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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Do You Know You Can Lose A Skill You Have Not Use For A Long Time?

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Always remember what you have learned. Your education is your life — guard it well. – Proverbs 4:13 GNT

Do you know that when you have not cycle for donkey’s years, you will lose the skill of cycling? Kid you not, I have not been cycling for 17 years, and to my horror, I now struggle balancing the bike! I reminisced how I used to cycle along the stretch of East Coast Park in my heyday, and loved speed. Not long ago, I picked up cycling, and it unnerved me. After rounds of flustering attempt, I finally managed to cycle a short distance.

P.S. How did I get going? I simply recalled how I first learnt cycling myself when I was in my adolescence, without any help nor affixing the bike with additional wheels.

Similarly, if we have not utilise our God-given talents or apply the knowledge we have picked up from the bible regularly, they can easily dematerialise.

Proverbs 19:8 (GNT) says, “Do yourself a favour and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper.”

Therefore, do not take it for granted, it is to your own benefit to guard what you have learnt well- continual learning and application will keep you in good stead in your personal and spiritual life.

All You Need Is A Change Of Perspectives

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The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. – Matthew 6:22-23A

As a visual person, my eyes are trained to capture what I see with my eyes; and as a creative person, I can paint a picture with a thousand words. But the flip side of this talent is, I am often challenged in walking in faith since I see, read and visualise with my eyes.

But we are called to “live by faith and not by seeing (2 Corinthians 5:7). So whenever I face issues in life, my mind is always fixated on problems as they are right before me, that often I keep rehearsing fears, worries, anxieties, doubts and insecurities. That is the power of focus, but on the wrong things. It is hard to change my mindset unless I change perspective, and in order to change my perspective, I need to change my position.

One day, I received a prompting to have a walk in the park and to talk to God about my situation. As I was strolling leisurely, and praying at the same time, I kept fixing my gaze to the ground- all I could see was the texture of the asphalted track. When I adjusted my vision to my eye level, the view was vastly differently, somehow I sensed that God was in the details, and showing me that I could see things differently. As I walked around the park, certain angle offered different perspectives with different meaning behind the scenery. While I was tuning my ears to hear what God had to reveal to me, I aligned my Spirit to God through communing with Him in prayers. While admiring the different setting, I looked up to admire the vast skies- even the shape of the clouds are all different. At that instance, it dawned upon me that I had set my heart on things of the world without the correct biblical perspectives. And because my vision was clouded, so my body was in darkness. As Matthew 6:22 says, “If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”.

All I need is a change of perspective- Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. (Colossians 3:2) The things of this world, necessaries of life, pleasures, riches and achievements, can be sought after but not to the extent of coveting them and placing happiness in such possession which eventually turn into idolatry when our focus is not on the true Source and Provider of these things. The things of this world are temporal and can pass away, how then should we live? Live no longer with a carnal mind, but with kingdom perspectives- that God is in control and everything will work for good to those who loves Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28). Shouldn’t we be focusing on the goodness of God and that the Almighty promises that none of His Words will fail to be fulfilled?

Therefore it is a matter of how we see, and what we choose to focus on. A paradigm shift will require a change of lens in order to effectuate a renewal of mind and a transformation of heart. And yes, reading the bible will correct near-sightedness first. You will then find that God is actually not that far.

Procrastination

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So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17

This morning I jumped out of my slumber when a voice seemed to jolt me hard in my half-awake moment- “Procrastination is a sin!” I felt as if I was confronted. While trying to figure it out if I have issue with being a sluggard or with procrastination, I came across this verse-

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. – Proverbs 6:9-11

Woah, I definitely do not want to be robbed that way! Isn’t that enough to shake us up?

There are many reasons why we procrastinate, and very often they are lame excuses to justify our inaction. Some of the common excuses are:

1. Just Plain Lazy……

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing – Proverbs 13:4A 

If we are honest enough, we all want things easy, quick and convenient. Anything that challenge our comfort zone will be off on the cold shelf, for a long long time…

2.  Just Can’t Decide……

A double minded man is unstable in all he does. – James 1:8 

We make decisions every day, but some decisions which stress us out will likely be put on hold as we can’t seem to decide simply with a “yes” or “no”. And we end up vacillating with our decision by conveniently citing the reason, “I am still praying about it…”

3.  Just Not The Right Time……

If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done! – Ecclesiastes 11:4LB

The truth is, there will never be the right or perfect time. Things are not going to happen by sitting on it. And the day may come that we won’t even have the time. And who knows, if we get to live another day……

4.  Just Don’t Feel Like It……

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

We are emotional beings who always let our heart rules and mood dictate our feeling for the moment. We will always be on a roller coaster rides if we allow life’s ups-and-downs to control the way we think, feel and act. Does it mean we will be dysfunctional or justifiable to do nothing in the our downtimes or not-in-the-right-mood?

5.  Just Feeling Fearful……

Fearing people is a dangerous trap. – Proverbs 29:25

Although this verse explicitly points to “people”, it can also be things we feel fearful about., for example, fearing the unknown. The acronym of fear actually is, “False Expectation Appearing Real”, and the opposite of fear, is “Faith”. In other word, fear is the absence of faith.

Procrastination is a passive resistance, we do not want to take action because we keep thinking there is always another time or another day… But what if we do not get to live past tomorrow? Therefore it is time, and it is now to get going what you supposed to do or call to do. Look out, God is watching from above too.

“Don’t put off something till tomorrow what you can do today. Just do it!”

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.

The Ultimate Stress-Buster

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God knows when you sit down or stand up. He knows your thoughts even when you are far away” (Psalm 139:2). “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

I was sauntering around the bustling Raffles Place, the heart of Singapore’s great commercial emporium, where contemporary skyscrapers towering over me seem to glint back at me from every direction, amidst throng of immaculately well-dressed office folks scrambling from building to building. I observed that the folks there seemed to be hunchback with stress. It is comprehensible that as the society progresses, it is getting more competitive and fast-paced, that life comes burdened with daily stress. Busyness can throw us off balance and stress can easily immobilise us, but chronic stress do far more irreparable damage to our health.

Although stress is inevitable, whether as a salaried employee or self-employed, but suffering is optional. That is, we need to be like Mary, who take the time to sit still at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He had to say (Luke 10:39).

When you are overwhelmed, do you recite your woes more naturally than you do Heaven’s strength? You may even feel that God doesn’t seem to care about the nitty-gritty details of your life. But have you forgotten that your omnipresent Father who loves you, is waiting for you to draw near to Him? God already know when you sit up and stand up. He knows each intimate details right down to the number of your hairs on your head. Wouldn’t He be able to grasp your innermost thoughts and inexpressible struggles? He even know when we are far from Him.

Don’t you realise too that worry or getting anxious is not going to help matters? So why not choose the better- take your focus off and take the time to draw near to God. He will refresh, recharge and reaffirm you that He is looking out for you and taking care of your every needs.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG) The Peace of Jesus given unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid. (John 14:27) Let not your heart be troubled, trust in God. (John 14:1)

The Wilderness: A Call To Trust

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19) “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is in the midst of us; we shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:1,5) “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27) And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

An emotional season in the pit in the late 2015 to early 2016 had derailed me from the track of faith and incapacitated in my regular routines- I neglected my business while cowering under self-pity blankets. I thought I’d left Egypt eon ago, instead of being whisked into a promised land of milk and honey, all I could see was mountains and snakes at every turn. I had trod into an unfamiliar territory- another wilderness! When I finally jostled from my “deep slumber”, reality hit that the economy was taking a downturn, I began to feel the heat when the company registered negative cashflow for almost a year. Insecurity set in when the uncertain future loom in and fears seized me. Alas I was standing at a verge, with the army of Egyptians hot on my heels, facing me was the Red Sea, with no other way of escape.

At that crucial moment, I cried out as hard, as much, as long, to the Almighty to save me and deliver me from my helplessness. By a bat of an eyelid, I found myself on a Rock, my enemies no longer pursued me. God finally broke the long chill of the silent nights, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.” (John 14:1) reinforced with Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He’ll make your paths straight.” His voice resonated with the word “Trust”.

In the silent mire of abyss, my impatience got the better of me, I doubted God had heard my prayers. But I ended up with a megaphone blasting my ears, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?!” (My hairs really on stand…) By this, God had shown me that even a mustard seed of faith could move mountains and they shall be moved! Thence, my faith skyrocketed to a new level.

Much as “snakes” tempted me into discouragement, God had in the same breath faithfully sustained me with His one-step-at-a-time blessings and His day-to-day-double-portion of Strength. By His Grace, He gave me a gift of an encouraging Spirit that I could be optimistic; He gave me a vision in conquering the “Goliath(s)” in my life; He spoke to me His Life-giving Promises that I could profess victory; He had shown me that He is a God of Multiplication when He impressed me with a scenario where Jesus multiplied 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed the 5000 people full; He inspired me to compose a poem that Jesus can still a nasty storm (“Anchor Deep”); and He led me to pray with prayers I had never prayed before.

God is still teaching me something about “Trust”; and no doubt that He is bringing me closer to Him so that I can hear Him better; He is disciplining me through His refining fire to keep me going from strength to Strength and from faith to Faith; So that I can rest unto God’s Peace, “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) and His Faithfulness, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7).

I am thankful that God had been there, and even the present. I counted my blessings for the people who has eased my burdens in some ways. I marvelled at how God had provided despite the impossibilities. There is always a miracle every day- big or small, it is how you see them.

God is not hard of hearing- Our tears are precious to Him for He is especially close to those crushed in spirit. Just be still and let God be God. He will walk on the water and grabbed you before you could sink just as Jesus rescued Peter from drowning when His faith failed him.

“The more secured you are in Christ, the stronger you stand even if your whole world came crushing down. Your security is not found in transient things but in Him alone.”

P.S. And one thing for sure- Every time I pray, the Supernatural always happen in the spiritual realm- that we cannot see now but will happen later. So keep praying- P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).