Money Matters

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Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich. – Proverbs 21:17

I had a deep reflection while on the way home last Friday after cell, because it was a subject that was very close to my heart- Money Matters. I chanced upon Proverbs 21:17 which warns those who indulge in carnal pleasures and sensual gratifications, and spend time and money in such a way, are very likely to be poor, and not rich in or towards spiritual things. Dictionary defines pleasures as extravagant living, expensive feastings, and costly leisures or entertainments, and we have often heard that where our money goes to tell a lot about us. And interestingly, according to Ecclesiastes 5:11 NLT, it also warn that the more you have, the more you spend.

I retrospected my life now to the time I was steeped in debts before I gave my life to Jesus. It was a joke that my best subject in Accounts had flunked me in life- poor financial decisions reaped bad consequences. That catastrophe had forced me to live the other spectrum of life: back to the basics- one pair of jeans, one pair of shoes, one bag and one tee-shirt. (Lest you wonder, irrespective of style, cut, type, colour, function, it was just one item only.) Believe me or not, I literally wore them like a set of uniform. Plain Jane? Boring? Sure, but I had no means to indulge. I even had to stay away from shopping lest I be tempted. Till a time my mum had to encourage me that it was high time to change my wardrobe a little as I seemed to live like a tattered beggar. Whenever I needed to make a purchase, I had to prayerfully consulted my Chief Financial Officer (God of course) a few times, “Should I or should I not?” Now that my life is better, I no longer lived that pathetically. However I have to guard myself against all covetousness with a “want versus need” evaluation. But of course I still do make imprudent decisions at times.

Last Friday night after some insightful revelations by the author, I was nudged spiritually, and stumped by a myriad of questions I could not answer:

“Why do you need another pair of shoes?”

“Why do you need another top/ bottom?”

“Why do you need to travel to so many countries?”

“Why do you spend money on immaterial things?”

“How do you spend my money? Have you consult Me?”

“What do you think pleases Me?”

I am no Saint to be sharing this, but I felt in my Spirit to pen down what I had received: Whether we all like it or not, if we are honest, how we spent our money only seek to indulge the “self”: I want to look good; I want to feel good; I am entitled to spend the money because I have worked hard for it; I deserve to reward myself; I need comfort food or things; I want to achieve my dreams; and all on the wanted list.

Some helpful questions to ponder:

  1. Are you sure the money you have are yours?
  2. Who give you the right to spend what pleases your flesh?
  3. Are your “want”s your “need”s? So are they necessary or rather essential for you to live?
  4. Are you doing what God wants you to do?
  5. How have you been sowing in the Kingdom of God?
  6. Why are you so uptight in giving generously to the kingdom purposes of God when you can spend extravagantly on what you love?

Look at Jesus: just a pair of well-travelled sandals, perhaps a few pieces of weather-beaten garbs, and a basic appetite for simple meals.

I am sure some of us will rationalise that Jesus lived in the old era but now we have much choices, therefore the application is not relevant in today standard of living; some of us may also justify “I don’t spend on expensive things” so it won’t hurt, but I do concur that it isn’t about the value, it is our attitude of the heart: what if God asked, “How about you give what you supposed to spend it on, to bless someone who needs it more?”

Listen to how our heart respond, we will get the answer.

Money is the second most referenced topic in the Bible, where it is mentioned more than 800 times. God had first laid the blueprint so that we would not get consumed by the world. We will need God to help in our weaknesses in this area- be humble, God will spotlight the areas that we need to work on.

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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.

Critical Spirit. The Little Things. Relational Injuries.

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. – Romans 14:13

 

At times we don’t feel respected.

At times we don’t feel being cared for.

At times we stepped on the other person’s feelings.

At time we brushed each other the wrong way.

At times unkind words lashed out heedlessly hurtful and regretted later.

At times we get disappointed.

 

Crowded schedules. Money pressures. Communication problems. Midlife crises. Emotionally inaccessiblity. Insecurities. Fears.

And there’s never time to talk. Disconnected.

When you do talk, frustrations stirred instead.

Our own share of human frailties in one way or another irritate the other. All those little things sank your heart like the Titanic.

Difficulties in relationships arise out of unresolved relational hurts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and when they are not dealt with, those little things become issues themselves. Eventually, they grow to become relational injuries.

 

The 7-key checklist of relational injuries:

1. Acceptance in love or expectation?

(a) What is your expectation of the other person whom you are relating to?

(b) Has your expectations get too much in the way?

(c) When he/ she failed to meet your expectations, do you withdraw?

 

All of us are made different, and grow differently as well, the first step is learning to discover “What do you want?” When you let your expectations get too much in the way, it may pave the way to idolatry in your heart. When you truly love someone, you accept the person as who he/she is, not what you think he/she has to be. Remember, no one is perfect, including yourself. Even God loves and accept the way you are but, He is not done with our flaws yet. Acceptance comes with true love.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT, second edition).

 

2. Responding in love or rejection?

(a) Have you been sensitive with your words and actions?

(b) How do you responded to someone even when you feel lousy?

(c) What is your language of love?

As a picture says a thousand words, so do your words and actions painted that as much. It is often contradictory why you can be patient, gentle, kind and understanding to the people who are not close or dear to your heart, but you often the “ugly split-personality” when you are with your loved ones- you are not so patient, you get angry and upset, you often lashed out unkind words, you get frustrated easily and you feel unappreciative towards them and they often get your cold shoulders. Have you ever paused for a moment the emotional injuries you have done? Consider why your dear ones have been a “punching sandbag” than a “hugging pillow” to you, it makes a whole world of difference when you spend time to share what is bothering you than to throw them around like cold turkeys. Just as you thought the other person is disconnected, chances are you, yourself probably haven’t been emotionally accessible either!

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

 

3. Finger-pointing to edify or tear down?

(a) Do you always point out the other person’s faults more than you readily label your own?

(b) Have you first seek to understand the whole situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?

(c) Do you demand changes from the other person?

The attitude of “That’s your problem, not mine!” is deceptive- don’t you have a part to play too? Put yourself in a scenario in a court room where you stand in as a prosecution witness in a difficult case. During cross-examinations by the Defence Attorney (DA), he will try all ways and means to pull you down by finger-arrowing your credibility and character flaws, the more you tried to defend yourself, the heavier the onslaught of verbal abuses. And you left wounded by his hurtful insinuations and unjustified judgement. Are you one who is such a Defensive Accuser (DA)?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

4. Giving up your rights or demanding your rights?

(a) “Why should I?”

(b) “I expect you to be… …”

(c) “I have the final say!”

If you struggle with this area, you may have problems with pride. When one is full of himself or herself, he/ she always think himself/ herself is better than the other, thus it is hard to relinquish his/ her own rights. They usually struggled in accepting people who give them problems and who are weaker than them spiritually and emotionally. This category of people are very protective of their rights cos they always think they are right. Their expectations fall in line to what they think it should be and how he/ she should be, they are never understanding nor apathetic to consider how the other person feels or where he/ she is coming from. In any relationships, we are taught to be humble and submit to one another in reverence.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:!0) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

 

5. Shallow understanding or mutual understanding?

(a) Have you been communicating?

(b) How understanding have you been?

(c) Do you understand how a person’s background has some way influenced the way how he/ she think, feel and act?

How well do you understand yourself and the other person? Understanding is a crucial fundamental in all relationships to work, and it is paramount to foster better understanding through daily communication. In times of silence, there is tacit understanding too. Understanding the background of the person whom you are relating to, can give you a better and clearer picture how certain thoughts, feelings and actions can be triggered. For him/ her to understand you better, be honest about how you feel and what you think, instead of trying to do something to get his/ her attention. All of us think and feel differently, be open to share so that in each other you will learn something and know each other better to deal with the differences. All you need is a heart to listen.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

 

6. Pain and gain or close and strain?

(a) What is God teaching you through the other person?

(b) Did you apply what you have learn that God is teaching you?

(c) Are you avoiding the issues?

What is your approach- do you avoid pain or confront and gain? When you close in to a relationship, you strain it even more, the wounds may fester. And anytime when the same situations happen, it will playback the old scores. Unfortunately, the way to learn is often through unpleasantries. Pain is God’s Refining Fire.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

7. Praying with an open heart or clenched fists?

(a) Have you been praying for a breakthrough?

(b) Have you pray for God’s ultimate control and His way in your relationships?

(c) Have you try praying together?

Prayers open door to miracles, for our God is a God of Transformation. Go to Him with all your emotions, surrender your rights and expectations at the feet of His throne. Look to Him first as He will lift you up in due time. He always leave the door open for those who are weary and wounded. He has a special place for them. He is always there in assurance. And He hears you and trust that He will do something. His love never fails.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. – Philippians 4:6-7 CEV

 

All relationships goes a long way, but take heart, all is not lost yet. Give each other space, take time to do your own reflections, pray about the issues, be honest with yourself, take time to share your thoughts and your feelings openly to the other person, confessed to each other your vulnerability and mistakes, discuss with each other how to overcome barriers so as to solve those nagging issues, last but not least, be committed to making healthy changes and mean it. It takes time and courage.

There may be someone in your midst who is hurting. It is always worthwhile to confront it than to take a passive stand, even though you have prayed and trust God would do something about it, but that does not mean we should be doing nothing! How can you reap the fruit when you never bother to sow the seed? God moves as you move, you never know till you try however difficult it can be but God will supply His Strength, Grace and Mercy to keep you through.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Keep at it, those little things CAN and WILL GO AWAY. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift too. Don’t give up.

Junk Food Of The Soul: You Will Hunger For The Things You Feed On

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Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. – Genesis 4:7B

Although I am not a fast food lover as I am conscious of calories intake, I must say the SG50’s Nasi Lemak burger, by MacDonald, is yummlicious! No wonder there is a mad queue for this local gastronomic delight. The burger somehow has a “knack” in tantalising tastebud, it has been on my mind since my last bite… While vacillating if to satisfy my craving, I suddenly felt a zap in my spirit, “Hey, it’s JUNK FOOD!” I went “Whoops!”

Indeed, we will hunger for the things we feed on. Junk food for the physical body can be easier to control than the junk food for the soul which is harder to deal with. Both have its own power of addiction even in our sub-consciousness.

Some of us turn to food whenever we are stressed or depressed; while some of us turn to retail therapy; in so doing, we seemed to be programmed psychologically that “I need to eat / shop! I can’t help it.” Actually, the underlying root cause has to do with what we feed on- the more you feed on something, the more you will hunger for it.

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NCV

In other words,

Watch your thoughts, for they become actions;

Watch your actions, for they become habits;

Watch your habits, for they become addiction;

Watch your addiction, for they become obsession;

Watch your obsession, for they become stronghold.

So it all starts with what gets into your mind to plant a thought that serve as catalyst to identity, health, mental and financial issues, as well as sexual immorality. Such junk food can be in any form: covetousness, envy, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, rejection, insecurity, immorality, anxieties and many more.

But the good news is, we can be re-programmed when we cut off the bad root, stay away from evils, be renewed in our mind and attitude, and master over our weaknesses.

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4:22-23 NLT). Stay away from every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22 NLT), give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:27).

P.S. It is a lot easier said than done, especially when it has become stronghold. That is why we need deep house-cleaning through deliverance when required.

Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger–someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house (Mark 3:27 NLT). Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” (Mark 1:25). Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

Something To Mull Over: A Matter Of Perspective

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And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? – Mark 8:36

Ever heard of the adage that goes, “Many build their wealth at the risk of their health, only to lose their wealth in order to rebuild their health”? Let me offer another angle too- “Many pursue the things of this world at the risk of losing their soul, only to regain their soul by letting go of things of the world.”

People always assert that money can always be earned back, but not health when it is at risk. That explained why many have fallen to sicknesses as a result of high stress and mental illness as a result of depression.

I have been mulling over why I have been obsessing with finances, ever since I embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship, where cashflow is not insured from time to time. I sensed I may be “losing myself”. To begin with, I have been living with a faulty belief system that I need to have more in order to enjoy more, and when I finally got there, somehow I wasn’t happy in achieving the goal. Life somehow seems meaningless- is there all to it – Do our existence contingent on our possessions?

Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15

In other word, greed is a bottomless pit, the constant pursuit of wanting more or having something better, which is never ending can be meaningless.

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. I realised that I need a paradigm shift to see things from another perspective.

 

Which Is Truly Important?

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I may not have earned a lot,

but I am thankful that I am not that poor to worry about my next meal;

I may not own a house,

but I am thankful that I still have roof over my head and a place to sleep;

I do not own a car,

but I am thankful that I do not impose upon myself such a liability;

I may not have amassed much wealth,

but I am thankful I still have good health;

I may not be a game changer,

but I am thankful that I can do what I am best at and called to do;

I may not have achieve success as the world pursues,

but I am thankful I can get up each day to do what I love to do;

I may not have a lot of material things that money can buy,

but I am thankful for the simple things that bring joy which money cannot buy nor time can redeem.

At least I enjoy true peace and a good night rest each day,

for many it costs them too high a price to pay.

At the end of the day, what can you bring to Heaven?

 

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” – Luke 16:10A

Happiness is not something to arrive at or the need to acquire it. True joy can be attained in the moments, even when you have little. Life is best lived simple, if we learn to see things from another perspective.

Half-hearted?

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I was pondering over why many people would share their struggles with hearing God for an answer. Not that we need supernatural powers nor the gifting to hear Him… I was pointed to this verse…

“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with ALL ur heart” – Jeremiah 29:13

God promised we will find Him, and the key is “ALL”. The question is, how do we seek God with ALL our heart when we so consumed by the demands of our day, work, ministries, home responsibilities etc., that even our prayers have to be in between pockets of time, remaining time, or by-the-way-quick-pray-and-get-done-with.

“ALL” lies in:

1. ATTITUDE of seeking Him ALONE

Do we really take time to seek Him and spend time with God truly? Or for the sake of doing it or going through the motion? What is the posture or attitude of our heart? Jesus spent time with His Father intently. Jesus had already set an example: (1) We need to come to a place where we are not distracted- Jesus got away to a place of solitude to pray; (2) while it is still dark (likely the time we are all sound asleep), Jesus got up to spend time with His Father before he started His ministries. Morning is the best time when your mind is still fresh, uncluttered and has room for God. We become accustomed to His voice in the quiet and recognize Him in the noise of the worldliness. He wants each of us to hear directly from Him, as our thoughts are made new as we receive a download from God Himself.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – 1 Chronicles 16: 11

2. LISTENING

Practically speaking, get in the Word. God’s Word is alive now. He speaks through the bible- our Living Instruction Manual. The problem is, do we listen? Or rather, do we be still and listen hard enough? Or we are deafen by the World?

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10a

3. LENGTH

The last key is Patience. Unhurried. Do we spare time for God to response? The hardest part is to WAIT. We all like to do things quick, fast, don’t waste time. But God most of the time says, WAIT.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; – Psalms 37:7a

Take home point: Being fulfilled in His presence changes how we see and approach that which He’s called us to. If we do not first find peace and satisfaction in God’s Presence, then what we do will not be from Him, but by relying on our flesh. Spending time with God is the only way how we gain Kingdom perspective, and it is foundational to all we do.