that is thought intensive?

8. How much education are you willing to complete?

9. Are you interested in working for yourself or for someone else?

10. Do you want to work alone or as part of a team?

11. Do you want to work in an office, or in a smokey loud action-packed place?

12. Do you want to work in front of a computer or on the telephone?

13. What about other types of jobs, such as working with your hands-jobs that don't require a tertiary education?

14. How do your interests fit into today's job market needs?

15. How much do you really know about the career possibilities you are considering? Consulted anyone WITHIN that career yet?

16. What are some ways you think you might be able to test out the career choices you are considering, without too much disruption to current status quo?

17. Would your career change be "out of the pan, but into the fire" kind of irony?

These are simple-worded questions, but difficult to answer if we do not know ourselves well, or haven't got the time to quieten down to even attempt to think about it.

But it's worth the effort. See you for Day 3 (Wise Counsel).

career decisions - day 3
Day 3: 13/10/2021: Wise Counsel
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Day 3. Career Decisions: Wise Counsel 13/10/2021. Wednesday

Wise Counsel

About 20 years ago, I hosted a student who had just finished PSLE. The student expressed interest in the workings of the Court Room. So I searched the Court calendar and brought the student to sit-in an ongoing murder trial that was open to the public. Even went to the Singapore Land Registry to obtain a copy of the lease of the parent's house, which disclosed the purchase price. But in the end, the student did not take up law in tertiary but went to other disciplines. Closing a door is also seeking God's will.

In the past, many adolescents were often employed in industrial factories or their father's fields before they reached their teens. Today, however, things have drastically changed. For many teens, career choices aren't at the top of the list of pressing issues.

As society has become more complex and fewer parents are actively present to help their children grow into adulthood, many teens are more interested in building a social network than they are in preparing for the future. At some point, obviously, young people need to be actively thinking about their future and exploring their gifts and vocational calling.

Many young people who want to please God seem paralyzed by the fear of "missing God's will." While many teens expect God to reveal to them the JC/Poly they should attend, the major they should choose, and the job they should take, God is more concerned with their character, faith, and love.

Luke 2:52 - And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

It is unrealistic to expect divine "handwriting on the wall" but God's Word clearly states His will for us: to obey Him and to bring glory to Him by whatever we do (1 Cor. 10:31).

1 Corinthians 10:31–32 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, (ESV).

When it comes to making life decisions, generally God guides us through the use of our natural gifts and abilities and through the counsel of Christian parents and others who are close to us. Any career can glorify God, as long as it does not lead an individual into sin.

Encourage the teen to find what she loves to do, what makes her feel alive, and what is most fulfilling to her. While it may not be the most desirable career in the eyes of the world, choosing a job she feels "called to" will be the best for her.

If you are helping a teen explore career possibilities, do keep a perspective that the timeline in making a career choice is years long. Don't become too consumed with the process, and help the teen not to become overly concerned with choosing a career at this point.

Some young people will naturally and willingly follow their parents in a career. Perhaps genetics predisposes them to pursue a similar line of work, or familiarity with a parent's career points them down the same path. Parents, however, make a big mistake if they assume a child will necessarily want to follow their path, and they make an even bigger mistake if they try to force the young person into a career.

If the teen is ready to begin applying for jobs, give some counsel on the interview process. This should be a time for both the employer and the prospective employee to gather information. The company human resources director has a set of questions for people interviewing for a position. Those interviewing can also ask some important questions. These questions should help the teen learn more about the company and the career field she is interested in pursuing. The teen can bring up these questions during a job interview, and reviewing the questions before hand will help eliminate nervousness.

Apart from formal job interviews, encourage the teen to use this list to initiate interviews with professionals already working in her field of interest. For example, she may want to talk with a chef, an engineer, a teacher, or a journalist etc. If an adolescent presents herself in a mature manner, most professionals are more than willing to share about their experiences and their job. There is no substitute for hearing about a career from those who live and work in it!

1. Can you describe a typical day on the job? (When does your day start? What is the first thing you do when you get to work?)

2. How did you get involved in this career?

3. Would you get into this line of work again, right now?

4. How has the field changed recently or how might it change in the future?

5. What is your favorite part of this job?

6. What is your least favorite part of this job?

7. What surprised you the most when you started working in this field?

8. What is the typical salary range for someone in this line of work? (People are typically uncomfortable stating their salaries, but if the question is asked in this more general way, an idea of the range in salary can be given.)

9. What advice would you give me, or anyone, if I planned to make a career in this field?

10. What are employers typically looking for when interviewing or hiring applicants in this line of work?

11. Is there much room for new people wanting to begin this career?

12. May I talk to you in the future if I have additional questions?

Note: Remind the teen that it's a good idea to send a thank-you note after an interview. This will help to leave a good impression on the person who met with her and create the possibility of future networking.

See you for Day 4 (Action Steps)!

career decisions - day 4
Day 4: 14/10/2021: Action Steps
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Day 4. Career Decisions: Action Steps 14/10/2021. Thursday

Closing door after door is also progress. The last remaining open door might be it! Haha!

Action Steps

For many teens today, career possibilities can seem endless. There are many ways to explore occupations, with parents, teachers, and friends being key components in the process. Here are some suggestions to help teens explore career options.

1. Explore

In some cases, parents, teachers, or others discourage a young person's pursuit of a particular career, and they may push hard toward the one they prefer. In families that are very active in the church, some young people are pressured into working in the ministry. To some parent, some valid career choices, such as becoming a chef or an artist, may be seen as frivolous.

Explore any career path you find interesting, even if others tell you it's the "wrong" career path for you. The process itself is enlightening, and through it you will probably discover a path that is right for you. It may mean a few false starts, but if you are prepared for that possibility, making the decision to change to another career will not be overwhelming.

2. Shadow Someone at Work

Prejudice means judging without seeing something rightly. Seeing from afar is likely to result in prejudice—judge prematurely without justice. One way to explore a career choice is to shadow someone working in the field of interest. Some schools offer these opportunities in their career centre.

Inter-term internship viable. Check with your counselor or ask your parents to arrange a shadowing experience for you. Spending a day with a teacher, cook, a police officer, a doctor, an accountant, or a worker in any field will be enlightening, either piquing your interest or letting you know it's not the career for you.

3. Keep Things in Perspective

Remember that you are only exploring career options and not making a choice now for what you will do for the rest of your life. Keep things in perspective. It's likely that your interests will change over the next few years, so don't feel pressured to make a decision now.

If your parents/family seem alarmed by the career you want to explore, help them understand that you are simply checking out a possibility, not committing yourself to a lifelong job.

Stay tuned for Day 5 (Scripture)!

career decisions - day 5
Day 5: 15/10/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 5. Career Decisions: Scripture & Sample Prayer 15/10/2021. Friday

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plan to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Your will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29: 11–13

The context of the verse required the original recipients to go through unfamiliar and counter-intuitive steps (exile related directions) so as to ultimately arrive at the prosperous plans in the future.

Choosing a career is also sometimes difficult and confusing, but we can be sure that God wants us to find a path that is fulfilling and rewarding. And God's path always involves knowing Him, loving Him, serving Him, and seeing our primary calling as conduits of God's grace/righteousness to the world.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Psalm 32:8–9

As we pursue God and seek to trust Him as our Lord, He promises to lead us. He has not created us to be controlled like an animal, forced to go in a certain direction. Instead, God calls us to listen to His voice for direction in the Scriptures, in Christian community, and as the Spirit prompts.

The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. Ecclesiastes 5:12 NKIV

The purpose of work isn't to become wealthy but to honour God and to be His representatives to those He loves. Your work glorifies God when you do it with joy and excellence—when you "work at it with all your heart" (Col. 3:23–34)—and when you rely on God's strength, not your own. Many people desire to be rich, thinking they will have no more worries. Indeed, money and power give the illusion of freedom, but when there is a reliance on money and power, they are destructive.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Some people think there are "spiritual" jobs and "secular" jobs, but that's not the case. All honourable careers can be pursued for the glory of God and the delight of knowing that we are in God's will if we are obeying what He has put before us. When we see our job as an opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit, we will share His truth and love with the people we work and interact with in the workplace.

"You have sown much, and bring in little . ... And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways!" Haggai 1:6-7 NKJV

Contrary to popular belief, the reason we work is not only for money. Just as God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the Garden of Eden—to tend and care for it—He gives each one of us "dominion" over our own arena. Our work is a trust from God, and one day we will be called to give an account to Him. Haggai points out the importance of working for God, not merely for selfish gain.

"[Earning] wages to put into a bag with holes" happens when we work with the purpose of hoarding our wealth. But Scripture exhorts us that no matter how much money we may amass, this approach to work will "bring in little" of eternal Significance. This is the reason it is important not to make career decisions solely based on money.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

The counsel in these verses applies to many kinds of worries—including the search for a meaningful career. We can trust that God will lead us, and in that assurance, we can be thankful for every step in the pursuit, knowing that God will lead us where He wants us to go.

SAMPLE PRAYER

Father, thank You for my young friend who wants to find a career that is meaningful and the right fit. Thank You for the abilities, interests, and experiences You've given her. Lead her, Lord, through all the options and opportunities and give her the assurance that You have wonderful plans for her life ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Attitude

attitude - day 1
Day 1: 04/10/2021: What is Attitude?
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Day 1. What is Attitude? 04/10/2021. Monday

https://www.esv.org/Col2:6-7
https://www.esv.org/Col3:17

Behaviours are easier to attend to or change than ATTITUDE. A typical example would be a reluctant compliance, "You can tell/order me what to do but you can't make me happy about it." This is because being happy is "an attitude".

Attitude determines much of our lives. It is how we perceive the world and the way the world perceives us. It drives behavior and sets the tone for conversations. Attitude affects every area of our lives. However, many of us don’t have a good handle on it.

Attitude is defined as the way we think and feel about someone/something that affects our behavior. The way we view ourselves, others, failure, rejection or success determines so many of our actions. While it seems natural for many of us to base our actions/responses on our feelings, this is not trouble free. Even though something might "feel" right, having a feeling-based attitude can be destructive.

Feelings leave so much of our attitude up to chance. When circumstances leave us feeling bad, our negative attitude gives way to gossiping and complaining. When situations and people leave us feeling good, our positive attitude allows us to find solutions and see opportunities. God didn’t design our attitude to be based on feelings but on Christ.

God is constant. His truth is unchanging and ever present. God has called us to a place of freedom, even in our attitude. When we know and understand that God’s truth far outweighs earthly circumstances, we apply it to all areas of our life, including our attitude. His hope and truth becomes the anchor for our attitude instead of our feelings and circumstances.

Application / Reflection:
1. As you go throughout your day begin to notice what situations affect your attitude. How does the outcome of each situation change your attitude? Can you imagine a life where you are still upset but have an attitude of joy and peace?

2. Do you have a persistently negative outlook on life, as evidenced by grumpiness, social detachment, and frequent complaining? Or are we "abounding in thanksgiving" (Col. 2:7b)?

3. Can the more matured among us show compassion, gentleness, and encouragement to those with a negative attitude?

[YKY 04/10/2021]

attitude - day 2
Day 2: 05/10/2021: Attitude Is Contagious
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Day 2. Attitude Is Contagious 05/10/2021. Tuesday

https://www.esv.org/1Cor15:33
https://www.esv.org/Proverbs13:20

Our attitudes are contagious. We have all experienced this. Imagine your day starts with a good cup of coffee and is followed by hitting all green lights on the way to work. Kids wake up on their own with no troubles preparing them for school. SBS buses and MRT trains come on time with no delay due to train faults. It’s going to be a great day you think then BAM! A colleague of yours starts venting about their long weekend, and how the boss is being unfair. In a matter of minutes, the day goes from great to lousy. And a long list of weekly to-do’s seems to keep growing longer. Sound familiar?

To change our attitude, we may need to change who we allow to influence us. The words of the people closest to us pass through our hearts and minds, which are the sources of our attitude. So while we can't always control what happens to us, we can guard what fills our hearts and mind. If we don't, negativity will eventually wear us out and leave us defeated. It will leave our hearts exposed and filled with everything else other than Christ's truth.

In Proverbs 13:20, God says, "Whoever walks with the wise and becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Our inner circle of friends must consist of those searching for Christ and His wisdom. This will help guard our hearts, and therefore our attitudes.

Application:
1. As you walk through your day, let's pay attention to how you are allowing the attitude of those around you to affect your attitude. What are your conversations filled with? How are the people around you influencing you and your attitude?

2. If you are parent/guardian, envision a positive future for the child and share that vision with the child. Talk about the importance of spending time together (even though distractions/excuses can be many). In our culture it can be quite difficult to get the whole family together unless there is a crisis.

3. Parents need to consider how their own behaviours and attitudes might be affecting their children's. Many parents experience considerable stress at home and at work, in relationships and with finances. When the home environment is stressed, children are inevitably affected. Parents must honestly analyze their own lives and how their reactions and attitudes have contributed to their child's struggles.

[YKY 05/10/2021]

attitude - day 3
Day 3: 06/10/2021: Attitude Is A Choice
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Day 3. Attitude Is A Choice 06/10/2021. Wednesday

https://www.esv.org/Philippians1:27

While we cannot always change our circumstances or how people treat us, we can choose the attitude we embrace. Looking at Jesus’s life, we see some of His life's toughest circumstances. He had to lead and shepherd diverse groups of people, came face to face with Satan, and last but not least, was beaten and died a shameful death on a cross. In each of these situations, He had a choice. He could have been defensive and vengeful, but He chose to be loving and humble. His attitude enabled Him to view His circumstances, respond and act optimally.

Active response: For some, choosing our attitude starts with choosing our words. It seems simple, but there is power in our words. To thought of being able to speak life giving words and injecting ideal outcomes into dire situations should changes our perspective and attitudes of what words to choose.

Passive reception: For others, it’s about choosing who and what we listen to. As easy as it is to get sucked into gossiping or complaining, these conversations always leave us with a negative attitude and perspective. During my 16 years working in Shimano, I always walk away or avoid participating in such negative conversations. Stepping away, no matter how awkward, will change our attitude.

In my scuba diving lessons, I always remind my students to always “Stop, Think and React” when they face with underwater difficulties like water-filled mask or out of air situation. No matter what our next step is, at times, we all need to remember to take a minute to stop, breathe and refocus.

At first, this can be awkward, but it gives our hearts time to remember what is important. Instead of letting our feelings be the driving force behind our next steps, we are choosing to focus on God. No situation or circumstance should dictate how we react. Our attitude is a decision that has the power to change the life we live. As life happens today, be aware of what attitude might come "naturally" to you, but remember the decision is yours.

Application:

1. After reading and reflecting 3 days QT on attitude, what is your plans for the next steps in changing your attitude?

2. As a parent/guardian, would you embrace an attitude of "unconditional love", "disciple" and "guidance" when interacting with those whom God have somehow (miraculously or not) placed under your care/guard?

[YKY 06/10/2021]

attitude - day 4
Day 4: 07/10/2021: Adopt a Servant Attitude
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Day 4. Adopt a Servant Attitude 07/10/2021. Thursday

https://www.esv.org/Philippians2:5-8
https://www.esv.org/Philipians2:14

I always remember our beloved Rev Dr Clement Chia teaching during my youth days. To always have a servant attitude whenever we are doing God’s ministry. Rev Chia adopted this attitude from the day he started as a theological student to now becoming the Principal at Singapore Bible College. One of his favourite song is “Make Me A Servant” which I saw him sang with tears and sincerity.

Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Philippians that we are to have the same attitude as Jesus. Really?!? Some days I struggle to not yell at my nephew and niece, let alone having an attitude like Jesus! Looking at Jesus’s life on earth, we might think He would have an attitude of superiority, demanding to be served and obeyed.

Instead, we see Him carrying an attitude of thankfulness, submission, and even obedience. He obeyed his parents, whom He created. He submitted to His purpose on earth, which He could have changed. He respected authority even though He placed them there. He deserved to have an attitude of superiority but chose one of servanthood. Jesus went beyond what was deserved and expected and chose to have an attitude of humility.

We too can go beyond what we think we deserve and definitely what society says is expected. A lifestyle of servanthood and obedience doesn’t come naturally and it’s definitely not easy. But sometimes the things that bring the most peace take the most work.

Application:

1. Let our life reflect Jesus through our attitude. Don’t settle for just a positive attitude. Learn to imitate Jesus, the one who is still serving and giving us life through grace. If you were to be honest, is your attitude self-serving, or is it coming from a lack of confidence? How can you move your attitude from one of being positive (or negative) to one of love and joy?

2. Let us have a correct attitude:

(a) Find the Root of Your Attitude: is it based on selfishness that turns sours quickly in our hands? Or God's Word?

(b) Take Control of Your Thoughts: choose to count the many things that you already have and give thanks. Do not take these for granted nor guaranteed to have.

(c) Don't sulk: Instead of sitting and sulk, try to talk things out or blaming others.

(d) Help Someone Else: life's not about you only. Look for ways to love and serve. When we reach out to others, God begins to work in our hearts to change our attitudes!

[YKY 07/10/2021]

attitude - day 5
Day 5: 08/10/2021: Attitude Transformed
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Day 5. Attitude Transformed 08/10/2021. Friday

https://www.esv.org/Ephesians4:22-24
https://www.esv.org/Romans12:2

Life carries on. When it does, if we have a negative attitude, we become defeated and angry. We blame others and begin to believe we are victims. If we have a positive attitude that is derived from Christ and all the good things that come from Him, we have joy and can grow, becoming stronger and more like Christ.

Now, this kind of positive attitude doesn't mean we are happy when we lose our job, it just means that we rely on God instead of ourselves to move forward. We can take on an attitude of love instead of revenge. We can look to the future with faith that God is in control. We have to be careful not to let our past experiences, people, stress, or fear determine our attitude. If we focus on our circumstances, it will eat us alive! If we focus on Jesus, He will renew who we are in Him.

Sometime late last year, I was tasked by my boss to reprimand one of our subordinates who had very bad working attitude. She delayed her submission of work and was talking to colleagues and superiors with bad manners. She is a fellow Christian and she being a lady, I asked God for wisdom on what type of approach to bring my message across to her. After we sat down, I told her that I'm talking to her in a position of brother-in-Christ and not of a superior. I let her do the talking first to understand her situations and the reasons for her bad working attitudes.

I told her that attitude is contagious and it is a choice. As whole department knows both of us are Christians, our attitudes in work reflect how they perceive our God. Towards the end of our conversation, I just had one question for her that day. I asked her: "Do you want our unbelieving colleagues to reject Jesus' salvation one day because they remembered her bad working attitude? We are representatives of Jesus in our department!" She had no reply but tears flowing from her eyes. Together we prayed and also the first time we prayed together so openly in the office. Many of our colleagues walked past when we prayed and saw her working attitudes being transformed. We saw God's work in our life.

If we want our attitudes to be transformed, we have to allow God's truth to always flow in our minds. Right attitudes can only be formed when we spend time letting Jesus change the way we think. As our thinking is changed, so is our heart. Over time, our attitude will begin to reflect Jesus. Our situations will no longer destroy us. Instead, we will be living with the attitude that God is in control and has entrusted us with situation in front of us. We can do all things with Him at our side, and we can do it with a godly attitude.

Application:

1. How do you need to start spending time with God? A good place to begin is by telling God what type of attitude you want Him to grow inside of you. Let God begin to renew your mind today. Your life will never be the same!

2. Evaluate: are we using affirming statements more than critical statements to change attitudes? Do you have rules and responsibilities in place to be sensors for good/bad attitudes? Do we regularly ask God to help to intervene to change attitudes?

[YKY 08/10/2021]

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2021 Devotion

Video Game & Cyber Addiction

video game & cyber addictionn - day 1
Day 1: 27/09/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Video Game & Cyber Addiction: Portraits & Definitions. 27/09/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS
R's parents got him a gaming system for his 15th birthday. All his friends enjoyed playing, and for a while it seemed like a harmless pastime. After a couple of months, however, R seemed to be obsessed with playing. He had always been a good student, but he missed homework assignments because he played games so long each night. And he began skipping meals because he was in the middle of "important games." When he and his parents got into a heated argument about this, he shouted at them, "You gave it to me. Don't you want me to enjoy it? I'm not hurting anybody!"

S has always been socially awkward, but he seemed to find a niche playing online games with kids around the world. At first, his parents were thrilled that he was connecting with people for a change, but then they began to find him playing all hours of the night. "That's when kids in Japan can play," he protested. Also, they found out he had been gambling on the games, and he had lost more than five hundred dollars. They had no idea where he had gotten that much money.

T was overweight, shy, and withdrawn. She had very few friends at school and she spent much of each day chatting with people she met through online social networks. She had posted a picture of her beautiful sister as her own, and some good-looking boys expressed interest in her.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
- A survey suggests that approximately 8% of teens show signs of behavioral addiction to video games.

- Many teens admit to skimping on chores and homework, lying about how much they play, showing poor performance in schoolwork, and struggling to cut back on video game playing without success.

- The warning signs for video game addiction include: (a) playing for increasing amounts of time (b) thinking about gaming during other activities gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression (c) lying to friends and family to conceal gaming (d) feeling irritable when trying to cut back on gaming

- Game addiction is defined as excessive and compulsive use of computer and videogames that results in social and/or emotional problems; despite these problems, the gamer is unable to control this excessive use.

- Pathological gamers play longer hours each day, experience relief from withdrawal symptoms when they play, experience cravings as they anticipate playing, and exhibit more than twice as much aggressive behavior as nonpathological gamers.

- Though statistics on computer and internet addiction are hard to determine, media usage of 8–18 year-olds has increased significantly in the past 10 years. In 1999 the average time of media use per day was 6 hours and 19 minutes; in 2009 it was 7 hours and 38 minutes, almost an entire adult workday.

- If you include multitasking between media modems, such as TV, music/ audio, computer, video games, newspaper, and movies, the total media exposure per day in 2009 was 10 hours and 45 minutes, an increase from 7 hours and 29 minutes in 1999.

Stay tuned for Day 2 on Assessment & Wise Counsel!

video game & cyber addictionn - day 2
Day 2: 28/09/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Video Game & Cyber Addiction: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 28/09/2021. Tuesday

Assessment Interview
1. What do you enjoy about video games or the computer?

2. How much time do you spend doing that each day?

3. How does your playing video games or using the internet affect your schoolwork and your family relationships?

4. What do your parents/friends think about the amount of time you spend at the computer?

5. Have you lied to them about it?

6. Have you tried to cut back? If so, what happened?

7. If you don't change your habits, what are some probable consequences for your future?

8. How can I help you?

WISE COUNSEL
On line gaming or compulsive computer use may not seem as dangerous as drugs or alcohol, but if there are no boundaries, over time lives can be ruined by these behaviours.

Children who play or go online several hours a day have little time to build friendships, complete homework, or enjoy sports. Psychologists report that these behaviors can result in twenty-one-years-olds with the emotional intelligence of twelve-year-olds.

Many teens who struggle with addiction to computer games or online sites have poor self-esteem and difficulties in relationships. A family history of addiction may also be a contributing factor.

Methods used for recovery from addictions to video games and social networking sites fall between abstinence used for drug addictions and moderation used for food addictions. Most addicted teens will continue to use computers but they need to scale back their use, possibly eliminating their involvement in gaming, social networks, or other sites that have caused problems in the past.

Parents who are concerned their teen may be addicted to video games or compulsive online behaviour shouldn't dismiss a child's behavior as "just a phase." They need to keep careful records, including:

- logs of when and how long the teen is involved in these behaviours

- problems (relationships, homework, chores, lying, stealing) resulting from the activity

- reaction of the teen to time limits

Parents need to be informed about the common signs of addiction related to gaming and online behavior. They include the following:

- Mood modification: seeking the feelings of euphoria, excitement, or relief

- Tolerance: needing more and more of the behavior to get the same feeling of excitement or relief

- Withdrawal: irritability and/or physical effects that occur when the behavior is suddenly reduced or discontinued

- Relapse: after a commitment to quit or cut back on the behaviour, the addict soon goes back to previous patterns of behaviour

- Deception: lying to cover up excessive use, loss of money, secret relationships, or stealing

- Complications: preoccupation with the behaviour causes lower achievement in school, conflicts at home, and withdrawal from normal activities

- Isolation: withdrawing to the world of games, social networking sites, or other online behaviour and failing to connect with real people withdrawal becomes self-perpetuating because loneliness is one of the strongest predictors of game addiction among online gamers.

- Anger and hostility: withdrawal and conflict create anger but limit conflict resolution skills

Parents can acknowledge the attraction of video games, social networking sites, and other online attractions without condoning addictive behaviours. Open lines of communication. Ask questions, and listen without demanding change instantaneously. In the context of honest dialogue and understanding, parents can share their concerns and discuss

reasonable limits. If the addict resists or refuses to limit the time spent in games or online, it's an indication that there is a real problem.

Stay tuned for Day 3 on Action Steps!

video game & cyber addictionn - day 3
Day 3: 29/09/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. Video Game & Cyber Addiction: Action Steps. 29/09/2021. Wednesday

1. Understand the Problem

Video games and computer use are not inherently bad for you; it's the amount of time and energy you devote to their use that can be detrimental. If playing video games and using the computer are negatively affecting your attendance or grades at school or your relationships with friends, family, teachers, or coaches, you have a problem. The first step toward a solution is admitting that you need help.

2. Be Accountable

Sign a contract with your counsel or, parent, CG people or friend who will help you stop your overuse of video games and the internet and hold you accountable.

3. Replace the Behaviour with Other Activities

Explore possible options for becoming involved in activities outside of the home, such as sports, youth group, music lessons, or art.

Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic/endemic and are faced with ever-changing restrictions of movement of various sorts, there are still "windows" and "door" of opportunities for these activities to happen, however the virus mutates.

Ask your parents / church group to help you find and get involved with activities that fit your personality and perspective on life.

4. Seek Professional Help

A professional counselor will help you deal with all aspects of your addictive behaviour, including obsessive thinking, self-concept issues, compulsive behaviours, and establishing limits and consequences.

Stay tuned for Day 4 on Scripture & Sample Prayer!

video game & cyber addictionn - day 4
Day 4: 30/09/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 4. Video Game & Cyber Addiction: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 30/09/2021. Thursday

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5: 16-17 NASB

Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors are serious problems. They thrive on empty promises that these things will bring relief from the concerns of life and give us the thrills we crave, but they leave us feeling ashamed, empty, and lonely. We can't shake obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours on our own; we need the power of God's Spirit, the truth of God's Word, and the encouragement of God's family to help us take steps forward every day.

"Everything is permissible for me" –but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me" –but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Paul demonstrates clearly that being allowed to do something does not mean it will benefit us. It is not against the law or sinful to play video games or use the computer. However, spending too much time connected to any behaviour can breed addiction and mastery—and being mastered by anything other than God and His will for our lives leads only to destruction.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Escape and thrills seem attractive, but they aren't God's plan for us. He wants us to enjoy life to the fullest, but that involves strong healthy relationships and obedience to His calling. We need to say no to those thing, that take us down the wrong path, and we need to say yes to God and His purpose for our lives.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Ephesians 5: 15-17

Every addict will tell you that the behaviour seemed like a good idea at the start. Sooner or later, though, many addicts come to their senses and realize how foolish they've been. At that moment of repentance, they need someone to extend a hand of grace and truth to help them learn to live according to God's will.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the breath You have given us today. Give my young friend wisdom in discerning how to best use his/her time and the role that technology plays in that. We are so grateful, LORD, that You care about the details of his/her life, even things like video games and online social networks. Show him/her how to use these resources wisely and in a way that would honor You—and maybe to avoid using them for a while to be free of the hold they have on him/her. Technology can be a gift from You if we use it wisely, but, LORD, You are the only One who can truly satisfy. Set our eyes today on the things that really matter. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Culture & Media Influence

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 1
Day 1: 20/09/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Culture & Media Influence: Portraits & Definitions. 20/09/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS
- Fashion, boys, and technology-that's what defines AAA's life. A cheerleader at her high school and a smart student, AAA makes friends easily. But with each passing day, she seems to slip farther away than ever from her parents. When she is at home, AAA is usually on the sofa watching TV or on the computer chatting with her friends. "How did it come to this?" AAA's father asks. "It seems like just yesterday I was giving her piggyback rides, and now she doesn't even want to talk to me".

- "Mum, you have to buy me one ... pleeease?" BBB pleaded. Finally, mum gave in to her son's pleadings and bought him a latest electronic device for his twelfth birthday, hoping that it would help him be responsible. Now it seems like the earbuds live in BBB's ears. He listens nonstop to playlists. The other day when mum saw the device on the floor and picked it up, she was shocked at the vulgar song titles on AAA's playlist.

- "I wish I could come, but Thursday night is our family night" CCC told her friends. "Dad makes breakfast for dinner, and we pull out all the games—five stones, yay-yay, 斗兽棋. It's a blast". Although CCC's friends couldn't quite understand what could be so fun about hanging out with her family, they kind of wondered if they were missing out on something. CCC talked about it as though she actually enjoyed spending time with her parents.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
- Culture can be defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, and practices that characterizes a specific group of people. Across the world, there are many distinct cultures, influenced by ethnicity, geography, economic level, and religious beliefs. In many places, countless subcultures exist.

- An expression of culture, media is communication designed to reach masses of people. Whether in the form of newspapers, radio, television, internet, or advertising, media floods into our lives from every direction. With new technological discoveries, the sea of communication is growing larger every day.

- Of specific interest to today's teen is social media—any media form used to connect with other people. Social media is especially popular among because it provides instant gratification and the illusion of connectedness.

- Consider the many ways our younger generation are exposed to media every day, almost constantly hearing, seeing, or experiencing some form, including television, radio, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, email, billboards, movies, MP3 players, hundreds of channels of cable TV, music playlists, cell phones, laptops, wireless internet service, HD television, HD radio, playing anyone of thousands of realistic video games on a laptop or phone, video game systems, DVD players mounted in multiple locations in vehicles ... and the list goes on!

- Media is an integral part of our culture and lives, and it's important to realize that, in and of itself, media is not evil. Media is simply a tool that has changed how we all live. For many of us whether young or old, media in the form of music playlists, cell phones, internet, and social networking so consumes their lives that they can lose sight of what life is intended to be.

- As media infuses every aspect of our daily lives, it sets up two polarities we all tend to bounce between: watching and doing. When we are watching, we are so interested in a medium that we spend much of our time watching other people live life. When we are doing, we are able to set healthy boundaries to keep media from controlling our lives, and therefore have more time and energy to be actively involved in doing life.

- Teens are especially vulnerable to being swept up in all over consumption of media. After all, various forms of media are readily available and hip. Becoming preoccupied with the images and messages of media sap the creativity from young minds as well as disconnecting teens from the most important relationships in their lives—family, friends, siblings, youth group. We were created for relationships, and no social media—no matter how advanced—can replace the need for spending time with others.

Stay tuned for Day 2 on Assessment and Wise Counsel!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 2
Day 2: 21/09/2021: Assessments & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Culture & Media Influence: Assessments & Wise Counsel. 21/09/2021. Tuesday

ASSESSMENTS
The following questions will help you assess the quality and quantity of time the teen spends with his family.

1. When was the last time you had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with a family member or friend? How often does this happen?

2. Describe your typical family breakfasts and dinners. Where do they take place? Is the television on? Anyone touches or uses his/her handphone, even for a few seconds at a time?

3. What goes on in your home on a typical night? How much are people engaged in watching television, listening to music, or searching the internet? Is there conversation among family members? Is it mostly pleasant or unpleasant?

4. Do you ever play board games or sports with your parents and siblings? If not, do you wish your family played together?

5. Do your parents discuss your use of technology with you? What do they think about it? How does this make you feel?

6. Do you discuss movies, music, or the news with your parents? How do their views influence your choices of media?

7. What are limits you and your parents have set for the use of technology, the amount of time watching television, and the types of movies you will watch? How do your parents enforce these limits?

8. How much time do you spend each day on social networking sites (such as Facebook or Instagram)? How much time do you spend each day in face-to-face conversation?

9. What relationships are most important to you—your family, friends, youth group, co-workers? How do you usually connect with these people?

10. Is God part of your conversations? Do your parents encourage your family to spend time together talking about spiritual things? How do you think you can use media in a way that honors God?

WISE COUNSEL
In a world overrun by technology, it's important to establish healthy boundaries in our use of media. Though modern technology promises to keep us informed and connected, it can easily become an idol and take over our lives. Like a car or any other human invention, media is not evil in and of itself, but it has tremendous influence in our daily lives. While having a healthy appreciation for the technology accessible to us in the twenty-first century, we must guard against becoming slaves to it.

"Trash in, trash out," the saying goes, and with regard to media, this is especially true. We know that, while we have access to all manner of media at our fingertips, not everything printed, recorded, or filmed is beneficial to our growth as Christians. King David vowed that he would set no evil thing before his eyes (Psa. 101:3), and we should make the same commitment. Guarding our eyes, ears, and minds from the pollution of the world is by no means an easy task, and discernment is definitely needed if we are to live in but not be part of this world (John 17:15).

Used in a God-honoring way, media can be a tool that helps us connect with and encourage other people, as well as a way to share God's truth with a large audience. Media is powerful—it can put us in instant communication with hundreds, and potentially thousands, of people. So we must be careful. When we use media to communicate with others, we need to stop and ask, What am I communicating?

While social networking is easy and convenient, deep, life-changing relationships are not developed in front of a computer screen or through a handphone. Encourage teens to schedule hangout time on a regular basis with the people they really care about-friends, youth group members, co-workers, and, yes, family too. Teens who rely solely on connecting through technology might find their relationships shallow and unsatisfying.

Even in the pandemic today, there is always opportunity to meet up over a meal, be it two to a table, or five in a restaurant, as the situation involves. The real question is DO YOU have the heart to meet up and connect with others?

Counsel teens to look for ways to use media to help them deepen their walk with God. They can listen to uplifting music and sermons on their device, use online Bible study resources, text their friends and ask how to pray for them, and post encouraging Scriptures and quotes on their Facebook page. The possibilities are endless!

All of us need down time to rest our minds and take a break from the fast pace of life. Our culture puts forth media as the way to relax—whether it's TV, movies, or computer games. Media entertainment can be easily enticing. It captures our attention, helps us de-stress, and makes us feel like we're part of something bigger than our own living room.

However, passive entertainment can never replace active experience. In the long run, active experience is critical to a healthy, well-balanced life.

See Chart for the differences between Passive Entertainment & Active Experience:
watching / doing
leisure (no sweating) / energetic (sweating likely)
no discipline required / discipline required
no health benefit / some health benefit
done mostly alone / done with others
no teamwork required / teamwork may be required
tendency to self-focus / tendency to focus on others
connecting with media images / connecting with real people
empty feeling afterward / energized feeling afterward

Stay tuned for Day 3 on Action Steps!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 3
Day 3: 22/09/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. Culture & Media Influence: Action Steps. 22/09/2021. Wednesday

ACTION STEPS

1. Talk with Your Children about the Media being Used
Many adults need to learn about technology, and children can help parents understand why you enjoy being part of a "plugged in" culture. Be willing to show them the websites you access, especially social networking sites, and various types of technology. Listen to one another's viewpoints, especially when parents are concerned that media and technology may be interfering with your face-to-face relationships.

2. Become a Student of Entertainment
One of the biggest problems with many forms of screened entertainment is that viewers become completely passive, not reflecting on the message at all. Be prepared to talk with your family about films and TV programs you see. Discuss the message of the film and its meaning for you.

Listen to the views of others. Try to understand the reasons why the other person(s) interpret the message differently than you do.

3. Try a Media-Free Experiment
If you struggle with over-using media, try taking a week off from its use. This won't be easy, but taking a break will help you develop healthier media habits. Don't sign on to FB, IG etc during this time. Use your free time to be with God and to hang out with your friends face-to- face as far as the COVID-19 regulations allow/safe to do so, rather than chatting through a computer screen.

Choose not to watch TV. Make plans ahead of time to do other things during the times you would normally watch TV. You might use those hours to help and encourage someone else.

If you try not to use any electronic media at all, challenge yourself to spend time reading books, playing games, or talking with your family.

4. Respect Parents' Decisions about Censorship
While you are living at home, your parents have the responsibility to provide leadership in important decisions. It's entirely appropriate for them to have a list, or perhaps a category rating, of movies, TV shows, and video games that are off-limits in your home.

If children don't agree with their decision, discuss it with the parents respectfully and explain the reasons for how you feel. But then accept their decision. The children's time would eventually come when they manage their own families—it'll come as a shock—that you would most probably talk in similar ways to raise your own children along the tested "ancient paths" of God's ways.

5. Make Pleasing God Your Goal
The world of media can easily cultivate a selfish mindset. As you make decisions about media use, whether it's movies, TV, music, or internet, ask yourself one simple question: Does this media please God? Rather than making your decisions about media based on peer pressure or the goal of having fun, learn to approach media with the desire of glorifying God, not indulging your flesh.

Stay tuned for Day 4 on Scriptures!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 4
Day 4: 23/09/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 4. Culture & Media Influence: Scripture & SAMPLE PRAYER. 23/09/2021. Thursday

SCRIPTURE
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17

We live in an entertainment-drenched culture, and it's very easy for both teens and their parents to become passive and let this electronic world consume and control them.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1Corinthians 9:19-23

God has given us enormous freedom to make choices, but He wants us to use our freedom in positive and constructive ways. When we spend our time, energies, and passions on worthless things, we don't have much left for God.

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

Except for pornography and other harmful sites, most of what is available online, on a phone, on TV, or at the movies isn't necessarily evil, but it can easily become a distraction from what's most important: God, other people, and God's purposes for us.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Father, we live hectic, chaotic lives, and sometimes we don't depend enough quality time with the most important of our relationships—You, family and the church community which you have specifically called us to belong to. God, help this family set aside ample time to eat meals together, support each other, enjoy fun activities, and have family devotions. May they reflect Your hear, Your character, and Your purposes ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Overcoming Spiritual Doubt

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 1
Day 1: 13/09/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Overcoming Spiritual Doubt. 13/09/2021. Monday

For week 37, we examine something that new and old believers might encounter once in a while—spiritual doubt.

PORTRAITS
Brother A grew up in a strong Christian family. From the time he was a baby, his parents took him to church. In JC studying biology and history, he began to ask questions about creation and evolution, and he was fascinated with the Protestant Reformation. He asked his parents about evolution, but they barked back that he just needed to trust God and not fill his head with those "lies" his teacher was telling him. Their response, though, didn't answer his questions. Gradually his doubts grew, and by the time he was in tertiary, he had abandoned the faith.

Sister B trusted in Jesus at youth camp. Her youth pastor and her parents were thrilled. A few weeks later, however, she realized that she still struggled with the same fears she had endured before that night at camp. She had assumed they would go away, and for a while they did. But then they came back stronger than ever. I must not really be a Christian, she assumed. But she didn't want to tell anybody. Several months later her doubts overwhelmed her, and she told a friend that she was now sure she had never trusted in Jesus at all.

Brother C had attended his church's youth group and he was a regular in a Christian group that was part of his tertiary basketball team. Everybody looked up to him as a shining example of a fine young man of faith. When his parents announced they were getting a divorce, Brother C's world crumbled. "Why did God let this happen?" he growled at his pastor. "Couldn't He have stopped it?" Gradually his anger turned to bitterness—at his parents, at himself, and at God.

DEFINITIONS
Doubt is a fundamental distrust, fear, or lack of confidence in personal belief. Questioning one's beliefs is a healthy part of the growing-up process, but for many teens, fear of being judged keeps them from actually asking the hard questions. Yet asking hard questions—of parents, of friends, of faith—is an important part of coming to own one's faith.

The questions of faith are an integral part of the adolescent search for identity. The normal teen tendency to question her parents' authority and beliefs leads her also to question what she's been taught about faith. For many this questioning is soon resolved by good teaching and patient listening, but for some, unanswered (or poorly answered) questions can erode their faith.

There's nothing wrong with teens asking hard questions about the character of God, the authority of the Bible, and the meaning of faith. Adults who are threatened by these questions drive teens away from the faith. Instead, we need to validate their questions, avoid simplistic answers, value them for their courage and interest, and enter the process of discovery with them.

See you for Day 2, Assessment and Wise Counsel!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 2
Day 2: 14/09/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Overcoming Spiritual Doubt: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 14/09/2021. Tuesday

You can ask these questions as entry points to help.

ASSESSMENT
1. Tell me how you're thinking and feeling about God these days.

2. Has there been a time when you felt your faith was strong? If so, tell me about that time in your life.

3. When did your doubts begin to surface?

4. Was there any particular event in your family, difficult questions at school, or disappointments that caused you to doubt God's goodness or even His existence?

5. Do you have concerns about your security as a believer? Do you wonder if you've done enough to go to heaven?

6. Have you tried to talk to your parents or youth pastor about your questions, fears, and doubts? If so, how did it go?

7. If you could identify your chief question or doubt, what would it be?

8. Do you expect God to answer all of your questions so that you never doubt Him or His purposes?

9. How can I help you today?

WISE COUNSEL
Adolescents are on a search: for truth, for where they fit in, for their purpose in life, for people they can trust, and for real answers about God. If they believe the authorities in their life—mainly parents, teachers, and pastors—feel threatened by their questions, they are more likely to turn to others who will validate their search. Instead, we need to affirm their search, affirm them for having the courage to ask hard questions, and support them all along their journey.

In many cases, teens simply want to feel that someone cares enough to listen. They need to vent their frustrations, fears, and doubts. If we respond by being threatened and demand they just trust God, we shut them off from truth, from God, and from future conversations with us. But if they feel that we are really listening, they relax and may enter into genuine dialogue. And then they can learn whatever we feel they need to know.

Questions Are Normal
The adage is true: "People don't care what you know until they know that you care." No matter how flaky the questions, no matter how defiant the anger, and no matter how convoluted the teen's thinking pattern may be, build a relationship of love, honesty, and respect. In many cases, that's what they were looking for, anyway.

Some adults have harbored secret doubts for years but haven't had the courage or the opportunity to resolve them. All of us have questions, and none has all the answers to life's deepest problems. If we're honest with ourselves, we may be completely convinced that God is sovereign, good, and strong, but the intricacies of His will remain, to some degree, a mystery to all of us.

Sometimes teens are struggling with spiritual doubt because they believe wrong theology. They may have heard that God demands they never sin, so they quickly realize they can't meet that standard. They may think they have to beat themselves up when they sin to prove they are repentant. In many cases, opening the Bible and showing people the truth of Gods Word about the grace, love, and forgiveness of God will help dissolve the doubts.

What Are They Asking?
It's important to explore adolescents' thoughts and emotions to determine the cause and nature of spiritual struggles. Sometimes the issue is primarily theological, sometimes it's an ethical challenge, and often teens are simply trying to reconcile what they've been taught with the realities they see in their family, at school, and in the world. Make sure you are answering the question they are really asking.

Naturally many teens and adults ask questions about God when their world gets turned upside down by a tragedy or disappointment. A death, divorce, failure, or betrayal can cause them to conclude that God doesn't care or isn't powerful enough to protect them. The "problem of pain" isn't easily answered, but it's important to let people wrestle with these issues. Our encouragement during these times is more important than the wisdom of our words.

Some questions are far more difficult. Job wanted to ask God why He allowed him to experience such loss. God answered, but not in the way Job expected. Many students want to reconcile the teaching of creation in the Bible with their biology and geology textbooks. If we tell them, "Just believe", we cut off some of the most wonderful conversations we can have with them. A far better answer is, "Let's look at that together". There are many excellent resources on issues of creation, ethics, the problem of pain, and other important topics. Encourage teens to read, study, and talk with you about them.

Christ's Grace When We Question
You can't give what you don't have. Any teen struggling with doubt needs to see the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, first and foremost in you, the counselor. The teen needs to know that Jesus invites honest questioning, and promises that He will reveal Himself to those who seek Him. Especially because many churches tend to discourage questioning, it is essential that the teen realize that doubting is not a sin. To blindly hold beliefs without knowing why has unstable foundations.

Stay tuned for Day 3: Action Steps!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 3
Day 3: 15/09/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. Overcoming Spiritual Doubt: Action Steps. 15/09/2021. Wednesday

1. Be Honest about Your Beliefs
Be honest about your belief in God. Many people believe there is a God in heaven but doubt whether He can really help them in their daily life struggles. Do you believe God exists? If so, do you believe He is powerful enough to be there for you when you are hurting, when a friend betrays you, when a trusted adult lets you down, when you're struggling in school, when life doesn't seem fair, when you are fighting with your parents?

Make a list of things you believe about God. How do you view Him? Is He judgmental, always looking down to see whether you are doing right or wrong? Is He ready to slap your wrist or punish you for being bad, or is He compassionate and loving and with you no matter what you're going through?

2. Talk to a Trusted Pastor or Bible Teacher
Once you have journaled about your beliefs, take your ideas to somebody you trust who can help you correct any false ideas you have about God. Doubts are important. In fact Henry David Thoreau once said, "Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe." Doubting leads to questions that lead to foundational answers that will help you build your faith. Find somebody to disciple you and help you find answers to your questions.

3. Surround Yourself with Faithful Christians
While it's important to talk with a pastor or Bible teacher, you should also talk over your struggles and doubts with your peers, who will probably better understand where you're coming from. Friends in your church and youth group may have also struggled with doubt and they may have insights that will help you.

4. Read the Word
Reading your Bible is a great way to find and renew your faith.

5. Take Your Doubts to God
Ask God to help you with your doubts. Jesus said, "Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:24). As soon as He said this, the father of a boy who was possessed said to Jesus, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (v. 25). Seek God and ask Him to help you overcome your unbelief. He will.

Stay tuned for Day 4, Scripture and Sample Prayer!

overcoming spiritual doubt - day 4
Day 4: 16/09/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 4. Overcoming Spiritual Doubt: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 16/09/2021. Thursday

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:5-8

From time to time, all of us hit a brick wall spiritually. We don't know where God is and we don't know the path we should take. When this happens, we can turn to God for direction, trusting Him to lead us—in His way and in His time—but we have to stand firm in our faith and know that God has not disappeared even though it may feel as though He has.

Immediately the boys father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Throughout the Scriptures, we see people wrestling with doubt and faith. God never condemns anyone for asking hard questions. He invites those who doubt, like this father or Thomas or us, to engage Him with our deepest, hardest questions. He can handle any of them and He will lead us to trust Him even more.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29: 13

God promises us that our search for truth will eventually lead us to Him. We may not have all our questions answered, but we can rest in the fact that God understands even when we don't.

Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20

In Abraham's long wait for God to provide the promised son, he doubted from time to time. In the end, his life was a pattern of tenacious trust in God's goodness, His plan, and His ultimate provision. In the same way, alot of us experience doubts. As we trust in God instead of turning away, we'll find Him faithful.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Lord Jesus, You welcome our questions and You aren't intimidated by our doubts. We are grateful that when we come under your protection, there is no condemnation. Your unconditional love sets us free! I pray that You will give my friend Bro/Sis ___ wisdom to seek out Your truth in the midst of confusion. Give courage to grapple with the hard questions and study Your Word. Even when we don't understand, we can rest in knowing that You will never leave us or forsake us, even when we doubt ...in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Mental Disorders in the Family

mental disorder in the family day 1
Day 1: 06/09/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Mental Disorder in the Family: Portraits. 06/09/2021. Monday

For week 36, we want to understand more about mental disorder in the family, especially for those of us who are newbies to this. We can then pray, sympathize and refer intelligently/appropriately.

PORTRAITS
AZ was a vigorous, energetic woman who loved to help at the local shelter. But every so often she'd stop her volunteer work and not leave her house for weeks. At other times, she'd hang out at the shelter for days, often not leaving to sleep, being very gregarious and giving away a lot of cash.

BZ works in a plastic manufacturing company and recently he went into a rage. His co-workers described his bizarre behavior to a manager. One person reported, "He seems crazy, angry, and talking wildly."

No one at church knew exactly why CZ seemed so odd. He'd been a star basketball player in college and he'd graduated with honors from law school and joined a good firm. But now he was unemployed, supported by his wife and son. People at church thought he had damaged his brain with drugs, because he stared into the air. But his fall from success was not of his own doing.

DZ did everything to extremes. She was dramatic, loving, and enthusiastic some of the time. Then she'd become angry, obnoxious, and belligerent. Her family left her. She had held a lot of different jobs and attended a lot of different churches. She was known among the local pastors as a troublemaker.

EZ was shy and reclusive. He worked with computers and rarely spoke in Sunday school class. When he did speak, he would voice bizarre opinions about numerological schemes in some religious books and predictions of the exact time of the end of the world.

DEFINITIONS
A mental disorder is characterized by thoughts and behaviours that cause individuals to experience extreme problems in functioning in significant areas of their lives-relationships, employment, education, financial well-being, even spirituality.

Mental disorders are not short-term but they are also not necessarily permanent. By definition, mental problems must endure for a certain minimum period of time before a mental disorder can be diagnosed. Most mental disorders resolve after treatment with counseling, medication, or simply the passing of time. Other mental disorders are lifelong and cause ongoing problems for those afflicted with them and for their families.

If someone has a mental disorder, he is not simply "odd." Labels of mental disorder ought never to be applied without a professional assessment. Mental disorders are, by definition, serious and sometimes lifelong disturbances. Some common types of mental disorders are psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.

Psychotic disorders are those that result in bizarre, paranoid, or delusional thinking. The most common one is schizophrenia. Individuals with psychotic illnesses manifest the symptoms most often thought of as "crazy"—seeing or hearing things that aren't there, making bizarre connections between unrelated events, or showing grossly inappropriate responses to ordinary occurrences.

Mood disorders are those that primarily affect a personal emotional stability. The most common are depression and bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression). Individuals afflicted with depression feel discouraged and hopeless almost every day, have lost interest in activities in which they used to take pleasure, and sometimes consider or attempt suicide. Those with bipolar disorder exhibit cycles of wildly changing emotions and behaviours.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by extreme nervousness, panic, or phobias. Persons suffering from anxiety disorders cannot calm down, feel panicky much of the time, and have physical symptoms of constant nervousness. Those with post-traumatic stress may experience flashbacks of trauma and may react to loud noises or other reminders of the precipitating event.

Personality disorders are disturbances in thinking and behaviour that are a part of a persons basic character or way of understanding and acting in the world. They result in lifelong patterns of counterproductive thinking and behavior. Unlike the above mental disorders, personality disorders do not often respond to medications or short-term therapy.

There are many other disorders, and disorders associated only with children, but there is not enough space here to deal with them all.

In a church, mental disorders most often become apparent in relationships. Some people who are active in church may have difficulty tolerating the opinions of others, getting along on committees, or accepting limits. Others may be on the periphery of the church—perhaps a churchgoer's spouse or child who is often the subject of prayer requests.

Misdiagnosis and improper treatments are far too common and many hurting people suffer needlessly. The failure to understand the multiple reasons people suffer—including the distinction between sin, mental disturbance, and demonic influence—has significant consequences. Some people are only confessing sin when they should be taking medication; others are blaming an illness when they should be confessing their sin.

There are huge differences between mental disorder, sin, and demonic influence. Sometimes any one or all three kinds of problems may exist. Often well-meaning Christians confuse and misdiagnose issues due to their own biases and beliefs, with real harm done to the sufferer. Treatment must take place after a thorough assessment and careful diagnosis.

Christians must also understand that throughout the Scriptures, physicians, balms, salves, and other medicines were used. The church and mental health professionals must value the contribution each can make and work together to relieve human suffering.

Stay tuned for Day 2—Assessment interview & Wise Counsel.

mental disorder in the family day 2
Day 2: 07/09/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Mental Disorder in the Family: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 07/09/2021. Tuesday

Assessment
Don't confuse a brief crisis due to extreme circumstances with a mental disorder. Don't jump to conclusions or place labels on people. A person's response to an extended period of loss or stress does not necessarily translate to having a diagnosable mental disorder.

Some people with mental disorders struggle for just a short time. Others are able to live nearly normal lives with regular medication and supportive counseling. Some will suffer from constant emotional and behavioural chaos, inability to maintain relationships or jobs, and difficulties with the law and with substance abuse.

People's responses to medications vary widely, and some disorders (such as bipolar disorder) cause symptoms that make afflicted individuals unlikely to stay on medication.

With some forms of mental disorder, there is the risk of violence due to severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, or aggression. Ask the rule-out questions below to assess for the potential for violence. All the questions are directed toward the family member or concerned friend of a mentally ill person, but they could also be asked directly.

Rule Outs
1. Has your family member ever been violent? Does he [she] have access to weapons? Has he [she] ever expressed feeling threatened? Who could be endangered if this person becomes violent?

2. Does your family member seem despondent or hopeless? Has he [she] ever attempted suicide? If so, seek immediate professional assistance.

3. Has this individual ever been convicted of a crime? If so, what crime and when?

General Questions
1. Has anyone in this person's family ever been under the care of a psychiatrist or admitted to a psychiatric hospital? If so, what reason was given? Are you aware of a diagnosis?

2. What makes you think that this person has a mental disorder? Describe the history of this persons troubled behaviour and his or her most significant relationships. (Unstable relationships—or a lack of personal relationships—may be an indicator of underlying mental problems.)

3. Does this person ever speak in bizarre ways? Does this person express fear that people are "after" him [her]? Does this person describe hearing or seeing things that are not there? (These questions ask about symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia.)

4. Does this person show strong and rapidly changing cycles of emotions or behaviours? Does he [she] ever go for long periods with little sleep? Does he [she] ever spend a lot of money recklessly, act out sexually, or act grandiose and above the law? (These questions are associated with bipolar disorder.)

WISE COUNSEL
Though only a small percentage of persons with mental disorder become violent, you should still be vigilant for the risk of violence, even while remembering that violence is rare.

Never risk yourself, your family, or your congregation members by naively thinking that violence will not occur. If a situation is escalating, it is better to call for help than to overlook the potential of violence.

People who are paranoid believe that others are working against them, perhaps in an elaborate, conspiratorial plot, and can feel threatened enough to strike out at others. Mania—feeling grandiose and on top of the world—can also breed violence when the manic individual is angry.

Police and paramedics are more trained to assess the situation and to bring to local emergency rooms people who are exhibiting signs of mental problems. At the emergency room, medical professionals should be available to assess the individual and decide on a course of action. You can help by conveying your concerns to the police or paramedics.

Stay tuned for Day 3—Action Steps!

mental disorder in the family day 3
Day 3: 08/09/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. Mental Disorder in the Family: Action Steps. 08/09/2021. Wednesday

Encourage the family member or concerned friend of a mentally ill person in the following Action Steps.

1. Lessen the Risks
If there is any risk of violence, get professionals involved immediately. Encourage him [her] to remove any weapons (knives and anything else sharp, ropes, scarves, sheets, or belts) and drugs from the home. If the person appears to be suicidal, try to observe him [her] until help arrives. If the person is expressing extreme anger or paranoia, get out of the way. Do not block the individual's exit. Instead, let him [her] leave and then call for help.

2. Get Professional Help
Talk with a professional if your loved one is:
- threatening violence
- causing financial hardship
- abusing substances
- participating in dangerous or destructive acts
- disappearing without explanation

3. Get Medical Help
The answer to the problem may lie in a drug that will help stabilize your loved one's disordered brain chemistry. Psychiatric treatment should always be considered in such cases, even if not always used.

4. Connect with Support Groups
There are many support groups for those who love persons with mental disorders. Refer to local mental health agencies.

5. Get Local and Practical Help
Local mental health agencies should have information about financial help, health insurance, supportive counseling, and other interventions that can aid persons with mental disorders and their families. Persons with chronic mental disorder who need ongoing help may benefit from programs such as day treatment or supportive living facilities.

6. Get Spiritual Help
God is for those with mental disorders. Be sure to be spiritually sensitive and unbiased in your love and care to them. Help the person with mental disorder understand his [her] need for Christ. Is he [she] a Christian? Does he [she] know the plan of salvation? Does he [she] understand what Jesus can do in his [her] life? (See John 1:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23.)

Pray for wisdom regarding your approach to helping the person with mental disorder. Does he [she] need advice, encouragement, education, correction, a support system, insight, confession, verbal reinforcement, modeling, or confrontation? Be very careful with a person wanting to quit his [her] medications and seek out a counselor's or pastor's help for a miraculous healing or demon deliverance.

7. Live in Peace
Do not blame the person with a mental disorder or get caught up in arguments with him [her]. The person is, indeed, ill, and your blaming him [her] is like blaming a patient for a heart attack.

Stay tuned for Day 4—Scripture and Sample Prayer!

mental disorder in the family day 4
Day 4: 09/09/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer.
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Day 4. Mental Disorder in the Family: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 09/09/2021. Thursday

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. 1 Samuel 16:14

King Saul, who reigned in Israel before David, displayed may classic characteristics of mental disorder, including wide mood swings and fits of depression and anger. A person can develop such debilitating emotional symptoms for many reasons. In this case, Scripture indicates that "a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled" Saul.

Saul's heart had turned from God, so God permitted affliction by a spirit of distress—possibly a demonic influence—to occur. Not all mental disorders are a result of demonic influence, but like any sickness or disease, the battle for our minds is a result of the fall and Satan's presence in this world.

That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. Daniel 4:33

We are spiritual beings, created by God and incomplete without Him. Also we are physical beings, and a physical disorder can lead to psychological or spiritual problems, and vice versa. Then too, we are psychological beings, meaning that each person has a mind, emotions, and a will. The interrelationships among these three realms in our humanity mean that specific problems may have many symptoms and causes behind them.

If believers face some form of an emotional problem, they should seek counsel from wise, well-trained, and qualified Christians who can treat them with a comprehensive approach. During such a time, other believers must surround the hurting brother or sister in prayer. God promises to help His people through even the most difficult times.

Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain mam from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. Luke 8:26-27

In the case of the man who lived in the tombs, his condition was caused by demon possession. Usually, however, mental disorder has other causes, such as genetics or hormonal imbalances. Such people need assurance of their worthiness before God, as well as Christian professional help. Jesus has the power to heal all kinds of afflictions.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

This classic text in Thessalonians reveals that Christians helping others is about much more than fighting the challenge of sin and includes those caring activities that are necessary for people who are not able to walk strongly by themselves, including those who suffer from disorders that are part of a sin-sick world.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Dear Lord, we are concerned about __. We have good reasons to be concerned, as there may be some kind of mental disorder involved here. Please lead us to those people who will be able to help this person, to offer resources, and to aid this person we love. Give Your people strength, patience, and rest ... in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Addiction & Substance Abuse

addiction & substance abuse day 1
Day 1: 30/08/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Addiction & Substance Abuse: Portraits & Definitions. 30/08/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS
Aachel was very active in the church, along with her family. Although she was not always reliable, she was eager to help. She attended church regularly-even attending more than one service on many occasions. One Sunday evening Aachel came in late. She was loud and obviously drunk. Her children were in tow and very embarrassed.

Bachel had always been famous for how many beers he could drink without feeling any effects. But something has changed. According to his wife, he's been drunk several times recently and has just been arrested for a "Driving Under the influence of alcohol" offence. His second one this year, and is likely to lose his driving licence.

Cachel was a single mother who loved the bingo games. No one thought much about it until a neighbour discovered her young children, including a toddler in diapers, home alone one night while Dawn was playing the cards at the bingo parlour.

DEFINITIONS
Substance abuse is the misuse and/or habitual use of a chemical substance for the purpose of changing (apparently trying to improve) one's mood or psychological state. Persons abuse substances to forget their pains or anxieties. Substance abuse often leads to substance dependence, commonly referred to as "addiction."

An addiction is a dependence on a substance (alcohol, prescription medicine, marijuana, or street drugs) or activity (gambling, shopping, Internet porn).

An addiction is a physical (as in alcohol or most other drugs) or psychological (as in gambling or shopping) compulsion to use a substance or activity to cope with everyday life. For example, without alcohol or access to a gambling palour, the addict does not feel "normal" and cannot function well.

Addiction is a repetitive behavior that is habitual and difficult or seemingly impossible to control. It leads to "related/consequential" activity that is designed solely to obtain the substance or access the behavior and to cover up its use—the housewife hiding bottles all over the house, the drug addict shoplifting to support the habit, the gambler committing CBT/embezzling to payoff debts. Refer to recent Straits Times reports, regarding even people that are in high/senior posts in big organisations.

Characterized by the defense mechanisms of denial, minimization, and blame-shifting, the addict blames his or her problems on someone else or some difficult situation—the boss is too difficult or the job is too stressful, the spouse isn't affectionate enough, the kids are disobedient, or the friends are too persuasive. The addict usually refuses to take responsibility and to admit to the seriousness of the problem.

Addiction is the bio-psycho-social dependence on a substance or a habitual behaviour—such as viewing Internet porn to sustain a sexual addiction. Over time the body and the brain need the substance or behavior in ever-increasing amounts to cope minimally and stave off the symptoms of withdrawal.

Non-drug or behavior addictions include compulsive overeating, gambling, sexual addiction such as to pornography, compulsive spending, and smoking (which includes aspects of both substance and behavior addiction).

Stay tuned for Day 2—Key Characteristics, Causes, Effects.

addiction & substance abuse day 2
Day 2: 31/08/2021: Characteristics, Causes & Effects
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Day 2. Addiction & Substance Abuse: Characteristics, Causes & Effects. 31/08/2021. Tuesday

Key Characteristics
Addiction or substance abuse is characterized by:
(1) pattern of out-of-control substance usage or behaviour for a year or more
(2) mood swings that are often present
(3) increasing usage or pattern of behaviour over time
(4) increasing feelings of shame or worthlessness
(5) a strong need to be liked or receive the approval of others
(6) impulse-control problems, especially concerning food, sex, drugs, or money
(7) the use of a substance or behavior to raise a depressed mood or to reduce anxiety
(8) obsessing about a certain substance or behavior
(9) increasing unmanageability of the addiction
(10) increasing guilt, shame, fear, and anger
(11) failed efforts to control the addiction
(12) negative consequences of the addiction suffered by self and others

Causes of Addiction

Emotional: Addicts are emotionally wounded, often having experienced severe trauma in childhood. One study of sex addicts found 81 percent to be sexually abused, 74 percent physically abused, and 97 percent emotionally abused.

Relational: Addictive behaviors are positively related to troublesome early life relationships. For adults, addiction causes stress in interpersonal relationships—especially marriage and family life—and leads to many social difficulties.

Physical: Addicts become physically dependent on their substances or behaviour of abuse, experiencing withdrawal without them.

Cognitive and Behavioral: Often addicts have illogical or irrational thoughts that cause them to forget their identity as children of God. Unrealistic expectations and reliance on quick and "magical" instantaneous solutions about themselves and others are also common.

Spiritual: At its core addiction is rebellion against God. In addition, whether it is drugs, alcohol, or sex, the addiction becomes a false idol to the addict. Giving up this reliant idolatry is one of the most difficult and long-term struggles for the addict.

Effects of Addiction

Unmanageability: For addicts, dependency on the addiction is out of their control. They need help to gain control.

Neuro-chemical Tolerance: God designed our bodies to adapt to what is presented. Therefore, as addicts experience tolerance, their bodies need increasing amounts of a chemical to procure the same effect.

Progression: Often an addiction becomes poly-addiction. Many addicts begin by simply experimenting——trying out a drug, going to a casino, taking a puff on a cigarette. However, because more of a chemical is needed to achieve an effect, the addict will increase addictive actions in strength or frequency, eventually shifting to combining and mixing various drugs and activities.

Feeling Avoidance: The addiction is used to improve the addict's emotional or psychological state—it is a way of avoiding feelings, such as loneliness, anxiety, anger, sorrow, or depression.

Negative Consequences: Estrangement from God, the manifestation of habitual sin, poor health issues, chronic pain, and social and interpersonal problems are all consequences common to addiction.

addiction & substance abuse day 3
Day 3: 01/09/2021: Assessment
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Day 3. Addiction & Substance Abuse: Assessment. 01/09/2021. Wednesday

Remember that a key characteristic of addiction is denial. The substance use is never an issue for the user. Breaking down this denial is part of your task in assessment (if it already seems clear that dependency exists).

When interacting with the user, focus on asking concrete questions about circumstances, events, and symptoms. If asked in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way, the person you are helping should respond fairly honestly. If speaking with a family member, re-frame these questions and ask them about the user.

Rule Outs
1. Has your use of this substance increased or decreased over the years? Has there ever been a time when you were free of using? (Tolerance, or the need for increasing amounts of the substance, is a key distinguishing factor between a substance abuse problem and dependency. You also want to assess strengths, including family strengths, and find reasons for current treatment reliance by finding out about past periods of freedom from the addiction.)

2. (If alcohol is the substance) Have you ever experienced a time when you did not remember what you did while drinking (you had a blackout)? Have you ever experienced anxiety, panic attacks, shakes, or hallucinations after not drinking for a while?

3. Have you ever been treated for an addiction or been in counseling for any other reason? (This is to assess severity and the success or failure of prior treatment, and to assess whether a mental disorder or dual disorder is at the root of these problems.)

4. Has anyone in your family ever been hurt by your using or said anything to you about your using? Is your spouse threatening to leave you? Are you in any legal trouble as a result of your using? (This is to asses, the need for family help, crisis intervention, or legal referral.)

General Questions
1. Has anyone ever suggested that your use of _ is a problem? If so, why do you think the person said that?

2. Have you ever been concerned about your use of _ ? If so, why? How about when happened? You don't think that _ is a problem? You wouldn't consider it a problem if you saw it in your best friend or your spouse?

3. How often do you use this substance and how much at each use? So in an average week you are using at least times and doing so to get high every time?

4. Do you ever try to hide your use from family members or friends? You mean if they were sitting here with us now, they would agree to knowing all about the number of times you use each week?

5. At what age did you first use _? Do you remember when you began using every week/weekend/day?

6. Have you ever done anything while under the influence of _ that you later regretted? Have you ever had a conviction or summons for driving under the influence? Have you ever been arrested for assault or for domestic abuse? Have the police ever shown up at your house to deal with your _-related behaviour, even if it didn't result in arrest?

7. Did anyone in your family of origin use a substance in excess while you were growing up? Who was that? What did this person do? Did he [she] ever get free of it? Do you remember how you felt when you saw this person using _?

8. Has your use of ever affected your job or your family? What happened? Are you under any current threats from your boss or spouse that, if you use again, there will be some action on his or her part against you?

9. Have you ever quit or tried to quit using? How long were you sober? What happened when you quit? How did you feel? How did your spouse/children/boss respond to you when you were sober? What would it take now to accomplish that again?

10. Do you want to quit for good? If "for good" seems too impossible to comprehend, how long are you willing to stay sober if you tried it again? Who could best help you stay sober if you gave it a try? What will/should happen if you relapse again?

11. How do you see your life improving if you can quit using _? How will things improve with your spouse/children/boss if you quit and clean up?

12. Is your faith or is God a resource to turn to for strength in this struggle? How has God helped you get and stay sober in the past?

Day tuned for Wise Counsel & Actions Steps on Day 4!

addiction & substance abuse day 4
Day 4: 02/09/2021: Wise Counsel & Action Steps
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Day 4. Addiction & Substance Abuse: Wise Counsel & Action Steps. 02/09/2021. Thursday

Safety is always a key issue in the family context. Try to find out if the user has been driving under the influence or has small children at home who might be endangered or who might be left in the car for any length of time. If so, take immediate steps to protect the user and others.

Try to speak with other family members who are old enough to understand about how to handle the user's behaviours. For example, family members must be taught to say no to car rides if the user will be driving and is under the influence, and they must call for help if the user is unable to supervise younger children.

If physical or sexual abuse occurs when the user is under the influence, encourage family members to leave the home immediately, going to a relative's home or to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Help them make contact or refer them to good and protective resources, starting with other family members.

If verbal abuse is an issue when the user is under the influence, encourage family members to seek counseling, especially counseling or groups for family members of addicts.

Interview the spouse to assess both challenging and enabling behaviour on his or her and the children's part. If any member of the family lies or engages in cover-up behavior, discuss alternative behaviors that are more honest and open to challenging the addict to get well.

ACTION STEPS
The following Action Steps are directed to the one who is helping others.

1. Arrange for a Contract and Accountability
Help the addict commit to some form of help and accountability, at the most serious level to which he or she will agree. If the client will sign a contract with you, agreeing to stop use and get immediate help for the addiction, he or she is serious about change. If not this, seek an agreement for a time-limited period, at least until your next meeting with the client. Help the person make a commitment to some type of Christian recovery program.

2. Prevent the User from Driving While Intoxicated
- To protect family members, the user, and innocent bystanders, you need to convince this person to stop driving or doing anything while under the influence.

- Anti theft devices prohibit driving, sophisticated electronic devices can prevent driving unless a Breathalyzer test is first passed.

- Point out that this is for the good of the client and others, and that continued use of the substance will cause repercussions in the rest of his or her life—not being able to drive to work or to go other places.

- Develop a plan with the one you are helping, restricting driving privileges the first time he or she drives under the influence (a responsible person in the counselee's life will take the keys to the vehicle of the counselee). It would be a good idea for the plan to be signed by both the counselor and the one being helped to enhance accountability and participation. This sets a clear boundary
regarding substance abuse and imitates what will happen if there is a booking for a drink-driving offence.

3. Assure a Thorough Medical Checkup
- A medical exam will rule out any medical problems caused by use of the substance.

- An addiction such as alcoholism in its late stages progresses to a diseased state, so treatment from a doctor is certainly recommended.

- A physician can also prescribe any medicine that may be helpful to sobriety, especially when a dual disorder is involved.

4. Get Professional Help
- Encourage the user to allow a professional in chemical dependency to assess whether the substance use is an addiction. Such assessments are available at community mental health agencies, some hospitals, and community substance abuse centres or other NGOs. A professional counselor can also be very helpful in assessing and treating an addiction, or a dual disorder, if one is present.

5. Encourage Family Members to Seek Support
- Your community may have various support groups, or a Christ-centred recovery program. You may need to do some research and direct the family to a credible and preferably Christ-centred program. These programs are based on the "Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous", probably the most successful program in the world to date for treating addiction.

Stay tuned for Scripture insights on Day 5!

addiction & substance abuse day 5
Day 5: 03/09/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 5. Addiction and Substance Abuse: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 03/09/2021. Friday

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them! Isaiah 5:11

Many alcoholics are so dependent on alcohol that they begin early in the morning and continue drinking until late at night. The tragedy of addiction is that it influences and dominates the desires and choices of the addicted. The even greater tragedy is that addicted people reject the Lord's work in their lives. God alone can provide the lasting comfort, joy, and relief that people mistakenly seek in alcohol.

And I said to her, "You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man-so, too, will I be toward you." Hosea 3:3

Addictions are powerful enemies to our relationship with God. Whether the addiction is to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, web-surfing, shopping, or whatever, addicted people can attest to their apparent inability to control their desires. Addictions usually begin very subtly—an experience, substance, or individual that brings pleasure begins to become an obsessive drive. Eventually, the obsession takes control. Rarely can a person escape the addiction without some form of intervention.

Addicts must determine to change and replace the addictive substance with meaningful intimacy. Addictions destroy individuals, families, friendships, reputations, and careers. Despite all this, God offers hope to the addict God wants to free His people from anything that takes His rightful place in their lives. He wants to show them that He can meet all their needs. With God's help and the compassionate accountability of other believers, addicts can be set free—bought back.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12

God gave people "richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17), but Satan works tirelessly to take God's blessings and twist them into evil. Believers may enjoy many things, as long as Scripture does not forbid them, but they must never allow themselves to be controlled or "brought under the power of any".

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3:5-6

These verses describe some of those sinful desires that believers should "put to death." Sexual sins, evil desires, and covetousness (a form of idolatry) should have no place in a believer's heart. It takes a conscious daily decision to say no to these sinful temptations and rely on the Holy Spirit's power to overcome them.

Read with the one you are helping: Ephesians 1:15-21; Colossians 1:9-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; and Titus 1:2.

Addicts need hope and encouragement to overcome their addiction and to know that Christ is stronger than what pulls them down. Have them memorize and recite passages of hope and strength in God, They will be able to remember these verses in the difficult times of temptation.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Dear Lord, thank You that _ has come here today to seek help for an addiction. Please help him [her] be open to considering that this might be a true addiction for which he [she] needs to get practical help. Lead us by Your Holy Spirit to the resources that will be most helpful and thank You for Your willingness to forgive even addiction ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Stress and Demands

stress and demands day 1
Day 1: 23/08/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Stress and Demands: Portraits and Definitions. 23/08/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS
IJK's colleagues were still talking to him in the morning about the topic of stress. But by afternoon, he clutched his hand near his heart and collapsed while standing in the midst of doing a job-related task.

LMN sat on the side of the hospital bed and buttoned his shirt. Yesterday he had been sure he was having a heart attack. His chest had been tight and he had struggled to breathe. But today, after many tests, his doctor had told him that his heart was fine. Nothing was physically wrong. "I think you're under a lot of stress," his doctor had told him and had recommended seeing a counselor.

OPQ has been through a lot lately. Her husband lost his job, and the bill collectors are beginning to call. In addition, her mom has been sick, her children have been having difficulty in school, and the water heater just died. OPQ feels she is "going nuts" and doesn't think she can handle one more crisis.

RST is trying to be a good student, but lately things have been tough. His mom and dad are getting leaving one another, his grades are slipping, he lost his place on the basketball team for missing too many practices, and has his final exams next week. RST feels completely overwhelmed and is tempted to just get in his car and drive-with no idea where he'd go.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
Stress is the common term for general adaptation syndrome (GAS), or the fight or flight syndrome. It is the body's natural response to threatening situations, which prepares us to fight or to flee-it arouses us and gives us the energy we need (the GAS needed) to resolve or remove ourselves from the stressor. Stress is a normal part of life and can be both negative and positive, alerting us to a problem or areas needing attention.

Stress is mostly negative when a person experiences it constantly, without relief or relaxation between challenges. Chronic stress is often a function of the constant negative appraisals a person makes about life, seeing things as more threatening than they really are.

Sometimes stress comes from a difficult life situation, but sometimes stress results from negative perceptions about life situations, such as worries about failure and perfectionist tendencies. It is critically important to help the person you are helping understand the difference between stressful events and perceived stress-your help will be different, depending on which kind of stress exists. Some personalities, often referred to as Type A, cause stress in themselves and in others. Some people may have extremely driven or perfectionist personalities or live or work with someone who does, thereby feeling the stress of the other person's drivenness.

Stress without relief can lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Stress can also affect a persons relationships adversely. And stress can affect the body, mind, and spirit. We must pay attention to each area to reduce the effects of stress on overall well-being.

If we do not learn to control stress, it will eventually control us. We need not be overwhelmed by stress.

Philippians 4:7 says, "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Stay tuned for Day 2: Assessment and Wise Counsel.

stress and demands day 2
Day 2: 24/08/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Stress and Demands: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 24/08/2021. Tuesday

ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS
1. What would you say are the stressors in your life right now? Is something or someone in your life causing you stress (for example, a stressful spouse or boss)? Or are you causing your own stress by being a perfectionist or trying to control situations over which you have no control?

2. What percentage of your total stress is being caused by each of these stressors? How long has each of these stressors been present?

3. Tell me about each stressor. (Get as many details as you can so you can begin to assess accurately how the person views these stressors.)

4. How realistic is the possibility of the things you're worried about actually happening? (For example, if the person is experiencing persistent fears of job loss, is this fear based in current reality?)

5. With whom do you talk about your stressors? (The impact of stress is greater if an individual feels that he or she is alone in handling it.) Are those people helpful to you?

6. Are you using other types of things to help you handle the stress (such as sports, drugs, alcohol or excessive television or computer use)? What has helped?

7. Where do you experience the least stress in your life? Is there any place where you do not experience stress?

8. Is change possible? Do you believe you are in control of changing these stressors? Is there anything you can think of that would reduce your stress level?

9. If not, what are some healthy ways you can think of to handle the stress you're currently under?

WISE COUNSEL
If the person is experiencing physical effects of the stress and hasn't seen a physician, encourage him or her to schedule an appointment to do so.

Are there immediate situational stressors that need attention, such as resolving a situation in the workplace or finding help needed for a problem with a child? Assess ways to provide a break from the stress. Suggest:

- exercise (with a doctor's review and permission)
- frequent breaks throughout the day to pray and meditate on a Bible verse
- sharing burdens with a trusted friend
- taking a vacation, even a day or two off can help

Because stress affects the mind, body, and spirit, it poses a triple threat. The person needs to protect all three aspects of life:

To protect one's mind: think truth, confess God's power over stressful events, refuse to make mountains out of molehills, refuse to see only bad things, and set priorities.

To protect one's body: increase your exercise regimen, get enough sleep, eat well, and breathe deeply.

To protect one's spirit: meditate on God and His Word, thank God for the good things in your life, learn to trust God more by confessing your lack of trust in stressful times, and pray without ceasing-use stressful thoughts as cues to switch into a prayer mode.

Stay tuned for Day 3: Actions Steps.

stress and demands day 3
Day 3: 25/08/2021: Action Steps
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Day 3. Stress and Demands: Action Steps. 25/08/2021. Wednesday

ACTIONS STEPS

1. Gain Perspective
Gain some perspective on what is causing the stress. "Break apart" the stress overload into manageable pieces, and begin to address each component.

2. Consider What God Is Doing
One of the best antidotes to stress is seeing God's purposes in the difficulties and believing that God intends some good outcome.

God may use certain situations to develop one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit in you. Knowing that God uses every situation-even the petty, irritating situations of life-to teach you to become more like Jesus can help you feel less stressed by things you cannot control.

3. Get Alone with God
Planned times of quiet and solitude are a good balance to a busy life. Cultivating a heart of prayer helps you see God's perspective and to more fully experience His presence throughout the day (Psa. 16:8-11).

Many use prayer as a way to change a stressful situation. Although this is not a bad idea, often prayer does not change the situation as much as it changes you and your orientation to stressful people and situations. As you purposely quiet your heart each day, the Holy Spirit has a chance to change the way you see your stressful situation.

4. Share Your Burden with Others
You can share your burden literally or figuratively. In other words, you can ask others to help with some of your responsibilities and you can talk about your stressors, which can bring relief and prayer support. Perhaps some of the stress is because you're doing too much. Even Moses had to delegate when he got overwhelmed (Exod. 18:13-23). Maybe you can do the same.

5. Guard Your Heart
Stress has a way of orienting us toward the things that are wrong in our lives. It pushes us to forget the good and godly things in our life and, instead, to see and believe that only bad things are going on.

Guard your heart and mind against such stress-induced negativity and pessimism. Take time each day to check your thinking and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), focusing on God and allowing him to change your perspective.

6. Live Intentionally
Stop majoring in minor things. At the end of life, many will realize that they spent most of their time on what mattered least, and the least time on what mattered most. Decide what is really important, choose your priorities, and live for them. Become more intentional about the way you spend your time and energy. Learn to say no to things that are just not that important.

7. Get Help (Respect Your Limits)
Often our lives become filled with stress because we refuse to accept our limits or we are completely boxed in and paralyzed by them. Feeling overwhelmed may be a reminder that you are not living within the limits and boundaries that God has created for you. It may be time to reevaluate, cut back, say no, or slow down. Even Moses was confronted by his father-in-law, Jethro, for doing more than he should have been doing (Exod. 18:17-18).

8. Laugh a Little (Laugh a Lot)
Allow for some lighter moments in your life. Take time for a comic strip, a favorite saying, a joke. From time to time, find something to laugh about for so long and so hard that your muscles get enough "exercise" laughing.

Stay tuned for Day 4: Scripture.

stress and demands day 4
Day 4: 26/08/2021: Scripture & Prayer
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Day 4. Stress and Demands: Scripture & Prayer. 26/08/2021. Thursday

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Jesus reminded His followers: "in the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). The prophet Isaiah wrote that God gives peace in spite of conflict and turmoil. Peace is so basic to God's nature that it is part of His name God the Father is the "God of peace" (Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20). God the Son is the Prince of Peace (Isa.9:6). The Holy Spirit produces peace in our lives (Gal. 5:22). To have "perfect peace," wrote Isaiah, we must focus our minds on God and trust in Him.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. John 14:1

The disciples were bewildered and discouraged. Jesus had said He was going away, that He would die, that one of the disciples was a traitor, and that Peter would deny Him. "Let not your heart be troubled," Jesus told them. Believers can rest their troubled hearts, knowing that Jesus is in control regardless of the circumstances.

Persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed ... 2 Corinthians 4:9

For us, each day is filled with different levels of stress. Regardless of occupation, age, social status, or lifestyle, we experience stress. We bring some stressors on ourselves-because of poor planning, saying yes too often, or being disorganized. We need to learn from these experiences so we don't allow ourselves to become overwhelmed again. Stress also arises from factors outside our control-the weather, a broken computer, an unexpected difficulty or sorrow. At these times, we can control only our reactions to the stress. Our reactions reveal our character and our trust in God.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Stress and its companion, worry, do their best to immobilize believers. People are anxious about the future; they are anxious about events that haven't happened but could happen. So what can believers do about their stresses? When we give our stress to God, He replaces it with His peace that "surpasses all understanding." When we feel stress rising, we should turn to God in prayer. He will give us the peace He promised.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:2-3

Everyone faces trials in one form or another. We cannot control what we will encounter, but we can control the stress level that situations cause. Instead of being stressed, we can try being joyful. Joy is not a natural reaction to difficulty, but one that the Holy Spirit can provide. For this to happen, we must choose an attitude that looks expectantly to the lessons God will teach and the wisdom He will provide. There's no better prescription for dealing with stress.

PRAYER STARTER
Thank You, Lord, that __ has come today for help in relieving this burden of stress. You never intended for Your children to live overwhelmed and unhealthy lives by carrying undue amounts of stress all by ourselves. Help to face and handle what he [she] can, and give him [her] wisdom to turn over to You, Lord, all the difficult people and situations that are beyond his [her] control ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Sibling Rivalry

sibling rivalry day 1
Day 1: 16/08/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Sibling Rivalry: Portraits & Definitions. 16/08/2021. Monday

PORTRAITS
Mr Mau couldn't believe his eyes. He told others, but others also did not believe him. The moment Mr Mau turned his eyes away from his infant son lying and playing on the play-mat (the daily routine), Mr Mau's older daughter stepped on her infant brother's face with gusto and glee. "Now I am afraid to leave them alone together," he lamented before the counselor.

Before the baby was born, three-year-old GHI was thrilled about becoming a big sister soon. But now she she's crying more, pouting, throwing temper tantrums, and she's started sucking her thumb again. "We just don't have time for this misbehavior of yours with the new baby here!", her parents tell her.

JKL called her brother as soon as she heard the news. "I passed the board exams with flying colors!" she exclaimed. "Well I'm about to make partner," MNO retorted. "Yeah, in this new atas place of employment", she volleyed back. "I'll be working in this new place where I am able to influence and make policy for the federal government".

DEFINITIONS
The term sibling rivalry, probably first used in 1941 by psychologist David Levy, refers to an inherent contest between brothers and sisters for power and influence in the family and throughout life. He claimed that for older siblings "the aggressive response to the new baby is so typical that it is safe to say it is a common feature of family life." Often sibling rivalry is understood as a hostile competition between brothers and sisters, though it does not have to be hostile at all. In its best form, it can become a friendly rivalry that challenges the best of all Siblings involved.

During childhood, common problem symptoms of sibling rivalry are:
- hitting, kicking, and fighting
- yelling or name calling
- refusing to share or stealing from siblings
- trying to outdo each other
- trying to monopolize the parental attention (using good behavior or bad)
- trying to get the other sibling in trouble

During adulthood, common problem symptoms of sibling rivalry are:
- trying to outperform the other
- trying to earn more money than the other
- trying to attain a higher social status than the other
- blaming the other for family problems
- trying to secure the role as a parent's "favorite" child

Sibling rivalry has a long history. The first brothers in the Bible, Cain and Abel, were bitter rivals, and Cain's contention with his brother- whom he perceived to be favoured by God and his parents-eventually led to Cain's murdering Abel.

No one knows how Adam and Eve dealt with Cain and Abel's rivalry, but we do know that many parents don't admit to or even consider this issue of sibling rivalry until it is a serious problem.

There are several different views for the reason sibling rivalry exists. One is the Freudian or psychoanalytic view: Sigmund Freud, as many know, made many observations (and assumptions!) about the human condition. One of them was the Oedipus complex, the idea that children are in competition with the parent of the same sex for the attention and love of the parent of the opposite sex. According to psychoanalytic thought, sibling rivalry might be an extension of this struggle because, like the parent of the opposite sex, a sibling is also competition.

Another view is a more modern bio-psychological view: With this view, the issue is one of "survival of the fittest," that is, the competition for limited resources (such as food, shelter, and protection). In humans, the needs are social as well, such as the need for one-on-one time and attention, love, and approval from parents.

A lot of behaviour toward the other is rooted in jealousy, envy, and anger.

When a young child meets a baby brother or sister, there are several common reactions that are often mixed together. Sometimes they are positive, such as feeling important as the older sibling, gratitude for the sibling, excitement, responsibility, and love. However, some of the reactions are negative, including behavior problems such as:
- disobedience
- temper tantrums
- aggressiveness
- messiness
- annoying behaviors

And there may be age-regression behaviors (much below their ages), such as:
- clinging to parents
- thumb sucking
- the use of baby talk
- bed wetting
- accidents in the pants region

REFLECTION: Is this sibling-rivalry caused by any behaviour of the parent in the past? Did it start when the sibling realised that there is "someone else in mummy's tummy"? Have we examined closely what's behind all this? Can parents do anything before it comes close to another Cain-Abel situation?

sibling rivalry day 2
Day 2: 17/08/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Sibling Rivalry: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 17/08/2021. Tuesday

ASSESSMENT
If the family you are counseling is experiencing sibling rivalry, the following questions will help you learn more about their situation:

1. Do your children get along? Do the siblings ever fight? Do you have to stop their fighting frequently or do they stop it themselves?

2. Do any of your kids have behavior problems? When did these problems begin?

3. Do you have less attention to give to the older child now that the younger child is around? Does the older child help to care for the younger child? How does the older child feel about these responsibilities?

4. Do the Siblings share their things well? Do the siblings steal from one another?

5. Do the children regress in their behaviors to try to get attention? Do the children try to get each other in trouble? Do the children seem concerned about who is the parents' favorite?

WISE COUNSEL
As Christians, we are told to have "brotherly love" for one another. This brotherly love is understood as the most pure expression of platonic love. In the Gospels, Jesus instructs the disciples to "love as brothers" (1 Peter 3:8). However, many siblings in the Bible did not treat each other with love. Consider the following: Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Rachel and Leah and Joseph and his older brothers.

With all these examples, there is no doubt that acting in brotherly love is a difficult challenge for anyone. Instruct parents of children who are rivals to continue to instill in them the sense that parental love is not limited, that it does not lessen depending on how many children there are. And instruct the parents to have patience-sometimes feelings of jealousy and competition go away on their own over time.

See you for Day 3 for Actions Steps!

sibling rivalry day 3
Day 3: 18/08/2021: Actions Steps
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Day 3. Sibling Rivalry: Actions Steps. 18/08/2021. Wednesday

The action steps you can suggest to the one you are helping to lessen or eliminate sibling rivalry are:

1. Love Your Children and Don't Show Favoritism
Ask any son or daughter who the favorite child is in the family and you may get an answer-pointing to the rival. Sibling favoritism offends and infects the heart of a child and leads to feelings of inferiority, anger, resentment, and even bitterness.

The Bible story of Esau and Jacob displays vividly the damages caused by favoritism. The narrative in Genesis reveals that the father of the boys, Isaac, preferred Esau while the mother favored Jacob (Gen 25:28). This led to deceit between the parents and to Jacob's stealing Esau's birthright and blessing.

In many families there is no favoritism, and you must challenge your children's false belief that there is. Consult others, just to be sure there isn't any. You know that you love each of your children completely, but that you also have a different relationship and behave differently with each one. It is essential to know each child's particular love language and to communicate your love in that style. You must constantly discuss this essential difference in how people receive love until your children get it. This might be till adulthood or when they themselves have children, then they begin to understand.

2. Don't Compare
Most siblings are already very sensitive to the competitive aspects of their relationships with brothers and sisters. Instead of asking themselves, "How good am I at this?" they ask themselves, "Am I better than my brother [sister] at this?"

It is best for parents to avoid directly comparing their kids to one another. You can comment on your children's gifts and uniqueness apart from their siblings. For example, while it is good to say, "JHI is great at football, and KLN is a genius at piano!" it is not good to say "JHI is better than KLN at soccer, and KLN is more musically expressive than JHI."

3. Counter Jealous Feelings
Often jealousy is at the heart of sibling rivalry. If an older sibling is experiencing jealousy of a younger sibling, try the following techniques:

(a) Help the child verbalize his or her feelings. When children are able to verbalize their feelings, they are much better equipped to understand them and cope with them. However, verbalizing feelings is not simple for children: A very young child is unlikely to say, "Mom, Dad, I've been feeling a bit neglected and insecure since my little brother came along and I could really use some more attention. Specifically, I would like us to spend more one-on-one time playing games together like we used to".

Yeah right! Children are much more likely to ACT out their frustrations. Only through practice and coaching can a child learn to describe their emotions and needs verbally. This inability sticks to even adults after they have grown up long time ago.

(b) Kids want attention, and even though it seems backwards, for some children bad attention is better than no attention at all. Therefore, a good way for parents to improve a child's behavior is to attend to good and okay behaviors and ignore the bad ones.

For example, if your child behaved well while getting her shoes on, tell the child, "Thank you, honey. I am very proud of how good you are. You put on your shoes quietly when asked". If your child misbehaves by putting up a fuss, ignore the behavior-don't give her more attention.

(c) Show the child the privileges of age. All adults recognize that age has its privileges, but kids don't always see it that way-especially when there's an infant getting gobs and gobs of attention. Point out all the privileges of age to the older siblings. What are they getting because they are older? If they're not getting many, give them some! For example:

- You get ice cream, but the baby just gets his bottle.
- You get pizza, but the baby just gets mushy peas.
- We can go to the movies together, but the baby can't go.
- You don't need to use these smelly diapers anymore!

Also a big privilege of being an older sibling is you get to hold and take care of a baby who will always look up to his or her big brother or sister.

See you for Day 4 on Scriptures!

sibling rivalry day 4
Day 4: 19/08/2021: Scripture & Prayer
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Day 4. Sibling Rivalry: Scripture & Prayer. 19/08/2021. Thursday

Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28 NIV

Since sibling rivalry is caused by the attempt to win the approval, praise, and attention of parents, when parents favour one child over the other, very bitter sibling rivalry can ensue. No example in the Bible shows this more clearly than the story of Esau and Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright." "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Genesis 25:29-33 NIV

The rivalry between Esau and Jacob was so bitter that instead of Jacob's giving his brother food, he sold his brother stew in exchange for his inheritance. Perhaps Esau was foolish for taking the deal. Nevertheless, this story shows clearly Jacob's competition with his older brother.

When [Joseph's] brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Genesis 37:4 NIV

Another example of sibling rivalry in the Bible is between Joseph and his brothers. Similar to the situation of Esau and Jacob, favoritism from a parent created tension between Joseph and his brothers. This provoked Joseph's brothers to push him into a hole and sell him into slavery. Many years later Joseph forgave his brothers and their relationship was restored.

The failures of parents who ended up showing favouritism, or the failures of children who "detected" favouritism when there is none, do at times stem from the failure of both to fully appreciate the fact that each one of us being created in God's image, is equally valuable in God's sight, yet has different gifts and callings & the associated empowerings by God to get that calling done. August 2021.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Lord, this family, like many families, is in need of a change. Help the children rise above sibling rivalry. Help them build strong bonds and learn to love one another first and foremost...

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2021 Devotion

Relocation & Moving

relocation & moving day 1
Day 1: 09/08/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Relocation & Moving: Portraits & Definitions. 09/08/2021. Monday

Portraits

- Young adult RSP just came back from a mission trip in 1993. Upon reaching home, his parents asked him to pack-up be prepared to move from Newton to Farrer Park opposite KK. RSP felt that he was not consulted nor given sufficient 心理准备。 He sulked for the rest of the week as he moved to a place that was less than 50% of the original size.

- Twelve year old SPR moved from a house in 1979 to an apartment. The move was a supposedly happy one. But upon arriving in the new house, he realised that his old friends were gone. His friends used to come over to his place to play frequently and vice versa. He felt lonely and lost as his childhood ties were all lost. 40 years later, SPR still felt that he still felt that his original kakis were irreplaceable.

- PRS could stop crying. She was angry with herself for agreeing to the move and with her husband, STR, for forcing them to move a thousand miles. She missed everyone-her church, the friends she had grown up with, and most of all her family. She didn't want to be here and certainly didn't want to make new friends. The telecoms / travel bills were huge but she didn't care. She just wanted to go back "home" for good.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
• Moving can be a way to get a "fresh start". It can be a chance for families to put a difficult past behind them and begin anew. However, even a small move or a strategic move can be a stressful experience for the whole family. Moving is seldom easy for adults, and it can be especially troubling for children.

• A move may reflect a social step forward. The family moves because Dad or Mom is moving up in his or her career. Or they move because financial success has allowed the purchase of a bigger house in a nicer estate. The parent feels proud because he or she can finally provide a better quality of life for the family.

• To adults, the house they are leaving behind might seem like it was a temporary home. "We've only been here six years" the parents say. But little Sally and Dan, who are six and nine, can hardly remember a time when they have not lived in the comfort of their current home. To children the house is perfect. It represents safety, comfort, and stability. It is a special place that cannot be replaced by another house with bigger bedrooms or a pool.

• Often moving is unpleasant and involves some major losses for children, especially if they have friends or a social network they need to leave behind.

• Generally speaking, the older a child is the more difficult a move will be on him or her. Preteens and teenagers build extremely important support networks with friends (some studies contend the influence of these social relationships outweighs that of the parents at this particular developmental juncture). These relationships are so important some parents allow their children to remain in the school they are attending and stay on, even when there are good reasons (financial or otherwise) for relocating.

• For school-aged kids, their biggest concern is usually whether they will make new friends in the new neighborhood. This is especially heightened if they are changing school to other parts of the country (north, south, east or west).

• Though parents will need support and assurance, as well as physical help moving, it is even more imperative that children and adolescents receive help coping with the changes that will occur.

REFLECTION: Have we prepared ourselves mentally for any move, in addition to other preparations? Do we even think it is necessary to prepare at all?

relocation & moving day 2
Day 2: 10/08/2021: Assessment Questions & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Relocation & Moving: Assessment Questions & Wise Counsel. 10/08/2021. Tuesday

Assessment Questions
Is the family you are helping prepared for the move? The following questions will help you assess their progress, preparations, and stress-reduction coping strategies.

1. Are you definitely moving? Who will be moving? Do You know the exact house you will be moving to?

2. Do you have a plan for packing and moving? Do you intend to sell your house? If there are children, have they been informed about the move?

3. What will be the best thing about moving? What will be the hardest thing about moving?

4. Will the children need to change schools? Will the children lose contact with their friends? Will the family lose contact with friends or family?

5. Does this move represent a fresh start? Is this move due to a financial or career success or is it because things haven't worked out where you are?

Is the family you are helping struggling with adjusting after a recent move? The following questions will help you assess their attitudes and coping strategies.

1. How long ago did you move? What was the reason for your relocation?

2. What has been the most difficult aspect of adjusting? How have your children (if any) handled it?

3. How has it been trying to make new friends? Have you been able to get connected with a good church?

4. How has the move affected your family relationships? How have you handled the stress?

WISE COUNSEL

Even the most well-adjusted child, even a child who was looking forward to relocating, can find himself or herself quickly overwhelmed and can have trouble adjusting when the moving date nears and/or trouble adapting to a new place after the move. Moreover, some youngsters are not able or willing to talk about their stress or duress. Therefore, it is wise for parents to keep an eye open for common warning signs that a child is struggling. These could include:

- a drop in grades
- acting out
- clinging to parents
- crying or emotional
- difficulty making new friends
- increased or decreased appetite
- irritability
- nightmares or night terrors
- other changes in behavior or personality
- outbursts of anger
- reluctance to leave the house
- sleeping too little or too much
- social withdrawal

Who knows, even adults might have the above symptoms! There are many things families can do to ease the moving process for children involved. Action Steps form a strategy parents can implement before, during, and after the move. See you for Day 3 for Action Steps!

relocation & moving day 3
Day 3: 11/08/2021: Action Steps [part1]
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Day 3. Relocation & Moving: Action Steps [part 1]. 11/08/2021. Wednesday
Let's look at what we can do before, during the move.

Before the Move

1. Inform the Children as Soon as Possible
-- Get the children accustomed early to the idea of moving. If you think a move is in the near future, it is wise to introduce the possibility to your children in hypothetical terms. You should not say to the children: "We might be moving soon" -which will cause undue anxiety before it is even definite whether a move will happen. Broach the topic in another way. For instance, you could say, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a bigger kitchen or living room?" or "Wouldn't it be exciting living near to a cycling park/beach?" This will help the children start to see the advantages of the new place. (Parents need not worry about the children becoming disenchanted with their current place. Children are generally quite attached to their current home regardless of its disadvantages.)

-- When it is certain a move will occur, it is time to tell the whole family. The move should be introduced as a great and exciting blessing, never as something that is going to be negative or sad. Tell only the facts, not what is still uncertain. "Many child development experts see moving as one of the most disruptive events in a child's life" (Arlen Fulton)

-- Children can take in only so much information at one time, especially when it is an emotional topic. Therefore, give the basics: where, when, why it's great-and then make yourself available for questions. When the children are ready, they will ask lots of questions.

2. Involve the Children in the Plans
-- If possible, let them participate in some of the moving plans. Give the children choices, but not too many. And they should not be involved in the major decisions, such as which house to buy. The children could want house A, while you might decide to purchase house B. This is not a good way for them to be involved.

3. Help the Children Handle Their Emotions-- As much as possible, shelter your kids from the complications and the stresses of moving. If you tell a child how great the move is going to be, but then you are stressed out or otherwise upset about the moving process, this is confusing to the child.

-- There are several things parents can do to help children become acquainted with the idea of moving. First, create curiosity about the new neighborhood where you will be living. For example, parents can show the them the new house (perhaps just drive/walk by if it's being built or is occupied), fun places in the new community, or the child's new school.

-- If possible, help the children make new friends before the move, by meeting new children during trips to the new place or by finding them playmates or pen pals or the modern equivalents of "friends," on social media.

During the Move

1. Let Children Help Pack
-- Children, especially younger ones, love to pack. Therefore, you can instill in your then a sense of ownership in the moving process by involving them in the task. You can always use the extra help, and they will become excited through the process of boxing their things up, with the knowledge that they will soon be able to unpack and reorganize them.

2. Maintain Close Communication
-- Families become so busy during the process of moving sometimes family members forget to talk to each other. This is especially traumatic for children because the first thing they are experiencing during the move-a time of insecurity for them-is that their parents are not as accessible as they used to be.

-- Instead of the moving process being a period when you are with your kids less, it needs to be the exact opposite. Spend more time with your children during this time. In some cases, it may need to be constant, to provide them reassurance that everything is going to be okay.

3. Say Good-bye
-- While is it not necessary to overdramatize the process of saying farewell, you should not ignore the need to say good-bye. Saying good-bye is an important task for everyone in the family. Encourage your kids to exchange their contact information (address and email) with their friends at school and in the neighborhood. You will want to do the same with the friends you are leaving. It may also be a good idea to throw a farewell celebration of some sort.

4. Help Kids Feel Secure
-- Allow kids to keep with them a small number of things (in a small box or a carry-on suitcase) on moving day.

-- Assign children a special task on moving day (preparing snacks, taking care of pets, games), so they have a responsibility over which they have control. For many children, this will help lower their anxiety and will give them a sense that they are helping out.

See you for Day 4 for "After the Move".

relocation & moving day 4
Day 4: 12/08/2021: Action Steps [part 2]
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Day 4. Relocation & Moving: Action Steps (part 2). 12/08/2021. Thursday

After the Move

1. Keep Old Routines
-- When families arrive in a new place, life can feel quite chaotic for a while. Immediately try to reinstate some of the old routines. For example, make dinner and eat together. Watch television in the evening (if that's what you are used to doing), read to the kids and tuck them in at night. Don't have someone else watch over your kids at night-if possible, try to be there for and with them each night and when they wake up in the morning.

2. Regroup
-- After arriving in the new place, it is important to spend some time together and regroup. Check up on one another to make sure everyone is adapting well to the move.

3. Get Involved
-- After everyone is unpacked, rested, and situated, it may be time to begin getting involved in the community. Meet the neighbours, the provision shops people etc. Take young children to their new schools again before they start classes to continue to help them get acquainted with the new environment.

4. Grieve Any Losses
--Someone once said that life is a series of losses. When a family relocation occurs, families gain much, and they lose much. There may indeed be some things every person in the family has lost and needs to grieve-whether it is the closeness of certain friends or a special place out in the backyard that the children used to spend hours a day exploring.

-- Stay in touch with old friends. Invite them to visit.

5. Celebrate Any Gains
-- Usually moving involves attaining some major (and minor) benefits that may be merely accepted without much notice. For a time after moving and as an aid to adjust to the stressors that do exist, it does a family good to celebrate.

-- Have a party or go out and have a good time together.

-- Have each member of the family name one good new thing that has happened to him or her since the move, and have the whole family celebrate.

See you for Day 5: Bible insights & Prayer!

relocation & moving day 5
Day 5: 13/08/2021: Scripture & Prayer
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Day 5. Relocation & Moving: Scripture & Prayer. 13/08/2021. Friday

So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. Exodus 13:18 NIV

The Exodus story is one of the greatest relocation stories of all time. God took the Israelites out of slavery, and they began a forty-year journey to a promised land.

The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water . ... and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Genesis 7:18; 8:4 NIV

Sometimes we move by choice; sometimes we have little choice. Noah is an example of a person who had little choice. After a long time floating in the ark, Noah found himself and his family landing on the top of a mountain.

Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked. "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:54-58 NIV

Jesus found that to accomplish his mission, he could not stay in his hometown. In fact he found that his place of origin was the least effective place for his ministry. God's callings are always God's enablings!

PRAYER
For the Family Who Is Moving
Dear Heavenly Father, We never know completely where life is going to take us-where You will lead us, Lord. Be with this family as they relocate to a new area. Help with the details, the financial matters, and the logistics of the move. And protect them emotionally and spiritually. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

For the Family Who Has Already Moved
Lord, we thank You that You are the author and controller of our lives. As this family is struggling to adjust to a new home and a new area, give them wisdom in building new friendships. Guide them to a solid church. Give them good times as a family in the midst of unpacking. God, we trust that You will provide everything this family needs. Teach them to rely on You and each other ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Empty Nest Syndrome

empty-nest syndrome day 1
Day 1: 02/08/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Empty-Nest Syndrome: Portraits & Definitions. 02/08/2021. Monday

Glad you are reading. Welcome to week 31. We continue to equip ourselves to start to help others in various ways. These topics might not apply to US individually all the time, but we continue learn so that we can seek to understand and help OTHERS better.

Portraits of Empty-Nest Syndrome

- AB has been depressed ever since GIRLGIRL, her youngest child, married and moved away. AB is a proud mother, because GIRLGIRL was her "showcase & jewel to the world". But now she feels lost and without purpose.

- "The house seems very quiet", CD said to his wife, "and very cold". "I know what you mean", she replied, "It's just not the same without muddy shoes by the door and the crazy music coming from BOYBOY's room".

- EF and GH just sat and stared at one another in the counselor's office. Then GH remarked suddenly, "It's like we don't know who each other is anymore ... Worse yet, if we are completely honest, neither of us really likes who the other has become".

Definitions

When children become adults, families enter what is called the "launching phase" when the parents send their young ones into the world-usually for work or university. An "empty nest" is left. "Empty nest" describes the household that no longer has children, where the two parents are left alone, with just each other again.

Though "empty-nest syndrome" gets a lot of bad press, for many parents this is a joyous time, a time when marital and life satisfaction skyrockets.

However, some parents find it confusing and frightening. Some fear their kids will make poor choices or that they'll be left behind as their children enter adulthood. Others know their children will do well but feel they (the parents) are suffering a loss of purpose or identity. Worse yet, many parents may exaggerate the problems in their children-justifying their continued meddling-as a way to avoid the bigger problems in their marriage that they may not want to confront.

Though much has been written about mothers suffering from empty-nest syndrome and depression, fathers often experience similar feelings. In a study of a group of > 100 parents, participants were asked to report their feelings when their child left home. Surprisingly, the fathers took it harder than the mothers.

"Empty nest" might set in "gradually", when boys go to NS, or when children go overseas to study, or stay in hostel on and off. But ultimately, they leave the nest.

REFLECTION:

(1) If the "nest is full", where the parents still provide and take care of housing and money, and the children still depend on parents for many (if not all) things, would this delay their maturing to be young adults?

(2) If the "nest is empty", would the parents lose the balance in life, or would the children mismanage themselves? What are your thoughts? Do share with a CG member.

empty-nest syndrome day 2
Day 2: 03/08/2021: Assessment, Wise Counsel & Actions Steps part 1/2
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Day 2. Empty-Nest Syndrome: Assessment, Wise Counsel & Actions Steps part 1/2. 03/08/2021. Tuesday

ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS
Questions that you can use to start off the conversation when interacting with a couple whose child/children have recently left home:

1. How are you feeling about having your children gone? Do you realize that having children leave home does not mean that your relationship with your children have ended?

2. What will you do with your extra free time? Are you inclined to do things with your spouse or by yourself or with other friends?

3. Have you considered that having more time alone together might be good for doing things you both enjoy, pursuing hobbies that interest the two of you, or enjoying mutual friends?

4. What will you do with the extra house space? Have you considered how you might use the extra bedroom(s)? Set up a home recording studio and fill it with all the musical instruments that you ever dreamed of buying?

5. Have you found purpose and meaning in other tasks besides parenting? Have you thought about pursuing life-long learning activities to keep yourself active physically and mentally alert too?

6. What about giving more volunteer time to your church or local hospital or other charity?

WISE COUNSEL

Author and child-care expert Grace Ketterman says, "Releasing young people into today's world is a panicky process. This process can be made more reassuring when parents remember that they are transferring them from the shelter of their parental wings to the perfect care of the heavenly Father."

It is our task as parents to build up our children in the ways of the Lord. That includes infusing our children with independence and a Christ-like mindset, giving them the ability to eventually have good management and wise steering over their own lives. It is a frightening and often heart-wrenching process, but it is the final call of good parenting.

This sets us free to live out our elder years with purpose and direction, free to do some things that we've always wanted but could not do because of our parenting responsibilities. Help empty nesters look beyond their children's lives and set a new course for their own lives as they approach their elder years.

ACTION STEPS
Important steps to overcome empty-nest syndrome:

1. Accept the Loss and Prepare for Change
They have left, but they are still your children. When children leave to set up their own homes, it's normal to be sad for a while. Change, in many respects, is loss. Likely you remember your child's first step, first day at school, tenth birthday party, and other momentous events that are past and gone. Talk about these moments; reflect on the gift and joys of the parenting experience in its entirety. But also see your relationships with your children as maturing and entering another wonderful phase.

2. Work on the Marriage
The hardest point of marriage, statistically speaking, is just before the "launching phase" when children are in their teens. Perhaps now that the children have left home, this is a good time to take a look at your marriage and try to rebuild some intimacy that may have been lost over the last few years.

Many parents in their thirties and forties build or allow their home to be child-centred rather than marriage-centred. Yet if the marriage bond is strong, the beginning months of empty nest are much easier for mother and father.

See you all for day 3 with Step 3!

empty-nest syndrome day 3
Day 3: 04/08/2021: Action Steps part 2/2
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Day 3. Empty-Nest Syndrome: Action Steps part 2/2. 04/08/2021. Wednesday

[ACTION STEPS part 2]

3. Get Involved
If you are experiencing an empty nest, chances are you have a lot of new-found free time on your hands. Though you may need some time to reflect on and even mourn the life changes that have occurred, consider some of the opportunities and options available to you now. Perhaps there is a church outreach ministry or some type of volunteer work that interests you. Or maybe there is a sports club or couples bowling team you both would enjoy. Or maybe this is a good time for you to entertain some old friends.

4. Enjoy Being a Parent/Consultant
Even though your children have moved out, it doesn't mean they won't be coming to you for advice as they experience a plethora of dilemmas and challenges they have never experienced before. As a wise parent, you have a lot of life experience to share. Though you now relate to your child as an adult, your guidance is far from over.

5. Find Personal Meaning and Worth
Often when children move out, one or both of the parents begin to feel a lack of meaning or personal worth. Parenting was their gift and calling. They may feel rejected because their child is no longer dependent on them. If you are experiencing these emotions, try replacing your faulty thinking with truth: you still have value; people still love and need you; you are now free to discover God's greater purpose.

6. Guide and Help Others
If your child is completely grown and independent, not needing your further guidance, you should celebrate your superb job of raising such a strong and capable adult. Now you may be interested in helping some other children or teens in the church or community who could benefit from your excellent skills with bringing up children, such as in youth group, children ministry, or on athletic teams.

To impact others outside our microcosm, do also consider foster parenting. For details, see below

https://www.msf.gov.sg/Fostering/Pages/About-the-Fostering-Scheme.aspx

See you for Day 4 on Biblical Insights.

empty-nest syndrome day 4
Day 4: 05/08/2021: Bible & Prayer
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Day 4. Empty-Nest Syndrome: Bible & Prayer. 05/08/2021. Thursday

Bible Verses

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife." Matthew 19:5

Launching one's children into adulthood is a part of raising kids. Note that the above verse does not say, "Grown-up children should stay with their parents and depend on them for their material and emotional needs." At some point, parents need to let their children venture out and continue to enjoy the vows and commitments of their marriage.

And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it . ... So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them I questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Fathers business?" Luke 2:42-49

It must have been quite a parenting journey for Mary and Joseph. The release of Jesus to the eventual death on a cross was by no means easy.

PRAYER
Dear Heavenly Father, there are many blessings we are grateful for, especially the gift of a son/daughter. Strangely, at the same time, we feel a loss, because for many years these parents have been raising their child, and now that time has passed. Be extra close to these parents at this time, God. Comfort them when sadness creeps in. Show them what You want them to do now that they are living without children in the home. Grant them a new vision for their lives together. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold

disaffection day 1
Day 1: 26/07/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Day 1. Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold: Portraits & Definitions. 26/07/2021. Monday

How does it look like?
- When MN and OP were newlyweds, everyday is happy day. Their social media posts were the envy of many—food, scenery and fun together. But lately they seemed different. They now feel that they are more and more like waying, acting out scripts and putting up posts so as to give others the impression that they are ok, when they were obviously not. Their "reputation" on social media is just the opposite of what was actually happening at home. They try to keep smiles on their faces in public, but you sense the anger that come out from both of them. MN's use of words are increasingly "cruel". OP's attitude is not only cold towards MN, but also looked down on him very much. You approach them to ask if everything is okay.

- QR decided to take the job at the corporate office of a company in town. The husband, ST, flipped and expressed surprise that his wife was going out to work. ST anxiously replied, "Who's going to take care of the house-it's a high maintenance house. And I need you to look after my parents during the week!" The wife QR rebutted him, "But they are YOUR parents. And I told you I was going to look for a job months ago. This should be no surprise to you!"

- Last year, if UV forgot to take out the rubbish to the common rubbish chute outside their flat, WX would joke about how absentminded her husband is. But for the last six months, things between them have not been good. There have been more disagreements and arguments than either of them thought possible. This morning WX noticed that UV had forgotten to take out the rubbish, she blew up.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
- Disaffection refers to the negative transformation of marital love and commitment-the process by which love grows cold and the desire to leave the marriage or hurt one's spouse replaces love.

- Often disaffection involves an unintentional severing of emotional ties of love and affection.

- All marriages go through times when love grows cold or lacks the depth it once had. When marriages get into trouble both partners hurt, and many times they can't even pinpoint what went wrong.

- If people are willing to step back and review their marital story, they will usually find a pattern of thoughts and behaviors that led to the disaffection.

- Since harmful patterns are predictable, couples can work to stop them and save their marriage. More than just keeping their marriage afloat, they can reverse the process and breathe new life into their relationship.

- Many do not sit down and re-evaluate their "core-values" of why they had come together in the first place. Some even did not talk about it at the "first place" before they said "I do". They have, somehow, naturally grow in different directions as a result.

REFLECTION & SELF-EVALUATION
Have I turned cold, colder than before, towards others slowly in the past years, be they friends or spouse? What "ingredient" caused this choking or decay?

disaffection day 2
Day 2: 27/07/2021: Assessment & Wise Counsel
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Day 2. Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold: Assessment & Wise Counsel. 27/07/2021. Tuesday

Questions to Ask: The first step in the counseling process is identifying the patterns that led the couple to a place of disaffection. Try asking the following questions:

1. How long have you felt disaffection in your relationship? Does it feel as though it is getting worse, better, or staying at about the same level?

2. What expectations do you have of your spouse that are not being fulfilled? Does your spouse know of these expectations?

3. What expectations do you think your spouse has of you? Are you fulfilling them? What would he [she] say about your response?

4. Have you and your spouse agreed on the expectations you have? If you and your spouse do not agree, are you willing to compromise and create a new set of expectations?

5. What stressors or distractions are tearing at your love for each other? Are you willing to devote time and energy to ending any harmful patterns that are in the relationship?

6. Do you believe the marriage can improve? If you woke up tomorrow and everything in your relationship were perfect, what would be different?

7. What are the best things about your spouse? What are the greatest strengths of the relationship? What attracted you to your spouse in the first place?

8. If there are children, what role do they play in your marriage? Extra glue to glue you all together, or extra wedges that drive you all further apart?

9. Are there any things you need to forgive your spouse for? Are there some things your spouse needs to forgive you for?

10. If only one spouse is present: Would your spouse be willing to come in for help or some form of counseling with you?

WISE COUNSEL

Disaffection in marriage is not a mystery, it is a common virus. But like the Delta-variant, it can spread very fast without you paying attention. Interestingly, the process begins with everyday life and pressures. Consider the following examples:

Stress:
Some marriages have been battered by life stresses, such as financial troubles, losses, health problems, or overly demanding work schedules. Spouses must deal with stress by considering the demands in life and their ability to cope with those demands. If the demands exceed their ability to cope, the formula spells trouble.

Take an inventory of the sources of stress all these years. From this list, they must develop a plan for better coping, and stress reduction. For instance, changing jobs to improve a marriage is often a good choice (stress reduction). Hiring help (in whatever form) to free up more personal time is also a good option (coping).

Sin and Selfishness
Sin is part of our nature. As Christians, we seek to be victorious over sin but often we fail. Somewhere in the marital story, one or both partners may begin to take advantage of the other. They hurt each other. As Paul wrote, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do" (Rom. 7:15). The same often goes for marriages. Being honest, seeking forgiveness, and staying deeply invested in one's spouse is the only remedy.

Satanic Assault
Since Adam and Eve, Satan has had the poison arrows of hell aimed at the intimate bond of marriage. He is the great confuser and ultimate liar. He magnifies people's weaknesses and fears, using them as wedges in their marriage. Peter described Satan as "a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). And his desire is to take a big bite out of people's marriages. Couples need to stay focused on the Lord and pray for their marriage. They need not fear Satan but they do need to understand his tactics and influence. Becoming active members in a healthy and supportive church family is also a great way to remain strong spiritually.

Unrealistic Expectations
The gap between unrealized expectations and reality is filled with disappointment. If people's expectations for marriage are unrealistic, they are setting themselves up for a fall. A few common unrealistic expectations include:

- "Marriage will complete me". Some who grew up in unloving homes or some other painful environment may expect marriage to reverse all the negatives they're carrying into it.

- "I have hooked a big fish. 今生吃不玩咯!" Some "throw themselves" at the other person during dating because the other has visible wealth or property that can be "hooked"—a "wu hua" or "kio tio" mentality. Marriage built on expecting to be able to grab the other person's wealth has very flimsy foundations, if there is nothing else in the initial attraction.

- "My spouse won't hurt me". As the first expectation sees marriage as the healing agent, this one sees marriage as the ultimate safe haven. The first experience of hurt, then, is devastating.

- "Life will be easy now" This is the "happily ever after" expectation of fairy tales. Then every unhappy moment in a marriage brings disappointment and possibly fear.

- "Love will keep us together". Every time spouses hurt one another, intentionally or unintentionally, love is perceived as increasingly less effective until, in the end, they can say that their relationship just wasn't meant to be.

These unrealistic expectations must be fought with realistic biblical ones. People need to understand that no one is perfect; no one person will ever fulfill all their needs. Only God can do that. No marriage is free from discord, and no spouse is completely unselfish.

[to be continued in Day 3]

disaffection day 3
Day 3: 28/07/2021: Wise Counsel (part 2) & Action Steps
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Day 3. Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold: Wise Counsel (part 2) & Action Steps. 28/07/2021. Wednesday

Disaffection in marriage is not a mystery, it is a common virus. The process begins with everyday life and pressures. Consider the following additional examples in addition to Day 2's:

... "Unrealistic Expectations" continued

Marriage brings together two people who have many human frailties and puts them in such close proximity that every detail of their life is known and every flaw exposed. Hopefully, in Christ, their frailties are strengthened into godly traits. But it takes a lot of humility, grace, and deep forgiveness for a marriage to survive. In other words, it is a lot of work.

Childhood Scripts
Many counselors believe that a majority of what drives us as adults happened to us in our early years. These "scripts" written for us long ago are faithfully followed and reinforced as we hold tightly to them. For instance, some people whose parents abandoned them may live as if they expect those they love to abandon them. Such scripts distort reality and drive people to act and react in what could be very destructive ways. These scripts also impact how people give and receive love.

Unresolved physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, parental divorce, abandonment, gross failure, and emotional loss need to be dealt with before the Father so they don't infect one's marriage.

Business and Time Pressures
Relationships and intimacy take time, time to understand, to enjoy, and respond to one another, time to satisfy the other's needs and have one's own needs satisfied. But with life being lived on the run, as it is today, there is little time- unless couples make the time. To stay close, couples need to schedule time regularly just to be together.

ACTION STEPS

As you have read, disaffection is an the likely outcome of unreasonable expectations. Below are the steps to counter disaffection and restore the marital bond.

1. Reframe Your Marital Story
Identify the series of problems that brought you into the state of disaffection in the first place. This could be any combination of things. Perhaps the pattern includes some of the following:

- working too many hours and not spending enough quality time together
- not having a heart of acceptance and love
- not putting your spouse's needs before your own
- feeling unappreciated by your spouse
- having expectations of your spouse that he [she] is unable or unwilling to meet

2. Respond (Don't merely React) to Each Other as Christ Would
This step in healing means that you always have a heart of grace and charity-that you are gentle, supportive, and kind to your spouse. This does not mean you have to be a sacrificial lamb without any personal boundaries. The most supportive and loving spouses give a great deal but they also love themselves enough not to be manipulated, taken advantage of, or abused. Attend to these five tasks:

- Make a new and practical (behavioral) love commitment by investing real time in and attention to your spouse.
- Commit to building a new intimacy with him [her ]-spiritual, sexual, emotional, as a family-and start dating once again.
- Reduce your criticism and negative interaction and increase your positive and emotionally invested communication.
- Extend an extra measure of grace, caring, and forgiveness in the near future. Praise your spouse for whatever he [she] is doing right.
- Maintain and respect your spouse's zone of safety. When you "quarrel", if you "quarrel", back off early, apologize for any harmful words, and give him [her] space to retire and repair before you come back to the troubling issue.

3. Find someone to check on both of you
Believe it or not, the most stable and strong couples have also gone through dark periods. Hence, it is wise for a couple battling disaffection to learn and gather support from experienced couples who have been there-and who have successfully found their way back. Note: If a couple claims they have never gone through times of disaffection, they are either lying or blind to it. Eitherway, they are probably not good candidates who can help you, because they have not finished "climbing" at least one mountain yet so as to be able to advise both "theory" and "practice" of mountaineering.

4. Have a Pursuable Dream for Your Marriage
Having a dream for your marriage means you have specific goals and expectations that you both share and agree to. For example, your dream may include the answers to the following questions:

- Must we live at any particular place or in a particular type of house (HDB, condo?) Who will work? How many children will there be? How much money will the family have? What will our sex life be like? A good premarital counseling program will address these issues and many more-though it is never too late to create a marital dream, and it may be useful for a couple to go back and see if the dream has changed in some ways.

5. Remember What God Has Done
God gives us a spouse so He can work through him or her to create in us an image more like that of Christ. As you work together on your marriage, don't lose focus on your own personal development. Your sanctification process, of becoming more like Christ, is crucial, and the marital union should play a constructive, not a destructive, role in it.

disaffection day 4
Day 4: 29/07/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer
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Day 4. Disaffection: Scripture & Sample Prayer. 29/07/2021. Thursday

The man said, "The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Genesis 3:12 NIV

In Genesis we see the first fracture between man and woman, when Adam blamed Eve for his sin. The "blame game" started early in the Bible. And it is still prominent today. Healthy marriages and mature individuals accept responsibility for their behavior.

If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbour's hands: go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbour! Proverbs 6:2-3 NIV

Though this passage refers to conflict with a neighbor, the same applies to marriage and family. From time to time, we all say things we regret. Though it is best to never have said them, we can minimize the damage by humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness.

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Proverbs 17:27 NIV

Using personal restraint and keeping an even temper are of vital importance in conflict. Husband and wife need not raise their voices or make sarcastic remarks to have their arguments heard. Such disrespect only makes conflict worse.

When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7 NIV

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I don't like him but I do respect him"? Some people are so honorable in their actions that even their opponents need to give them credit for the way they handle themselves. In marriage, if husband and wife can be civil, and honor God in all they do, though they will have conflict (all marriages do), the disagreements need not be ugly or destructive.

Sample Prayer
Lord God, we know that all marriages go through times of struggle and disaffection. We confess that most of us have not looked on our marriage or our spouse as You do. Give this couple a new vision for their marriage and new hope for one another. We pray to You that this period of disaffection be brief, and that closeness and joy be restored to their relationship. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Affairs & Adultery

affairs & adultery day 1
Day 1: 19/07/2021: Portraits & Definitions
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Affairs & Adultery. Day 1: Portraits & Definitions. 19/07/2021, Monday.

Portraits
- AB wanted to trust CD. She reminded herself continually that CD was a good father and husband. She would push out of her mind the thoughts that there might be someone else. Then one morning as she was cleaning up his work from home office table, she found a credit card statement that detailed hotels and restaurant charges in Sentosa. She had not heard CD talk about any company function or work involving Sentosa. She was totally shocked and remained frozen for 3 minutes.

- EF enjoyed working with her boss, GH. Their conversations were "high level", "sophisticated", "industry cutting edge" and "stimulating". EF always came away feeling affirmed by her boss. She was thankful that she had such a good relationship with him until it became more than that. Her eyes filled with tears as she began to recount their affair. "I can't remember exactly when we started having more feelings for each other". EF said. "I never imagined it would lead to this!"

- IJ went to his high school class reunion without his wife, KL, who was in hospice care and dying of cancer. While there he met an old flame, a widow now. The sparks flew that night and they ended up spending the entire weekend "staycation" together, discussing plans for marriage when IJ's wife died (which they assumed to be very soon). The very next week IJ's teen aged daughter coincidentally glanced at a sms preview on her father's phone which displayed compromising texts, though truncated. Confronting her father, she flew into a rage: "How could you do this to my mother in the last weeks of her life?"

Definitions
- Adultery occurs when a person has a sexual relationship with someone other than his or her spouse. This relationship may or may not include an emotional connection.

- Adultery may also be an emotional affair, which can threaten the marriage more than physical adultery. Here, a person turns to someone outside the marriage for primary emotional sustenance and support. For example, during a couple conflict, one or both of them turn to an opposite-sex friend for companionship, support, and sharing of personal information. An emotional affair may have begun.

- Tragically, infidelity in marriage is becoming increasingly common. Christians are not exempted. Both genders risk a fall here.

- Poor communication, unresolved conflict, and/or unrealistic expectations leading to marital dissatisfaction are key reasons for extramarital affairs. Any perceived need that goes unfulfilled in marriage will seek its fulfillment elsewhere. Regard less of the reason for the infidelity, the decision to cheat on a spouse and acting on that decision are the heart of the matter.

- Spouses may become involved in affairs because they are exposed to situations for which they are unprepared or have not set wise boundaries.

- Most affairs begin gradually as well-meaning friendships. The people involved are unaware of how the relationship is changing until significant, risky behavior occurs.

- Infidelity can also stem from emotional deprivation in childhood in which a person has a constant hunger for approval and attention. If the wife, for example, cannot fulfill those needs, the husband may feel cheated and let down, and will seek the attention of others outside the marriage relationship.

- Many adulterers think they are looking for love when in fact they are seeking to feel better about themselves.

- A person may also be unfaithful as an act of retaliation and anger against his or her spouse (whether consciously or unconsciously). They extend permission to themselves to act vengefully in response to a spouse's affair or some other real or perceived injury.

- For some, as money and positions of power increase, so does an increasing sense of entitlement to life's pleasures. It is therefore not surprising that this can extend to the sexual realm as well.

- Ultimately, adultery is a self-centered choice. Intentionally a person ignores the needs of his or her spouse and family and the commandants of God to satisfy selfish desires.

- At its root, adultery is about a lifestyle of deception.

REFLECTIONS: Did you ever say "It would not happen to me?" What boundaries can you set so as to be one or more steps away from that temptation?

affairs & adultery day 2
Day 2: 20/07/2021: Assessment Questions
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Affairs & Adultery. Day 2: Assessment Questions. 20/07/2021, Tuesday.

Verbalisation forms part of the recovery and healing. So interact with wisdom, at the correct time and in the correct tone:

For the Faithful Spouse

1. How did you find out about the affair? How long have you known? Did you suspect it before?

2. What feelings has this stirred up for you? "Devastation", "resentment", "sadness"?

3. What do you want to do about your relationship with your spouse? (Stress that these are common feelings and reactions and that the easiest thing to do about the marriage is to insist on separation and/or divorce.)

4. Is he [she] still seeing the other person? Do you think your spouse is willing to cut off that relationship and seek some form of reconciliation with you? How do you feel about reconciliation? (While it may be too early to work for reconciliation, it is important to get an initial gauge of the attitude of the person you are helping.)

For the Unfaithful Spouse

1. Have you told your spouse about the affair? How can I assist your disclosure to him [her]? (Let the person you are helping know you are not willing to participate in his or her continued secrecy about the affair.)

2. What prompts you to want to discuss this now? Is the affair beginning to unravel? Is your spouse suspicious?

3. How did your spouse find out about it? Is he [she] threatening to leave you? What about the children-do they know?

4. Do you want to restore your marriage? Are you willing to break off the affair? Do you think that separation from your spouse may be the only way toward reconciliation? (It is not uncommon for the offending spouse to feel confused as to what he or she wants to do, especially if the affair was longstanding and/or involved a deep emotional commitment.)

5. Are you willing to explore the reasons that perpetuated the affair? Are you aware of what needs you were seeking to have met from this relationship?

6. What do you see are the effects on your spouse of your having an affair? How do you feel about what has happened to him [her]? Is any part of you happy or justified that your spouse was hurt? Are you willing to take full responsibility for your actions without placing any blame on your spouse?

7. Are you willing now to be accountable for your time and relationships on a daily basis?

8. Are you willing to pursue professional counseling?

Healing is possible
Healing is possible after infidelity. Increasing numbers of couples are braving the path of healing and restoration of their marriages. To begin the healing process, both spouses will need to:

Set appropriate physical and emotional boundaries to allow time to work through the feelings of betrayal, rejection, and other negative feelings that accompany the infidelity. Reestablishing trust takes time and space both physically and emotionally.

Rebuild some level of trust in each other by telling each other the truth and by being honest and accountable to each other. It is vital for each person to keep his or her word. If one spouse promises to do something, he or she needs to follow through and do it. Finally, trust can be rebuilt by using gestures of affection and nonsexual touch to express caring and affirmation, if permission is given by both spouses.

Understand what caused the infidelity in the marriage. This wil require a thoughtful, sometimes long look at the marital pattern that has developed, as well as what each person has contributed to the marital breakdown. Difficult though it is, each spouse should focus on his or her own issues as opposed to criticising and blaming the other person for the problem of infidelity (and this should happen after the unfaithful spouse has sat and truly heard the nonoffending spouse express his or her devastation and grief over what has happened, and owned the wrongdoing to some degree).

Take time for restoring and enriching the marriage. The restoration process involves identifying and reestablishing what was good about the marriage before the adultery-maybe the counselor will have to help the couple reach into the early years of their marriage. The enriching process involves learning and implementing new skills and behaviors to strengthen the relationship.

affairs & adultery day 3
Day 3: 21/07/2021: Action Steps
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Affairs & Adultery. Day 3: Action Steps. 21/07/2021, Wednesday.

1. Pray
Both spouses: Seek daily time before God in prayer, reading the Scriptures, and asking Him for the ability to grow in Christlike attitudes and actions.

2. Have No Contact
The unfaithful spouse: Have no contact whatsoever with the third party. Like an addiction, the best way out is to go cold turkey. (Concentrate on this goal in helping your friend if the unfaithful spouse is wavering between spouse and lover.)

3. Make a Commitment
The unfaithful spouse: You must be willing to make a radical commitment to regain the trust that has been broken.

4. Begin a New Lifestyle
The unfaithful spouse: Commit yourself to a lifestyle of transparency and honesty. Remember: no area is off limits to your spouse's inquiry.

5. Repent and Disclose
The unfaithful spouse: You must work at coming to a place of true repentance and be willing to confess your sins to your spouse and disclose--without going into graphic detail of what was done to violate your marriage. Request from your spouse the level of detail you need to share regarding the violating act. Anything that has potential to harm the marriage needs to be disclosed. Seek your counselor's advice on details that will be beneficial in rebuilding the relationship. There can be no genuine reconciliation without true repentance on the part of the violator.

If you have laid yourself bare before the 3rd party, it should not be too tough a call to be honest with God and your spouse as you focus on doing/sharing that which is sufficient (not more, not less), to rebuild the marriage back to God's ideal of what marriage should be.

6. Forgive
The faithful spouse: Commit to the process of forgiveness, which will be a multi-layered journey. It might take many years. You will need to make daily decisions to continue to forgive. Forgiveness can happen even if your spouse does not repent. The lack of repentance affects reconciliation but not the call to forgive and go on.

7. Work at Reconciliation
Both spouses: Forgiveness is required, but reconciliation is conditional. Reconciliation is based on true remorse and repentance. While the Bible never advocates divorce and while many couples do stay together and heal, some may never be able to work through the brokenness. Fallen humanity is real, and this is not the sole consequence of academic qualifications, wealth, social status nor business acumen and ability, but on the HEART that God has given each one of us one of it to take care and tend.

8. Get Wise Counsel
Both spouses: You will need to commit to working with your pastor and/or a professional counselor who can help you evaluate the problems in the marriage that may have contributed to the affair and assist you in a plan of healing or reconciliation.

affairs & adultery day 4
Day 4: 22/07/2021: Bible Verses & Sample Prayer
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Affairs & Adultery. Day 4: Bible Verses & Sample Prayer. 22/07/2021, Thursday.

Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Proverbs 5:15 NIV

This beautiful metaphor describes the joy of marital fidelity. To "drink water from your own cistern" pictures the marriage partners belonging only to each other, enraptured with each other's love.

By contrast, to become enraptured by another, to turn to adultery, may feel exciting at first but will end up being "bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword" (Prov. 5:4).

God's Word clearly teaches that married people should keep their vows and remain committed to each other. Adultery is embracing a false love-it will hurt everyone involved.

Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. Proverbs 6:32

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. Proverbs 5:18-19

The Bible does not speak against sexual fulfillment-in fact sexual delight and marital love are exalted in the Song of Solomon. Sexual fulfillment is always depicted in the Bible as within the boundaries of marriage.

Adultery is a great tragedy, for it has severe consequences. People risk all that they have built over a lifetime-marriage, family, ministry, respect, honor-when they commit adultery.

Sexual sin can be very appealing, almost an overwhelming temptation. The way out of this temptation is to rejoice in one's marriage and to be satisfied with the love of one's spouse. To violate this commitment will lead to pain, grief, and self-destruction.

"When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the LORD God. Ezekiel 16:8

We can find great comfort in the fact that our heavenly Father can empathize with the pain of someone who has been betrayed by a loved one. Knowing that He understands can help us trust Him in our own hurt and pain. You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not commit adultery." Matthew 5:27

Quoting from Exodus 20:14, Jesus reminded His listeners of the commandment against adultery. Then He said that looking at another person lustfully is committing adultery in one's heart. Jesus explained that thinking about an act is the same as doing it, because actions begin with thoughts and desires. Since lust and adultery are first embraced in the mind and heart, believers should try to avoid situations that cause temptation.

PRAYER
Dear Lord, there is much pain here today. Hurt and betrayal are affecting this marriage. You have promised, Lord, that You are close to the brokenhearted and will bind up their wounds. You are the Healer, the Restorer. We ask for Your guidance in this painful situation ... In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Retirement

Retirement - Day 1
Day 1: 12/07/2021: Retirement - Retire or Re-Tyre?
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Retirement. Day 1: Retire or Re-Tyre? 12/07/2021, Monday (By JCES)

Before researching on retirement in biblical terms, I always looked forward to retirement. After all those years of working hard, progressing in my careers, and making sacrifices, I feel like retirement is when I have finally made it. I see it a phase of life to enjoy all the luxuries I have convinced myself I deserve.

What does the Bible say about retirement?
God gave Adam a job. When God first created man. He gave him a job to work and manage the garden. God chose him for the job and gave him a clear job description. Adam enjoyed his work and the fruit of his hard work.

Everything is good, therefore work is good—working keeps our bodies healthy, our minds sharp and our lifespans longer probably.

So is retirement bad?
Honestly speaking I cannot find much information about retirement in bible. Everyone work throughout their lives. Maybe, as Christian, we don’t retire. Our purpose on earth is not about retirement. There is no other direction found in Scripture that would suggest we should retire.

Is retirement “sinful”? Or maybe we should look from a different perspective. Re-Tires!
Maybe retirement is a phase of life? It will be our last phase of our time on earth, our final lap, where we can give more time to God’s ministry.

In Formula 1 racing, cars get into pit stops to refill their gas, change their tires, in order to continue the race—either to maintain speed/positions or get faster rather than slowing down. For Christians don’t retire, but RE-Tires—“Changing Wheels”. We do not want to lose our grip nor lose the race. We want to finish and win the race beautifully.

The Right Retirement – Be Willing to Serve
I believe it is best to try to continue to work and volunteer in some capacity in church. It’s good for your hearts and minds, our continued spiritual growth. Even though we might retire from our job due to legislation or organisation policy, a Christian serving Christ never stops.

There are many people who retire and for the rest of their lives they use all their free time to chase a hobby, watch TV all day and they talk about the things they “used to do” for Christ. God did not let us live long enough so we can whittle away our time and remaining energy. “Go green” by harnessing the available yet untapped energy and free time to serve God and advance His kingdom.

Bible verse for Christians
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (ESV)

Bible verses for my Care-group
Titus 2:2–3 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. [3] Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good. (ESV)

[By JCES]

Retirement - Day 2
Day 2: 13/07/2021: Retire, Re-Tyre & Regrets?
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Retirement. Day 2: Retire, Re-Tyre & Regrets? 13/07/2021, Tuesday.

My father has not reached retirement aged yet under the law. But he wrote in to his employer to ask for EARLY retirement! He was allowed to retire about 2 years earlier than expected. Was this a "dream come true"? Immediately after his getting his early retirement before reaching 60, he chased his long awaited dream immediately. He booked one-way ticket flights to Jerusalem with my mum, found accomodation, signed up for a course there, wanted to study his dream subjects and spending Christmas of 1996 in Bethlehem!

Some years later, my father was back in Singapore, sitting in my office. In one of those lunch time chats, he mentioned that he regretted retiring early. Whatever the strong PUSH factors that prompted him to write in for early retirement was now GONE!

It is said that "Retirement should be a reward for a life well lived and by definition is the cessation of full-time work or employment. It involves having saved enough money over the course of one's work life to support oneself and one's spouse so that both can quit working (or work instead at what they really love, whether an income is derived or not) and live instead on the interest and returns of the money saved."

REFLECTIONS: The above definition does not define retirement as a total cessation of work, but only partial (working at a lower energy level). Do you agree? How not to regret retiring?

What are some of the thoughts that accompany analysis of retirement:

Retirement Goals

1. At what age do you wish to retire from full-time employment?

2. What do you wish to accomplish during retirement? Do you plan to travel when you retire? Are there particular hobbies or pastimes you will want to devote time to when you retire?

3. Will you continue to work until you are no longer able? What if you get sick-how will an illness affect your retirement plan?

4. Are you planning for your spouse to retire with you?

5. Where will you live? Will it be alone or with family?

Finances and Spending Habits

1. Do you use credit cards? Have you ever charged too much?

2. Do your spending habits need to change for you to save for the lifestyle you want to have during retirement? Are there some areas in which you could cut spending (for example, less eating out, fewer unnecessary purchases)?

3. Do you have a set monthly budget that you follow? Do you have any debt you need to payoff?

4. Have you invested money for your retirement? How much of your income is going toward your retirement? Is this more or less than you planned on saving?

5. Are your investments at a point, or growing to a level, in which they can fund your retirement now or when you plan to retire? Are there any other potential investment opportunities, or income sources to add to your retirement fund?

6. Have you "achieved" your CPF Minimum Sum?

7. Are you involved in any investments or business projects that are putting your retirement plan at risk? Is your investment portfolio set up appropriately for your age? Are your stocks and mutual funds performing well?

8. Should you meet with a professional to have your portfolio reviewed?

9. Do you have term life insurance? Do you think that whole life insurance is a good investment? (Many experts debate the value.)

10. Do you know what you can expect from your various CPF schemes when you retire?

11. How much money do you anticipate receiving from your insurance or annuity plan?

Conclusion: Not only should there be strong PUSH FACTORS for retiring from full-time employment, there should also be strong PULL FACTORS of that activity/adventure that you wish to pursue when life reaches that milestone of redirection. Seek God's will and Re-Tyre for His purposes!

Retirement - Day 3
Day 3: 14/07/2021: Wise Counsel on Re-Tyrement & Actions Steps
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Retirement. Day 3: Wise Counsel on Re-Tyrement & Actions Steps. 14/07/2021, Wednesday.

WISE COUNSEL
The best way forward is preparedness and wise planning to transit to life after full and siong working life in later years.

Two things might happen:

(1) maintain fullness of purpose, satisfaction of having managed life wisely, maintaining one's respect and self-worth; OR

(2) succumbing to "despair", feeling bankrupt, unable to work and unable to support himself or herself.

For some of us, the inability to support ourselves starts much earlier rather than later: due to recklessness, living beyond our means, or even mismanagement. Continuing to drive on life's fast lane even with empty tanks for too long? Turn back!

ACTION STEPS
1. Have a Re-tyrement Plan - Having a re-tyrement plan is not just a good idea, it is a must. One should not assume that there will be others to bails us out. Hence, if you do not set aside appropriate funds for re-tyrement, you may find yourself in financial turmoil during your later years.

- To avoid this, there is no time like the present to begin thinking, discussing, and planning for "retirement", or whatever you are going to call the transition in your work life in your sixties, or whatever applicable age then.

2. Put Money into Retirement Savings - Many Boomers (born after 2nd World War to about 1965) are in the position of having to delay or forego retirement because they have not saved enough money. Though delaying re-tyrement may not be on the top of the list of things you want to do, there are significant incentives for persons who are finding some shortcomings in their retirement savings plan.

3. Consider Delaying Re-tyrement
- People who retire at sixty-two can expect to live another twenty years or more statistically. Hence, each year that you postpone re-tyrement, you reduce your need for retirement savings by about 5 percent. Moreover, an extra year of work provides additional income to be put into savings, increases your CPF benefits and provides some additional time for other private investments to mature.

- When considering the multiple benefits, delaying re-tyrement can significantly reduce the total amount that you must save now. All of this must be considered when planning your re-tyrement-a challenge for anyone below 40 and a must for anyone past 40.

4. Consult a Professional Financial Planner
- A qualified and experienced financial planner will be able to help design a plan that works for you and your specific situation. He/she has experience in planning and knows what does or doesn't work with the present economical structure of society.

5. Talk to Your Pastor / spiritual community
- After designing a plan, talk to your pastor about how you see yourself in ministry over the years, your passion for serving Christ, your observed gifts that can bless your spiritual community, and how this plan will help you accomplish this ministry. Your pastor can also keep you accountable to this plan and offer prayer support.

Retirement - Day 4
Day 4: 15/07/2021: Bible Insights & Sample Prayer
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Retirement. Day 4: Bible Insights & Sample Prayer. 15/07/2021, Thursday.

Isaiah 46:4 ... even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (ESV)

1 Corinthians 7:29–31 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, [30] and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, [31] and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (ESV)


Whether working, re-tyred or retired, the Great Commission is to make disciples of men and women in all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).

If we are involved in disciple making (through "going", "baptizing" and "teaching", the 3 participles show continuous action), this would help us have hope and purpose at every stage of life.

In this way, we leave something valuable and purposeful for the future generations that come after us. This also gives us a sense of integrity and hope to those who are really "retired", or their re-tyred tires are also getting bald. The chequered flag end-goal is already in sight, but we can still be hopeful.

Isaiah 40:29–31 [29] He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. [30] Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; [31] but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (ESV)

Galatians 6:9–10 [9] And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. [10] So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)


SAMPLE PRAYER
Life is full of transitions, Lord, and You are in control of them all. Help to prepare and face the transition of re-TYREment with grace and wisdom. Bless him or her as he/she begins this new and exciting phase of life ... in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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2021 Devotion

Marital & Family Love Styles

Marital & Family Love Styles - Day 1
Day 1: 05/07/2021: Marital & Family Love Styles
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Marital & Family Love Styles Day 1: 05/07/2021, Monday [By ZJ]

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)

婚姻和家庭爱情风格(第一天)[By ZJ]
哥林多前书13:7凡事包容。凡事相信。凡事盼望。凡事忍耐。 这应该是我未读圣经就已经熟记的一句经文吧,歌唱的好听,含义更是贴切深远,不仅仅是对于家人、爱人、友人之间,对于我们日常的为人处世,也有着深刻的指导意义。

“凡事包容”,指真实且属神的爱可以战胜人生的风风雨雨;“凡事相信”,让我们不要对他人丧失信心,凡事看光明的一面,看人也是想着他的优点,而不是只惦记他做的不够好的地方;“凡事盼望”,当我们以积极乐观的心情看待现在,当我们将未来交托在神的手上,那么我们的身心都变的更加愉快美好;“凡事忍耐”,无论逆境还是顺境,坚持和忍耐终会让我们感受到神对我们的爱,这份爱一直都在,永不消逝。

当我每次用心体会这句经文的含义,也是在提醒我自己,如何更好的经营夫妻关系,维持家庭和睦。
[By ZJ]

Marital & Family Love Styles - Day 2
Day 2: 06/07/2021: Love & Support from CG/Church body and spiritual growth
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Marital & Family Love Styles Day 2: Love & Support from CG/Church body and spiritual growth. 06/07/2021, Tuesday [By ZJ]

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (ESV)

约翰一书 4:7 亲爱的弟兄阿,我们应当彼此相爱。因为爱是从神来的。凡有爱心的,都是由神而生,并且认识神。
我的小家庭,可以说是在教会的关怀,团契的扶持下成长起来的。虽然我们夫妻俩在结婚之时,还没有立志信主,但我们的主婚人是尊敬的蔡牧师,我们的证婚人、婚礼的司仪都是团契的伙伴……所以我们婚礼满载着由神而生的爱。

但是婚姻并不是说有神的关爱,有教会团契的祝福,就是顺利美好的。我们之间的小问题,一直都在,如果不及时化解,随时可能变成引爆婚姻危机的大问题。在问题出现时,姐妹们会比较愿意倾诉分享,从中得到安慰支持和有益的建议;而弟兄往往把问题和想法留在心里,想着或许交托给神、交给时间,就能解决一切。

我没有能力和资格去判定哪种方式比较理想更加有效,但无论如何通过适合自己的方式,去坚守这份由神而生的爱和家庭,是我们必须为之努力的。[By ZJ]

Marital & Family Love Styles - Day 3
Day 3: 07/07/2021: Love is the lived out Word on the road of truth
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Marital & Family Love Styles Day 3: Love is the lived out Word on the road of truth. 07/07/2021, Wednesday [By ZJ]

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (ESV)
约翰一书 3:18 孩子们哪,让我们不在语言或口头上相爱,而在行为和真理中相爱。

家庭不是一个人的,所以不是单个人就可以提供很好的维护,也不是谁说的多、主意多,就是贡献大的那位。在我们家,我是话比较多意见也不少的那一位,然而我也意识到我的“废话”,其实给家人带来了压力和困扰,也没有更好的解决问题。

如果能够静下来分析思考,站在不同的立场角度考虑问题,或许就有更有效的解决方案。我意识到自己的错误所在,但不说明我下次面对同样问题的时候不会再犯☹ 这是个让人难过的事实。所幸我的家人,虽然经常沉默不语,但是总会用行动来证明他对家人的包容,对神的爱。

所以每个人表达爱的方式和语言不一样,这就需要我们懂得包容和理解,拥有更多的智慧和耐心,去理解和接受家人“爱的语言和方式”,从而维持充满“平安喜乐”属灵的家庭生活。[By ZJ]

Marital & Family Love Styles - Day 4
Day 4: 08/07/2021: Self-Examination on Love Languages & Actions Steps
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Marital & Family Love Styles Day 4: Self-Examination on Love Languages & Actions Steps. 08/07/2021, Thursday

Ask these questions to determine your primary and secondary love languages.

A: Words of Affirmation
1. Do you need verbal praise and encouragement? Do you thrive on verbal praise, tone of voice, kindness, and thank-yous? Do you love it when people compliment you to your face and to others (directly and indirectly)?

2. Do you love getting notes and emails? Do you need verbal affirmation? Do you do this for others you care about?

B: Quality Time
3. Do you love having people's undivided attention? Do you like it when people come over and just hang out? Do you like to plan activities to do with others?

4. Do you like quality conversations? Do you enjoy the giving and take of asking questions and listening? Do you really like to get inside people's heads and find out what they're thinking?

C: Gifts
5. Do you like visual symbols of love? (Gifts can come in any shape or size-maybe someone just brings you a cup of coffee at work or passes you chocolate or sweets. The cost doesn't matter; it's truly the thought that counts). Do you find yourself giving gifts to others to show how you care

D: Acts of Service
6. Do you like to do things for others? Do you like it when others help you out as well? (For example, someone steps in to help on a project; someone washes your car; someone makes you dinner-and you eagerly do the same types of things for your friends and family.)

E: Physical Touch
7. Are you a "toucher"? Do you give pats on the back? Do you give hugs when you meet a close friend? Do you appreciate that kind of physical touch from others?

ACTION STEPS: ONLY 2

1. Determine Your Love Language: Determine what language you use to let people know you love them-do you spend time with them; do you do things for them; do you affirm them verbally; do you give gifts; do you give hugs and pats?

2. Determine the Love Languages of Your Loved Ones: Look at the people in your life and determine what their love languages are. Those people may be saying, "I love you," but you may not be hearing it because it isn't in your love language. For example:

• Your friends might be coming over to hang out (quality time) and you want them to say how much they like hanging out (words of affirmation).

• Your spouse may give you gifts, and you just don't get it.

• Your children may look to you for hugs (physical touch), and you think words of praise are enough.

Determining your own love language and understanding the love language of your family and friends will go a long way in communicating and receiving the love that is truly there.

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2021 Devotion

Family Time

Family Time - Day 1
Day 1: 28/06/2021: Family Time - 3 Portraits through the eyes of Rebecca
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Family Time Day 1: 28/06/2021, Monday: 3 Portraits through the eyes of Rebecca

Family time requires a commitment to both the quantity and quality of time to build healthy and secure attachment bonds between parent and child. Many persons, even ministry leaders, do not realise that their family is their first and greatest ministry.

That is why we exist - to see, and rejoice in, and reflect the value of the glory of God. Isaiah 43:6–7 "I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (ESV)

The three portraits in my life are:

1. Growing up I have very little memory of my parents at home. My main caregiver was my helper. I even titled my Chinese composition in primary school as ‘我的爸爸是猫头鹰🦉。’ because he sleeps when I go to school and works when I’m asleep.

2. During my secondary days (after my baptism), my godparents’ place is my hiding place. Due to the short proximity to school, I like to drop by and just hang around. So much love filled the house, and I really envy how their family is positively different from mine.

3. After getting married, learning to say no to non-crucial appointments became a skill. Spending a lot more time at home and doing things together with Jianye and his niece and nephew; checking mundane things off the list can be interesting after all.

Contrary to popular belief, building family bonds is not just about quality time. This is especially so when I have a ‘flying’ husband. It is also about quantity of time. It’s about praying together before bedtime, getting hot milk for me when I said I’m hungry before I go to sleep, and listening to each other's dreams the next morning. Relationships are built during the moments that show up unexpectedly and require hours and hours just being together.

Application: What is your definition of family time? And how have your perspectives changed over the different stages of life?
[By RKHB]

Family Time - Day 2
Day 2: 29/06/2021: Family Time Over The Weekends
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Family Time Day 2: 29/06/2021, Tuesday: Family Time Over The Weekends

Families need to set aside time for family fun, that is scheduled times for the entire family to enjoy the company of each other while engaging in an interactive group activity. This is different from a family sitting together to watch a movie, and this different from families who are together while each person “does his or her own thing” such as surfing net on the phone. These are not particularly useful in building family bonds.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (ESV)

Writing this devotion entry with Jianye’s niece and nephew in the picture, providing love and care from Friday evenings to Sunday after dinner is the main family time I’m referring to. Choosing to bring either one of them for outings with my own girl friends, bring both back to my mother’s place with Jianye, and basically doing most things that revolve around them. With that, they would be referred to the ‘kids’ in the following questions:

1. How is it going with your kids?

2. Right now, do you feel close to your children?

3. Does you family have a designated family fun time? Devotion time? If not, would you consider scheduling one of each every week?

4. What activities do you, your spouse, and your kids all enjoy? What kinds of things could you imagine doing with the family?

5. How much time do you spend with your children each week? When you are with your kids, do you focus on accomplishing something or just being present with them? Do you eliminate handphones and other distractions during family time?

6. If you use quantity of time spent as a yardstick, what is most important in your life right now? What in life is more important than a strong relationship with your family?

Application: We often say we have many things to do, but little time to accomplish them. Reflecting on the above interview questions, what would be your action plan for the remainder of this year?
[By RKHB]

Family Time - Day 3
Day 3: 30/06/2021: Wise Counsel
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Family Time Day 3: 30/06/2021, Wednesday: Wise Counsel [By HBQ]
家庭时间 Day 3: Wise counsel

提摩太前书5:8
人若不看顾亲属,就是背了其道,比不信的人还不好,不看顾家里的人,更是如此。

基督徒当在生活上和属灵的供应上去照顾、看顾亲人孩子!家庭时间为我们看顾好家人提供保障,保证了家人间的沟通和陪伴,也是增进夫妻之间以及父母与子女之间健康关系的重要力量。在我长大的过程中,父母忙于农活和工作,童年记忆里印象最深刻的家庭时光是一家人一起扫雪 、干农活、围在火炉旁吃早餐(寒假期间爸爸不需要工作)。也正是这些爱的陪伴,在我长大后无论遇到多大的困境,依然可以积极前行,是小时候所得到爱的能量的释放。家庭时间不仅仅需要时间积累,更需要高效陪伴。

家庭时间对孩子和夫妻有多重要?

1.有利于孩子建立安全感和自信心。安全感看似看不见摸不着,但它却像一个堡垒,让孩子能放心、安心的去探索和成长。我们的陪伴让孩子感受到来自于父母及家人的爱,孩子会更加阳光自信,敢于探索和挑战。

2.改善亲子、亲属关系。亲子关系是父母和孩子感情的纽带,陪伴是必不可少的,让两者间更加亲密。我丈夫在孩子0到3岁的阶段,很少花时间和孩子在一起。三四岁后爸爸发觉孩子有趣了并想要互动的时候,孩子对爸爸很抗拒。五岁阶段和爸爸分隔两地,六岁阶段回到新加坡爸爸的工作性质没有周末,回到家孩子已入睡。受新冠病毒影响的这一年多,虽对我的家庭有负面影响,但感恩神的恩典和带领,儿子和爸爸重新建立了亲密的亲子关系。

"疫情下父亲形象重塑"是我的家庭的真实写照。因为孩子们中国长大的缘故,他们和家人比较陌生。回到新加坡后,奶奶、姑姑、姐姐每周都会风雨无阻的花时间陪他们出门,一起游戏。家庭时间量上的累积,带来了关系上质的改善。目前孩子们和家人的关系很亲密。相信其背后是信仰的力量,更是神的大能的彰显。

3.夫妻的共享时间频率越高,婚姻的稳定性和幸福感就越好。有了孩子之后,我的家庭重心不知不觉转移到孩子身上而忽略爱人,每天固定的"咖啡时光"和临睡前"减压聊天"对我们有很多帮助。

[By HBQ]

Family Time - Day 4
Day 4: 01/07/2021: Wise Counsel [Continued]
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Family Time Day 4: 01/07/2021, Thursday: Wise Counsel [Continued] [By HBQ]
家庭时间 Day 4 续。

如何让我们的家庭时间更高效?让我们一起探索安排家庭时间的智慧策略:

1. 高质量的家庭时间需要全情投入,及时回应,积极互动。高质量的家庭陪伴不是单纯的只"陪"不"伴",而是身心合一。“我在你身边,你却低头看手机”,手机正深深影响着家庭生活。家庭会议时孩子对我提出的要求: 陪伴他们读书玩游戏期间尽可能不用手机。这也让我意识到对孩子而言,全身心的投入,及时回应孩子的感受和需求很重要,让孩子感觉到自己被重视,被认可,被关爱。

2. 多了解孩子想法,尊重孩子的意见,并让孩子参与策划。比如我们固定的家庭时间期间,孩子提议玩某个游戏的时候我会觉得太幼稚或太耗时拒绝,孩子明显情绪上受挫。我丈夫在这方面就很出色,即便是在家这么小的空间玩捉迷藏,也是和孩子玩的乐在其中。

3. 每周安排固定的家庭时间并给其设置特别的主题。比如棋盘游戏、户外运动、野餐、露营、采摘、烹饪、插花🌼、种植、家庭会议、感恩祷告敬拜等等。
我们大家庭每周有两次固定的聚餐。其乐融融的氛围,简单的交谈,与家人共度时光让我们减轻压力,是让大家保持精神健康的好机会。疫情前每周六会雷打不动的去教会参加崇拜,目前我们会抽空在婆婆家一同线上敬拜,女佣也是基督徒,即便未信主的姐姐也会和我们一起。

孩子们六月假期我国正处于“高警戒解封第二阶段”,"家庭音乐会"、"家庭打扫日" 、"一起早读"、全家猜谜"、"合作拼乐高"给我们带来很多乐趣。

4.棋盘游戏(Board games)不仅能启发孩子的智慧,更能引导和发展他们的动手能力、反应力和社交能力。因地域环境差异的缘故,之前我们的周末基本上都是在采摘、滑雪、放风筝、种树、烧烤等野外度过的,回到新加坡后起初有些不习惯。好在随着年龄的推移,孩子们的兴趣转移到了棋盘游戏上。像大富翁(Monopoly)、生命游戏(Game of Life )、棋类等等让他们乐在其中。并且棋盘游戏无形中帮助孩子们养成沟通、分享、社交、耐心,"输得起" 等良好品质。

5. 家庭时间用来做一些团队合作的项目比如烹饪和具有 "探索性" 的活动,更加促进家人间的沟通。溜冰、攀岩、密室逃脱是女儿最爱的家庭时间活动项目。

思想应用:

1.在你和家人一起度过的家庭时间中,你是否做到身心合一,深度关注,深入陪伴,深度互动,全情投入?

2. 你是如何安排和保障家庭时间的?

[By HBQ]

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2021 Devotion

Fear & Anxiety

fear & anxiety - day 1
Day 1: 21/06/2021: Fear & Anxiety - How do they look like?
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How do they look like?
• She was always on the alert and seemed to be always on constant watch for potential hazards even when trying to relax. As an only child, she felt she was born to be her mother's scapegoat. When she was young, she recalled that her body was numb due to fear and anxiety just waiting for mum to come home. The unknown of what would happen in the house the next moment fuelled her fear and anxiety. As an adult, she was always wary of potential harm. She even found that she became tense when there was nothing to be anxious about.

• He was considered a loner. But this was just a front to hide his deep fear of being in groups and social settings. He became overwhelmed with panic when he was in a restaurant eating with his colleagues. Even though it seemed irrational, he would fear saying something foolish, spilling food on his, or beginning to stutter. When he was alone with one person, he was fine, but in a group, even making eye contact with someone seemed painful.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

FEAR
• While most people experience fear as a negative emotion, fear also has a positive component. If you find that you have turned down a one-way street and see a car heading directly at you, fear triggers an autonomic response that sends a signal to your brain to "flee" the potentially dangerous situation.

• Fear becomes a problem when a person is afraid of things that are not real or when the feeling of fear is out of proportion to the real danger present.

• Fear is an emotion that draws a person into a self-protective mode.

• More often than not, fears are related to what a person perceives as a threat to his or her safety and security. The person may fear losing his or her job, having his or her home burglarized, or having conflict in a relationship.

ANXIETY
• Anxiety is a constant fearful state, accompanied by a feeling of unrest, dread, or worry. The person may not be aware of what is creating the fear.

• Anxiety is aroused by a number of factors:
- external situations (viewing the nightly news, a fast-paced lifestyle)
- physical well-being (lack of sleep, blood sugar imbalance)
- modeling (parents who were highly anxious)
- trauma (in situations that may be similar to experiences of the past that caused great pain)

• Anxiety's symptoms can include inability to relax, tense feelings, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, increased blood pressure, jumpiness or feeling faint, excessive perspiring, feeling clammy, constant anticipation of trouble, and constant feeling of uneasiness.

Both faith and fear sail into the harbor of your mind, but only faith should be allowed to anchor. --Anonymous

See you for Day 2!

fear & anxiety - day 2
Day 2: 22/06/2021: More Definitions & 2 Helpful Verses
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3. Phobias
• Phobias are fears of specific things.
• Phobias are fears that are out of proportion to the object, situation, or activity feared. For example, one may have a fear of spiders. A person exhibits a phobia when he or she sees a small spider on the ceiling of a room and refuses to enter the room ever again.

4. Panic Attacks
• Panic attacks are sudden, overwhelming, fearful reactions, with feelings of impending doom.
• In a panic attack, the person feels out of control. Symptoms include being paralyzed by the flight -or- fight response, shortness of breath, racing heart-beat, sweating, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, ringing ears, choking, vertigo, and becoming homebound in fear of another attack.
• The person generally has no clear idea of what prompted the reaction and then becomes afraid of another episode occurring. • The sufferer may feel as if he or she is going crazy or is having a heart attack.

Note: More than three attacks in a month or the onset of a person refusing to go out of the house may indicate the need for some professional assistance.

5. Relational Fears
• There are four major relational fears that people experience that can significantly alter their quality of life: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, and fear of death or dying.
---------------

Two Helpful Verses To Remember

Isaiah 41:10 - fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (ESV)

Isaiah 41:13 - For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (ESV)

We overcome fear by remembering that during Isaiah's time, God sought to comforts his exiled people by promising them that his glory would be displayed when God himself would transform the world. God assured His people then that he alone is the over-riding power behind all events in human history, even though we might not clearly see how The LORD could have worked through all the chaos, pain and mess of Isaiah's time. Let God comfort us again and empower us today again.

Even though Isaiah saw much pain and failures surrounding God's people, Isaiah continued to move forward and serve the living God by faith, by faithfully carrying out the calling that God had given him. In faith, Isaiah proceed with faith instead of fear, by believing that for those who love God, all the supposedly "fearful" events in our lives were actually for His glory and the benefit of His people. God is with His people. God will help His people.

See you for Day 3!

fear & anxiety - day 3
Day 3: 23/06/2021: Assessment Questions & Wise Counsel
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Assessment questions is for the purpose of guiding the interaction and self-discovery with the person you are helping, or even self-talk and sincere self-evaluation after setting aside some time just for this purpose. The scope is

1. When do you find yourself feeling afraid or anxious?

2. How long and to what extent has this fear or anxiety been occurring for you?

3. What situation/object/person causes you the most distress?

4. Do you find there are times when you are more anxious than others? If so, when?

5. Of the things that cause you fear, which seem reasonable and which seem more unreasonable?

6. When do the feelings of anxiety go away?

7. How have you tried to cope with the anxiety?

8. Do you have any health problems and/or medications that may contribute to the anxiety?

9. What would your life be like if you were free of this anxiety?

Wise Counsel
Fear and anxiety are defused by knowledge. The more a person can defuse the perceived threat, the less anxiety he or she will experience.

Generally, the fearful person has established an irrational belief system that is creating anxiety for him or her. Try to gain an understanding of what lies or deceptions are contributing to the anxiety. Most anxiety reactions are learned behavior.

Be intentional in your efforts to encourage the person to develop hope that he or she will be able to overcome the anxiety or fears by learning new behaviors rooted in truth. Anxiety can be contagious. Those who experience strong anxiety tend to elicit anxiety reactions in those who are around them. You need to be aware of your own anxiety level and how you cope personally with anxiety when it occurs.

Be patient with the person as he or she sorts through the feelings of fear. Changing patterns takes time. Don't give up.

Since the LORD is Creator and Lord over all of Creation, how can fear and anxiety ultimately overcome anyone who lives not by non-existent perceived threat, but by the truth that the God who exists has revealed?

See you for Day 4!

fear & anxiety - day 4
Day 4: 24/06/2021: Actions Steps
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Fear & Anxiety Day 4: 24/06/2021, Thursday: Actions Steps

Step 1. Change Thought Patterns
• It is important to dispute negative thoughts and lies with the truth of Scripture ("think about these things", Philippians 4:8).

Step 2. Focus on God
• Help the person move his or her focus from fear to the character of God ("..cast your anxieties on him..." 1 Peter 5:7).
• God wants you to trust and relinquish all fears to Him, especially through prayer ("...let your requests be known to God...", Phil. 4:4-6).
• To have peace, keep your thoughts on God ("You keep him in perfect peace..." Isa. 26:3).

Step 3. Watch for Triggers
• Assist the person in trying to minimize activities and input that induce anxiety.

Step 4. Move Forward
• Help the person learn from setbacks and resolve to continue to face down the fears.
• Gently encourage the person to take careful steps to face their fears.
• When you are becoming afraid, move your focus to the external world and others rather than the internal feelings of anxiety.

Step 5. Develop Relationships
• Assist the person in finding supportive, positive relationships.

Step 6. Be Patient
• Growth takes time.
• God will work in your life to overcome the anxiety that is keeping you from living life to the fullest.
• Try to keep an eternal perspective.

Deuteronomy 7:17–19
[17] “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ [18] you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, [19] the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. (ESV)

Deuteronomy 7:21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. (ESV)

Christian life is not always easy. Devout believers also face difficulties, pain, suffering, and sorrow. With no way out of current problems, many becomes afraid. God told Israel not to be afraid when the going gets tough. God's people are to look backwards into history (or even their own lives) and they would find multiple reasons and assurances to dispel fear and anxiety.

Therefore, we must look at our fearful situations or anxious circumstances in the light of what God has already done for His people. Remember that "the great and awesome God" will be moving ahead with His people to resist Satan and Satan's his "influencers".

"Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it ... that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear." -- Dale Carnegie

See you for Day 5!

fear & anxiety - day 4
Day 5: 25/06/2021: More Verses & Sample Prayer
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MORE VERSES
"Trust in the LORD. ... Delight yourself also in the LORD. ... Commit your way to the LORD. ... Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." Psalm 37:3-5, 7.

David encouraged God's people to trust in the Lord, delight themselves in Him, commit their way to Him, and wait patiently for Him to act. Trusting God focuses our faith and deepens our commitment. Delighting in God means that we experience pleasure in His presence.

Committing our way to God means entrusting everything in our lives to His guidance and control. Waiting patiently is sometimes difficult but it often is the ultimate test of our trust in God.

"Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday." Psalm 91 :3-6

When believers are afraid, they can run to a "refuge" -God Himself. No place could be more safe than with God! Believers can trust that God will protect them in their times of fear. This does not imply that God's people will never suffer or face difficulty, but it does promise that they need not be afraid for they are in God's hands.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

We must not only trust God for our eternal destiny, but also trust Him in our handling of daily challenges and difficulties.

God has promised to guide, direct, accompany and straighten out paths, even when you can't seem to see how God can every start to untangle the mess. If we really want to know God's will for our lives, or even for our actions in a particular situation, we must begin by trusting that God cares about every aspect of living and that He will provide what we need.

SAMPLE PRAYER
Today a precious child of Yours is frightened, Lord, frightened about the fear that has taken hold of his/her life and left him/her feeling helpless and hopeless. He/she wants to serve You, Lord, but this anxiety is debilitating him/her to the point that he/she can barely function. We need the healing touch of Your hand, Lord, and wisdom to handle this anxiety ... In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

God bless you all!

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2021 Devotion

Communication in Marriage

communication in marriage - day 1
Day 1: 14/06/2021: "If you don't say, how would I know?"
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Day 1: Communication in Marriage. 14/06/2021: "If you don't say, how would I know?" [By TYCP]
https://www.esv.org/James+1:19
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

婚姻中的沟通: 第一幕:你不说我怎么知道?

但你们各人要快快地听,慢慢地说,慢慢地动怒,
雅各书 1:19 CUNPSS-神
https://bible.com/bible/48/jas.1.19.CUNPSS-神

良好的沟通在婚姻中非常重要,是维持婚姻不可缺少的要素。然而很多人的婚姻却是因为缺乏正确的沟通方式而画下句点。雅各书1张9节提醒我们要"快快的听,慢慢的说,慢慢地动怒", 其中"听"和"说"形成对比。 我说的和你听的是否是同一频率,你是否理解我话中的意思?同一句话在不同场合的效果又不一样。然而更重要的是若你不说,闷在心中,对方就不能知道你心中的想法,误会就会更快的产生。解释清楚总比什么都不说好。

快快地听,含有 “积极地听,乐意地听”的意思。夫妻间的沟通是双向的。注意聆听,仔细认真的听是关键。常常夫妻间忽略了这一点,总是以“我懂,我懂”或“我知道,我知道”来阻止对方继续说下去,但对方也许还没结束他想说的话。沟通的问题往往就是由于没有听清对方的话、错误地领会对方的意思造成误解,是夫妻矛盾的主要原因。父母和孩子也存在同样问题。

慢慢地说,含有"小心的说,谨慎的回答",要注意自己的话语,因为人说的话,犹如覆水难收,无法收回。慢慢地说,给自己预留时间思考,甚至从神的话语中寻找答案。除此之外,必须谨慎自己的言语,不要在不经意中批评论断别人。圣经说:“你们不要论断人,免得你们被论断。因为你们怎样论断人,也必怎样被论断。…为什么看见你弟兄眼中有刺,却不想自己眼中有梁木呢?”(太7:1-3)批评论断会造成对别人的伤害,也可能引起不必要的争吵。不会说话的人,往往是成事不足、败事有余,甚至引起杀身之祸,"祸从口出”正是此意。慢慢的说,学习在思考再开口是生活中不可缺少的技能!

夫妻在彼此日常生活中的沟通也常常出现-- "我以为","我觉得","你不是也这样想吗?" 而产生了误会。雅各书1张9节也提醒我们要"慢慢地动怒",在还没确定事情的原由时,不要轻易发怒。若听不明白就该问明了,不要让误会延伸,以至于向对方发怒。其实,上帝造人各有不同的思想,我想的不一定是你想的,没有把事情搞清楚就可能造成误解。解开误会的方法就是把事情说清楚,让对方知道你的想法而不是猜测你的想法。夫妻本是二人成为一体,但思想却各人不同,彼此尊重对方的想法也是在婚姻中不可缺少的要素之一。

思想回应
1. 你在婚姻中是否是容易发怒的那一位?在你发怒之前是否有听明白对方要传达的内容?
2. 当你心中对另一半有不满时,是否有尝试和对方分享你的想法,还是选择埋藏在心中?当你不愿意分享时,试想想对方若不知道你心里的想法又怎能做到让你满意呢?
[By TYCP]

communication in marriage - day 2
Day 2: 15/06/2021: "Love" refers to the motivation, while "truth" refers to the content.
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Day 2. Communication in Marriage. 15/06/2021. Tue: "Love" refers to the motivation, while "truth" refers to the content. [By TYCP]

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (ESV)
https://www.esv.org/Ephesians+4:15

婚姻中的沟通: 第二幕:真诚相待,绝不隐瞒
惟用爱心说诚实话,凡事长进,连于元首基督,
以弗所书 4:15 CUNPSS-神
https://bible.com/bible/48/eph.4.15.CUNPSS-神

和我相熟的人应该都会觉得我是个心直口快,有话不说就会全身不自在的人。这个"坏习惯"让我在生活中遇到了许多问题,更是在我的婚姻中制造了不小的麻烦。

有时候,说实话的时机不对,方法不对,或者说的理由不对,就能让人感到伤心难过,甚至留下阴影。那难道就不该说实话吗?我常为争一口气,据理力争,就是觉得自己说得没错,是事实,该说的就说,不该虚伪行事。当我以为自己占尽上风,讲赢了,环顾四周一看,赢了又怎样?我也没开心多少,心情糟透了。。。 一家人的心情也被这一闹毁了!

圣经中以弗所书 4:15,惟用爱心说诚实话,爱心就是你说话的动机,诚实就是你说话的内容。另一半的行为举动也许不是我们习惯的方法,或许是生活环境的不同。在说实话的同时也必须顾及他人的感受,包括对你的伴侣。说诚实话的目的应该是为了造就别人而不是伤害别人。用爱心或在爱中说诚实的话就应该是为了对方好而说出来的。保罗说:凡事都能做,但不都有益处。虽然我说话常常一针见血,以为自己说诚实话就是在帮助别人改正错误,但往往在不经意的言辞中已伤害了另一个人。

那到底该不该说诚实话呢?难道我看到了问题也不提醒对方吗?也不是的。当时机对了,可以在适当的时候提醒对方, 这样就可以避免不必要的误会了。另一方面,可能有人会问,在夫妻关系中,我心里受伤害、不满,不高兴、很难过,这些负面的情绪和感受要不要跟对方表达?说出来是否又会是一场战争的来临?当然要表达,但要选择合适的时机。你内心的真实感受是需要被对方知道的,不要压抑,不要隐瞒,也不要掩饰。

说诚实话其实并非易事,甚至可能会给你带来痛苦。不说也许可以免除不必要的麻烦或争吵,但我们必须在错误中学习成长。在开口之前先想想你说出来的话要如何造就对方,如何说才可以把伤害减到最轻,最小。相对的,如何接受别人的评论提点也是一门重要的学问。你身边的这个最亲密的人便是那位可以帮助你,诚实面对你的人。也许说出来的话并不好听,可能你也不认同,但我相信对方在说出真实感受时也许也经过一番挣扎。听的人也许可以虚心的聆听学习。

思想回应
1。当你的伴侣老实地点出你的错误和问题,你是否愿意虚心地认真悔改?
2。当你尝试说诚实话提醒你的伴侣时却遭到否决,可以尝试了解对方的想法,背景和习惯。也许有些行为是无法短时间改正过来,给对方时间也是踏出爱心的一步。
3。你可以尝试回想在你的婚姻中,你的另一半是否诚实的提醒过你的问题,而你却视而不见,聪耳不闻呢?若是有这样的情况,请对你的另一半表达感谢吧!
[By TYCP]

communication in marriage - day 3
Day 3: 16/06/2021: Respectful courtesy. Accept and Embrace one another
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Day 3. Communication in Marriage. 16/06/2021. Wed: "Respectful courtesy. Accept and Embrace one another" [By TYCP]

https://www.esv.org/Romans+15:7
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV)

婚姻中的沟通
第三幕:相敬如宾, 彼此包容接纳

所以,你们要彼此接纳,如同基督接纳你们一样,使荣耀归与 神。
罗马书 15:7 CUNPSS-神
https://bible.com/bible/48/rom.15.7.CUNPSS-神

在我们家,老公的理念是干净整齐,不需要的东西不会出现在家里。而我却是需要的东西放外面,方便拿,不需要的东西先预备好,总有一天会用到。孩子们呢就比较像我啦,书桌没有一天是整齐的。在这件事上我们一家人可是闹翻了天,直到现在还没达成共识呢。

在这样的环境下生活,辛苦的肯定是老公。谁在乎谁整理嘛!我呢也不是不能体会,就是习惯改不了,虽然尽力了,但无能为力。有了孩子后更是难上加难。感恩,老公虽然嘴里一直唠叨,但却总是在背后帮忙收拾。我也尽力配合,可以藏起来的,就不露出来,就这样,相安无事的生活着。结婚后必须学习包容和体谅彼此的生活方式,本来就不是一件容易的事。双方都在不同的家庭背景中成长,生活方式不同是可以理解的。如果双方都坚持己见,不肯退让,那真的很难过下去了。圣经也在罗马书15章7节提醒我们”你们要彼此接纳,如同基督接纳你们一样,使荣耀归与 神。” 我想这也是上帝给婚姻中的一个功课。

俗话说:有事好商量。夫妻之间保持良好的沟通,会让彼此的关系更加融洽。如果有什么不满的,就要学习好好的沟通,彼此接纳彼此的短处,也不忘赞许彼此的长处。另外,"谢谢“,”不客气“,“Sorry,对不起”,“爱你哦” ,这几句话也常在我们家出现,例如吃晚餐前老公和孩子会对我说谢谢,感谢我预备的食物。虽然是每天都在做的事,但听到一句简单的谢谢就会很开心满足。相对的,如果老公帮我做家务,甚至帮忙倒杯水,我也会对他说谢谢。我们的孩子在这样的环境中也能学习彼此感恩,彼此尊重。有些夫妻可能会觉得这几句话很难开口,都老夫老妻,何必要说这些客套话,觉得见外。可是这些话往往能让生活中紧绷的气氛缓和不少。当然也别忘了偶而提醒身边的另一半你还爱他,一句简单的“爱你哦”可以让生活更有情调,也不失恋爱的味道。所以夫妻之间,不要犹豫说“谢谢”,不要怕说“对不起”,不要害羞说“我爱你”。

夫妻常忽略“相敬如宾”这个道理,往往对待朋友,同事甚至陌生人比对自己的另一半更好。举例说服务员送上食物,你会礼貌的说谢谢,但另一半为你打包食物时你不只没感恩还嫌弃食物不是你的喜好。你是否总觉得另一半就应该体谅自己,包容自己,可以看到自己最丑陋的一面,所以无需再以礼相待了。然而却忘了你最亲近的人也需要你的尊重和认同。夫妻间更应如此,你的另一半是要陪伴你度过一生的人,必然要互相尊重,互相欣赏,互相取悦,互相鼓励,互相扶持,平等相待,这是不可缺的。今天,当你在和同事,朋友相处的时候也想想你对待你的另一半时是否更胜这些朋友同事呢?

思想回应
1. 你是否已经很久都没有在另一半协助你时对他说“谢谢”了?是否在不经意中把对方对你的好当做是理所当然?试学习开口表达你的感受,让对方也体会到你的爱与尊重。
2. 人人都有优缺点。常常缺点总是特别明显地被挖出来而优点却被忽略了。你身边另一半的优点是否在婚后渐渐被你隐藏起来了?试试回想你与他相遇,相知,相惜的过程,从新找回失去的,初恋的情感,也许会有不一样的收获哦!
[By TYCP]

communication in marriage - day 4
Day 4: 17/06/2021: Move ahead, hand in hand, heart with heart.
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Day 4. Communication in Marriage. 17/06/2021. Thu: Move ahead, hand in hand, heart with heart. [By TYCP]

https://www.esv.org/Amos+3:3
Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? (ESV)

婚姻中的沟通
第四幕:同心同行,携手向前

二人若不同心,岂能同行呢?
阿摩司书 3:3 CUNPSS-神
https://bible.com/bible/48/rom.15.7.CUNPSS-神

从第一个孩子来到我们家的那天,我就正式成为了家庭主妇。每天的生活就是围绕着孩子和老公。孩子的来临让我和老公在照顾孩子的理念和教育上有一些的分歧。特别是家庭教育这一点。由于我俩的成长背景都不一样,想要给孩子的也不一样。很可爱但也很无奈的是,我们的理念都是从圣经来的。取自以弗所书6章1-4节中。老公看重的是“你们作父亲的,不要惹儿女的气,只要照着主的教训和警戒,养育他们。而我看重的是,“你们作儿女的,要在主里听从父母,这是理所当然的”。这两节经文有着不一样的教导理念呢!谁也没错。。。

结婚后有许多的憧憬,有了孩子后更是如此,期待给孩子一个完整完美的家。但当遇到理念不同时难免发生冲突,特别是管教孩子这个课题上。如何同心在这个问题上就明显的表露出来。我常常在管教孩子时期待孩子能够顺服父母,认为我为他们预备的都是为他们好,但哪个孩子事事顺从?常常就是以争吵结束。在某些情况下老公不止不帮忙劝说,还反过来责怪我,觉得在不必要的情况下,别惹孩子的气,无需严厉管教。身为全职家庭主妇兼家教的我怎么能够接受?我常常都被气得七窍生烟,真想一走了之。然而,孩子是我们的,总不能不管不顾。于是我们夫妻俩总会在事情发生后检讨彼此的不足,纠正对方的错误。这过程不容易但却真真实实需要进行沟通。摩3:3,“二人若不同心,岂能同行”。如果我俩各持己见,如何能一起度过余生呢?难道要在每天吵吵闹闹中度过吗?那还不如一个人自己过呢。

夫妻二人,作为两个不同的个体,性格、家庭背景、生活方式都不相同,要让两个人有相同的想法是很困难的事情。彼此沟通在这个过程中就非常重要。在这件事上,我们知道对方的用意都是为孩子好,而不是针对各人时,彼此就会学会体谅对方的想法,从而找出更适合的方法。在检讨的过程免不了唇枪舌剑一番,为自己的观点据理力争,在不伤害对方的前提下找出解决的方案才最重要的。虽然我和孩子的争锋相对从没停止过,和老公在孩子教养的问题上也还没达成共识,但我俩依然同心,盼望能给孩子最好的。而这份同心来自于神。

我常跟孩子分享我和老公的关系中一直有”第三者“的存在,那就是神。从我和老公认识的第一天就有神的同在,到我们步入婚姻的礼堂,延续到我们的下一代,神确确实实的成了我们家的”第三者“。当我们各自冷战时,神在我们当中成为了桥梁。我们会各自祷告,求神带领,教导我们如果胜过自己的骄傲,彼此谦卑的来到对方面前解决问题。我们之间的冷战,争吵通常不会多过24小时。对于基督徒的婚姻,夫妻两个人的关系如何常常可以反映出他们两个人跟神的关系如何。也就是说,夫妻两个人要同心,除非你们选择跟神同心。与神同心的人,会经历上帝所赐美好的婚姻关系。

当两人同心,自然就能同行。当两人有一样的目标,自然就能携手一同奔向目标前行。虽然婚姻里不可能没有摩擦,争吵,但是如果两个人都能保持一颗谦卑的心,愿意顺服彼此,体谅彼此的需要,那各种各样的大事小事都可以安然度过的。

思想应用
1. 回想你在婚礼上的誓言,你对另一半和对神的誓约是否还存在你的婚姻中?当二人同心,如同二人彼此在神面前立约,是要相守一生的。当面对决策时,试着站在对方的立场,考虑对方的感受后再一起做决定,不要陷入独断独行的决策中。
2. 你的婚姻是否有让神参与其中?婚后两个人要保持良好、和谐的关系,不是自自然然,随随便便就能有的,这需要两个人用心地去建立, 其中让神参与其中是重要的。有神的同在,才能同心,同心才能同行,一起向更长更美的路迈进。
[By TYCP]

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2021 Devotion

Church Involvement

Day 1: 07/06/2021: Be Part of the Script!
Day 2: 08/06/2021: Wise Counsel & Actions Steps
Day 3: 09/06/2021: Bible Insights

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2021 Devotion

Suffering

suffering day 1
Day 1: 31/05/2021: Suffering – The Fall of Man
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Day 1: Suffering – The Fall of Man
QT [By YKYK]: 31/05/2021 (Monday)
https://www.esv.org/Genesis+3/

This might be one of the questions you might ask during your Christian life - “Why does God allows us to suffer?” or “Can’t our powerful God prevent suffering?” or “What is the purpose God allows suffering?” or Why do believers need to suffer?” Maybe you are currently in a season of suffering and wondering why God, who loves you so much, would allow you to experience such struggle or pain. Me too ask the same questions when I suffered from my New Zealand car accident, pneumonia infection, deep vein thrombosis and not able to teach scuba diving, my father’s death recently etc…

There was a time when there was no suffering but it was sin – our rejection of God that brought pain in this world. We must embrace the fact that we are living in a world that has been affected by the fall of man as shown in Genesis 3. Sin has brought with it sorrow, heartache, loss and death. Death made an entrance into this world through sin that was committed by one man. In 1Corinthians 15:22, Adam brought death to all of us, but Christ will bring life to all of us. This is what the Bible says about why we find the world the way we find it. It is a fallen, sinful place! In one sense, it can be a good reminder to yourself that if you are experiencing no suffering, it will mean you are living in a world unaffected by sin – because everybody experiences some level of suffering. Thankfully, it is not the end of the story. When Christ lived a life of suffering and then died on the cross, his punishment was designed to heal our deepest wound - our sinfulness. There is a new heaven and a new earth on the way, and believers will be living in paradise for eternity with a new body. But until that day comes, suffering is just part of this world. To find comfort in knowing that as child of God, even through our suffering, God is going to be by our side. He will provide the strength, joy, peace, and love. Suffering and pain are momentary and temporary.

Reflection:
Have you ever felt like you could not bring your pain to God? Have you looked at your suffering in the light of Scripture?

suffering day 2
Day 2: 01/06/2021: Dealing with Suffering
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Day 2: Suffering – Dealing with Suffering
QT [By YKYK]: 01/06/2021 (Tuesday)
https://www.esv.org/Romans12:14-21
https://www.esv.org/1Peter5:6-11

In Romans 12:15, the Apostle Paul said rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. God takes note of our sorrows and comforts. He is the God of all comfort. He teaches us to comfort each other. God cares that we hurt and are sad. His encouragement and love are real. So, if you are suffering today, do not just let the sorrow register, but let God's promises register in your mind and heart.

In 1Peter 5:9-10, Peter said to resist the devil and stay strong in our faith. You know that all over the world the Lord's followers are suffering just as you are. Peter was saying that suffering is common, and everyone goes through it. You are not alone in your suffering. Peter continued by saying God shows undeserved kindness to everyone. That is why he appointed Christ Jesus to choose you to share in his eternal glory. You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm in your faith. This is what our amazing God does in our suffering. He points us to what is true at the moment. Yes, what is true at the moment is that you are suffering, but He calls it momentary. It is for a little while. It may feel long, but when compared to eternity, it is not. Point our eyes, mind and heart to eternity. God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us.

Believe all of God's promises concerning your future and even concerning the heartaches and struggles that you are dealing with. There are situations that we may not understand at the moment, but let's trust God. In Romans 8:28 says that He's always at work for the good of everyone who loves Him. Trust His Word. Trust that He is constantly working for our good.

Application:
In your area of your life where you are experiencing hardship, how can you trust God through your suffering? How has God delivered you from difficult circumstances in the past? How can you use your stories of overcoming suffering help others that face similar situations?

suffering day 3
Day 3: 02/06/2021: There Is Hope in Suffering
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Day 3: Suffering – There Is Hope in Suffering
QT [By YKYK]: 02/06/2021 (Wednesday)
https://www.esv.org/1Peter4:1-2
https://www.esv.org/1Peter4:12-19
https://www.esv.org/Romans5:1-5

Lots of suffering written in the New Testament is about persecutions. The Bible refers to suffering as a privilege. In 1Peter 4:1-2, since Jesus went through suffering, we ought to learn to think like Him. Consider it a privilege that you suffer along with Christ, that we no longer live for human passions but for the will of God.

In Peter 4:12-13, Peter said do not be surprised or shocked that we are going through testing that is like walking through fire but be glad for the chance to suffer as Christ suffered. It will prepare us for even greater happiness when He makes His glorious return. Suffering is something we should be prepared for and not surprised by. Pain and sorrow are something we can expect in this life.

Living a godly life means embracing suffering, not avoiding it. In 2Timothy 4:5, Apostle Paul showed Timothy and reminds us that we should expect suffering as a natural result of being Christian. The Word of God not only encourages us to prepare but to rejoice through our suffering. In Romans 5:3-5, the apostle Paul said we gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure, and endurance builds character which gives us hope. We are not alone in our suffering. We have the God of comfort and hope on our side. We can rejoice through our suffering, knowing that there is hope. When we understand that the promises God has for His children, then even in our sorrows we can rest and rejoice. Pain will be present, but our heart will be filled with peace hope and love. It is hard to explain when we do not know Christ. But when we know Him, we know the fruits of His Spirit can fill us up with what we need through the pain.

My father passed away on the living room sofa 3 months ago, but one day I remember sitting on the same sofa with my nephew and niece (all under the age of 5) explaining to them that their grandfather had gone to heaven. Then later that night, I walked to my house windows to close it before bedtime, I looked at the sky and saw the stars. I will never forget that night. I stared at the sky and was reminded of the vastness of Creation and the sovereignty of our God. My heart had never been more sorrowful, yet at the same time there was joy in me. There was hope in my heart. This is a reality we can experience as children of God.

Application:
Think back to a time that you remember letting God take control. Did you feel at peace? Did everything go the way you would have planned? Is God asking you to step back and wait for Him?

suffering day 4
Day 4: 03/06/2021: Example from Bible How God Brings Healing to Believers Who Suffered
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Day 4: Suffering – Example from Bible How God Brings Healing to Believers Who Suffered
QT [By YKYK]: 03/06/2021 (Thursday)
https://www.esv.org/Job1:13-22
https://www.esv.org/Job2:1-13

God never promises us a life of prosperity, good health or smooth-sailing life after we become Christian. Freedom from suffering now is a false message that diverts Christians from God’s plan and blessings. In fact, The Bible here describes a man named Job who was wealthy, upright, feared God, and turned away from evil. However, Job went from being wealthy and healthy to losing all that he possessed. He lost his children and became ill with skin sores. Talk about a man who experienced all sorts of suffering. He not only suffered heartache but also physical pain. There is so much to learn about Job's life of suffering. The Bible teaches us how to trust God even when life may seem unfair and how God is big enough to deal with our suffering.

Two things come to mind when I think of Job. One is how precious the truth of God's sovereignty is. When Job said "The Lord gives and takes away," that should remind us that when you receive, it comes from God. If you lose something, it is also part of God's sovereign plan. Even though God hurts when we are suffering, it is still a part of His final plan. He has the ultimate reason. There is purpose even in our pain, and it is going to be for His glory.

Secondly, Job worshiped during his suffering. Job understood that God is glorified. We are not the centre of the picture, God is the centre. Job came out of his suffering learning things he didn't know before and demonstrating God's good work in his life. God rewarded him at the end and while this did not take away the sorrow that he felt, there was a purpose. Humble Christians redirect attention to their glorious God. They are content with suffering because it glorifies the riches of God’s grace.

When prosperity preachers teach that it is never God’s will for you to suffer, they undermine all things that God can do in our lives through pain. He is in control of our temporary suffering in this world and he uses it to strengthen our faith. This suffering is so much a part of his good plan for us that God tells us to rejoice in it. When we suffer for God, we show our fellowship and partnership with Christ Jesus.

You are going to go through hard times. Remain submitted to God through the trial and learn everything He wants to form in your life through those difficult times. The most unwise thing you can do during your suffering is isolate yourself from the church or His Word. This is when you will most need to be encouraged and reminded of His truth. You are encouraged when you encourage others.

Application:
Think about the examples of Jesus Christ, the apostles and suffering Christians through the centuries. Is there any similarities you have like them for being a Christian in your home or workplace? What is it that draws you near to God? What pushes you further from him? Did you ask God to help you use your suffering to better fulfill the mission and purpose He has given you?

Day 5: 04/06/2021: Key Thoughts, Wise Counsel, Action Steps, Scripture

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2021 Devotion

Burnout

Day 1: 24/05/2021: Portraits, Key Ideas
Day 2: 25/05/2021: Assessment Questions & Wise Counsel
Day 3: 26/05/2021: Action Steps
Day 4: 27/05/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer

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2021 Devotion

Aging

Day 1 of 5: 17/05/2021: Portraits, Key Ideas
Day 2 of 5: 18/05/2021: Diagnostic & Assessment Questions
Day 3 of 5: 19/05/2021: Actions Steps for Caregivers & Older Person
Day 4 of 5: 20/05/2021: Scripture & Prayer
Day 5 of 5: 21/05/2021: Aging & Nutrition (by RWZR)

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2021 Devotion

Money and Money Crisis

Day 1 of 4: 10/05/2021: Portraits, Key Ideas & Matthew 6:19–24
Day 2 of 4: 11/05/2021: Assessment Questions and Wise Counsel
Day 3 of 4: 12/05/2021: Action Steps To Take
Day 4 of 4: 13/05/2021: Scripture & Sample Prayer

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2021 Devotion

Parenting

Day 1 of 5: 03/05/2021: Portrayals, key ideas, definitions
Day 2 of 5: 04/05/2021: Three Good Ingredients: Love, Discipline, Guidance
Day 3 of 5: 05/05/2021: Diagnostic Questions & Wise Counsel
Day 4 of 5: 06/05/2021: Action Steps: Towards a family plan
Day 5 of 5: 07/05/2021: Scripture Guides

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2020 Devotion