When A Gift Becomes An Entitlement 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. – James 5:7 NLT

My journey on entrepreneurship is often fraught with challenges that is beyond apprehension. When times are bad, business gets a slow-down, and prolonged seasons of barrenness can really test faith as well as financial strength, and the next moment, discouragement sets the scene.

While in my usual habit of taking a prayer-walk at my park down the block, I saw a vision of a farmer ploughing the ground, and planting some seeds. After planting the entire field, perspiring from such hard labour, he waited by the side overlooking the field with anticipation…… At that instance, the scene seemed to freeze for the longest time- the farmer was still in the same position, waiting patiently……

This vision seemed to be conveying to me:

(a) The field represents my business and the land is given by the Lord;

(b) There is a time for everything: plowing, planting and harvesting- a time to sow and a time to reap;

(c) The farmer is synonymous to: (a) patience- seeds take time to sprout; (b) stewardship – watching over the field is call of duty; (c) faithfulness – seeds require constant tender loving care (watering, fertilising, pulling out weeds and even pest-control). And do not neglect the little things for the little things is a proof of trustworthiness. (Luke 16:10)

(d) The outcome is never instant, it takes a lot of hard work- it takes years for the seeds to grow into trees;

(e) It takes seasons of faith to trust the Lord to provide, as He determines the outcome.

We are to work hard if we want our field (apart from work, our ministry counts too) to bear fruits: Remember this–a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. (2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT)

Farmers toil with blood and sweat, neither can we have it all easy too, otherwise God will not mention the wise and hardworking ants in the bible (Proverbs 6:6, Proverbs 30:25)! However, God is still the ultimate God of the Harvest, our duty is to just do our best and leave the rest to God. And in His time He will bring about our due in due time. Just trust, and wait patiently.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. – Psalms 145:13b-16

That is one thing for sure, God will never let us go hungry.

How Desperate Are You In Praying?

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While prayer-jogging at night as usual, I literally heard a small voice, “How desperate are you in praying?”

Does this question stump you? I am equally startled…

A very desperate prayer by King Hezekiah etched indelibly in my mind- 2 Kings 20 narrated that King Hezekiah was nearing death. God sent Isaiah, the prophet, to deliver the bad news that he would meet his death; and would not recover. Upon hearing it, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and burst into tears. Still, he expressed his total devotion to God and wept bitterly for God’s mercy. Isaiah was halfway out of the palace when God stopped him and conveyed a message “Go back and tell Hezekiah… I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. I will add fifteen years to your life” (Note too, Hezekiah had been a good and righteous king.)

The key here is, how desperate are you- are your pleas sowed in tears? Or merely insincere or just-get-over-and-done-with utterances?

“There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying.”

– John G. Lake

I have recorded half-hearted prayers (or mouthing prayers) versus humbling cries at my knees. I discovered I am always in for surprises, usually hours later, God has heard my prayers in my humbling posture and give me hope. (Sometimes, they do not come in the package I may have expected…).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 

from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, 

being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

 

“The greatest victory is often won on humbling knees.”

– Unknown

Unlocking The Keys To Answered Prayers

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“Why God didn’t answer my prayers?” or “Why God hasn’t answer my prayers?” has too often inundated my mind. I believe we all have experienced that kind of silence from Heaven in our own journey. We often wish God would speak or show us why, personally. Perhaps, little did we know God has already left His answers in the bible.

The bible points out some reasons why our prayers (may seem to) go unanswered:

  1. UNREPENTANCE: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” – Psalms 66:18

It is as clear as day that if we harbour sins, including secret sins, and not confessing them will shut God’s ears. In addition, even if we have confessed but shown no repentance, it means we cherish sin(s), the Lord will not listen too.

  1. ASK WITH WRONG MOTIVES: “And when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures.” – James 4:3

Simple- wrong motive will not receive God’s blessing.

  1. DISREGARD GOD’S WORD: “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.” – Proverbs 28:9

Turning a deaf ear means to ignore, which also mean, to turn a blind eye to. And turning deaf or blind over a prolong period will lead to rebellion. The verse points to the instance when we have disregarded God’s Word, He is put off by our prayers.

  1. PRIDE: “There they cry out, but He does not answer Because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not listen to an empty cry, Nor will the Almighty regard it.” – Job 35:12-13

There are two kinds of pride: Personal Pride and Pride of Life. The axle for both centered on oneself in an elevated position, and the middle letter to “sin” is “I”,- “Me, Myself, and I”. God opposes the proud that He will not regard their prayers.

  1. DOUBT: “But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” – James 1:6-7

God is a God of Faith, and He honours those who live by faith. The emphasis to the preceding verse is the word, “Without doubting”, which means, 100% no doubt. In short, doubt equals lack of faith.

  1. NOT IN THE WILL OF GOD: “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but He does listen to the one who worships Him and does His will”. – John 9:31

God honours those who do the Will of God. On the other hand, if our prayers are not align to His Will, God will not answer.

  1. DISHONOURING RELATIONSHIP: “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” – 1 Peter 3:7

Although the context points to husband to honour his wife. The same principle is applicable in relating to anyone since God calls all of us to honour others above ourselves (Romons 12:10, Philippians 2:3)- when a relationship is honoured, God is honoured too. Matthew 5:23-24 also remind us to reconcile with someone we have issue with before we offer our gift at the altar.

CONCLUSION:

Proverbs 28:13 reminds us that “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” 1 John 1:9 also make it clear that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

Time to unlock Heaven’s closet? Search your key.

Just Believe

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(Jesus says), ”Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” – John 14:1

A conversation with an ex-collegue who is also a Brother-in-Christ last Wednesday, left me in rumination… “Your job is simply to pray and to just BELIEVE. It isn’t your job to find out what God is doing in your life, nor to question His Sovereignty over why things happened as such… You just have to do your part to pray and keep praying, and simply to believe and take God’s Word as it is. You should pray like you believed!”

I was then led to the verse John 14:1 and a new light was shed- Ever wonder why Jesus repeated, “believe also in Me” when He already encouraged us in the preceding line, “believe in God”, since He is God Himself?

Perhaps to most of us, God seems too abstract a concept to grasp, and He seems like a super-cosmo being that is hard for us to feel or hear Him, let alone to see Him. We have to admit that we are physical being who need to see, feel and touch real things. That is why Jesus has to remind us that He is God in a physical form too- He came in flesh, and scooped down to our level to relate to us so that we can see, hear and feel Him. In other words, through John 14:1B, God is conveying a few key messages:

  1. God in the flesh is REAL AND NEAR so that we know He can emphatise with our present

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; SEE my hands. REACH OUT your hand and PUT IT INTO MY SIDE. Stop doubting and believe.” – John 20:27

God is our refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT help in trouble. – Psalms 46:1

  1. God in the flesh arose as an OVERCOMER so that we have the same Hope and Victory

(Jesus says), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” – John 16:33

  1. God in the flesh is the immutable “I AM” so that we can be assured of His unfailing Nature

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). “I AM” is a powerful reminder on the nature of God- “I AM” the Almighty God, nothing is too hard for me (Jer 32:27); “I AM” Jehovah-Jireh who provides for your every need (Philippians 4:19); “I AM” the Divine Healer who heals (Exodus 15:26); and the list goes on…

Jesus Christ is the SAME yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) The bible has recorded uncountable miracles that Jesus did in the past, and He will not stop performing those miracles now or in the future. We need to fall back on such history to remind ourselves, forgetful human beings, what God had done and has promised. God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

Last but not least, imagine that Jesus posed a question personally- “Do you finally believe?” (John 16:31), and how would you answer?