BE INTENTIONAL (5)- Be Grateful and Contented

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Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor. — Ecclesiastes 7:12

As my company book closes for the month, it is also the time of the year for me this day to review about life- June has been my most stressful month where my brain usually launched into overdrive and my soul seems trapped in an undercurrent of discontentment:

I cannot count the number of gripes I grumbled and the many complaints I mumbled; 

the mistakes I fumbled and the fall I tumbled; 

much less to track the sins that had me crumbled and the pride that called me to be humble.

June is the month to account for the state of my finances, whether healthy or unhealthy: my brain crunches numbers each night long after I am supposed to be asleep, accelerating my pulse. Issues at work jab me from the right, shove me from behind and punch me square in the nose. As the adage goes, it never rains but pour!

In our rapidly volatile and uncertain present-day economy, money matters and work can drastically elevate our stress. And the double whammy of living in a consumerism culture where instant gratification is celebrated, mankind of the fallen nature categorically do not like to wait: We want instant gratification; we want life’s knottiest dilemmas to be dissolved immediately; we want everything chop-chop.

I guess I am sane, for I am not alone… 

During such challenging times, when my strength wanes and peace eludes me, the thoughts of I-don’t-know-what-is-the-heck-I-am-doing assailed me relentlessly with discontentment gnawing at me ferociously. Temptations of calling quits or running away beckoning… I got real last Monday, coming to terms with my inner struggle, my Spirit started singing away Don’s Moen’s song, “Take Me Deeper”,

‘There is a longing only You can fill,

A raging tempest only You can still…

My soul is thirsty Lord

To know You as I am known

Be in Your Presence 

Forever satisfied…’

Indeed, there was a very deep yearning I had not felt from time immemorial. My soul has been very parched as I got distracted by the cares of this world… And I can’t seem to hear God very much recently, but I knew my spiritual antenna isn’t working well. Interestingly, past online devotionals touched on money matters. And God spoke with a Rhema word, “Continual”:

His continual Presence will be my comfort and strength;

His continual Guidance will direct my every steps;

His continual Infilling of the Holy Spirit will empower me;

His continual Protection will be a canopy over me wherever I am;

His continual Healing will be a living testimony of His Power over my weaknesses;

His continual Faithfulness will be reminders of His never failing Love;

His continual Forgiveness bears the hallmark of His Grace;

His continual Provisions are wrapped in blessings, big or small, each day.

I am very thankful God rein me in. Since I can’t change my circumstances nor ignore my emotions, it takes greater wisdom (since we are more inclined to trusting our own “smart aleckness” and relying on our own strength) in knowing who is the Ultimate safety net to fall back on, and trusting God to bring us through.

The reward for perseverance is – God is faithful- I have received much surprises this week that made nice birthday presents today. I am learning to be grateful for the big and small alike, and count my blessings so that I can cultivate contentment.

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Trials into Triumph: 7 Truths to Anchor Deep When Life Gets Tough

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Christ is all, and is in all. – Colossians 3:11B

We all know that life is never perfect, and can never be perfect in this fallen world, with the vicissitudes of life in the volatile times. Sometimes, life does not go the way we want to, and we get caught up in our daily lives, and forget that this world does not define us. Whenever things are not going well, there is an inherent tendency to believe that God is not working in the situation. We are also tempted to think the worst, where everything from our vantage point seems bleak- We see no way out and perceive gloom and doom over the future. But little do we know that in such times, God is actually working behind the scenes orchestrating His plans to accomplish His purposes for our good and for His Glory. 

We may hate to admit that tough times draw us nearer to God with greater dependence and reliance on Him that result in a greater level or new level of faith. And those lessons are precious which can never be learnt in the good times. God knows what we need in life, but we need a fresh perspective on our situation- what we perceive will be different from what God can see. Remember, tough seasons do not last but tough people do, so in order to hang on well, we will need to anchor ourselves on these living truths:

#1. Fight the good fight and keep the faith

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome!” – John 16:33

Life will always be a series of tests and our faith will come under fire. And during those times of challenges, do we cringe in fear or cling to faith? Stand firm, let nothing move you, and always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord will not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). 

We will be trained to persevere and fight in faith, for faith is the confidence what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about the things we yet to see (Hebrews 11:1).

#2. Don’t lose hope for the day and keep disappointments at bay 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Each day is a day of renewed hope since God has made each day a new page, a new chapter and a new beginning. We should be heartened to know that the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease; Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Therefore we have hope each day and rejoice, no matter what is happening around us, let us not lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways, acknowledge God and He will make straight our path (Proverbs 3:5-6). And always be joyful, keeping up a prayerful spirit at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

#3. Refuse to have conversation with the Devil and stand firm 

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:23 NLT

It is ok to be in the wilderness but it is not ok to sojourn in it, any longer we will get lost wandering and likely to end up as bitter souls like the Israelites. When we are emotionally and spiritually down, we are susceptible to attacks. The devil loves to take advantage of our vulnerabilities to play his favourite tool- deception. As a father of all lies, he will never stop insinuating doubts into our subconscious mind. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life (Proverbs 4:23 NCV)– an idle mind is the devil’s playground, and every temptation always start in the mind, therefore we must always guard our thoughts and renew our mind with the Word of God constantly.

The devil is also good as masquerading as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), so not everything good is from the Lord, whether through opened doors or providing options, hence make no assumption and be spiritually discerning if it is really from God.

One of the key values we ought to learn is to be content whatever our circumstances, and always be thankful, this way the power of the enemy will not have a hold over us since his ability in frustrating us will be rendered impotent.

Each time we are tempted, we should consciously choose God’s Truths over the devil’s lies; choose to gravitate our mind Godward; choose to believe that God will work things out in the end; choose to trust God and be patient for His divine provision or intervention; choose to live in peace and joy in the moment, and find rest knowing that He has good things in store for your future.

#4. Be still and know that God is still in control and keep on trusting 

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27

Although God can do anything and nothing is impossible with the Almighty, but sometimes it is not necessary that God will provide a way out in our situation, He will provide a way through it. We just have to keep trusting that God knows best because His ways and thoughts are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). And blessed is the one who trust in the Lord and make Him his hope and confidence (Jeremiah 17:7). 

Be still, let go of your concerns, and let God be God. (Psalm 46:10). After all, God is not deaf nor his arms too short to move (Isaiah 59:1).

#5. Cast your eyes on God alone

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2

Whenever we look down, we can only see things with shadows, but if we look up, we will have a wider perspective and see light. In other words, we either magnify our problems or we magnify God in the situation- which is a better choice? It is also good to look around us and admire God’s creations- there are wonders beyond our apprehension what God can do, that you be surprised there is actually miracles everywhere. 

#6. Remember God is faithful even when we are faith-less

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. – 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT

It is an immutable fact that God is 100% faithful, even if we are faithless or faith-LESS. He knows what we need, He understands how we feel, He anticipates what is to come, and He is familiar with all our ways. He promises His Presence whenever we call on Him (Psalm 145:18).

Count your blessings what you have, not what you do not have. Recall how God has provided and blessed us with in the past, insodoing that will assure us that God will work things out in the end.

#7. We are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthen us, and continue to declare the living promises of God

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37 NLT

The almost impenetrable wall of Jericho came tumbling down only after seven days of incessant prayers marching around it (Hebrews 11:30). It is a great reminder that no matter how impossible a situation is, we will have the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus. With the Bible at hand, where it contains His Word like fire and like a hammer that smashes a rock (Jeremiah 23:29), and the living promises that when God speaks, He acts upon it and will not be unaccomplished (Numbers 23:19), we are more than conquerors through Christ in us and for us.

Therefore, be anxious for nothing, submit our concerns and lay down our requests to God and the supernatural peace of God will transcend all understanding will guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). So be patient until God speaks and acts.

The Pain Of Contentment

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Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:11-12

In the midst of some household chores, I chanced upon this quote in the Chinese newspaper that read,  “不知足的人,永远不会福。” (which literally translated as, “Those who do not know how to be contented, will never be blessed.”) resonated deeply to me.

During times of lack in my journey of entrepreneurship, I struggled the most with being contented. I seem to be consumed by thought of “Will I have the money this month?” day in and day out. I do not trust my Heavenly Father to provide? Perhaps. I lack faith? Perhaps. I worship money more than God? Perhaps. I am getting worldly? Perhaps. I am relying on my own strength instead of God? Perhaps. It is just part and parcel of being an entrepreneur? Perhaps. Thousand of possibilities.

And there is always this great void in me that can’t seem to find peace. Perhaps, it is a sense of insecurity. At such, the word, “contentment”, was never found in my dictionary. After prolonged seasons of seeking after “more securities or assurance”, I seemed to distrust God more and more. Perhaps my value system in believing that if I work hard, I will get what I have worked hard for. But nothing is further than the truth- no matter how hard I tried, the return of “investment” (time and effort) did not commensurate with what I had consecrated to. Didn’t the bible say, “one reaps what one have sown”? (2 Corinthians 9:6)

That was how I discovered something is not quite right with my mentality. Little wonder, blessings elude me because I never learnt to appreciate the little and be contented.

The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. (Proverbs 14:14) Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. (Proverbs 16:8)

It was high time to let go and let God. But it took me years to really learn from Exodus 16 to live day to day and taking one step at a time, where God provides just enough for the day. I have to daily exercise my faith muscles and work on my trust issue- imagine I receive a mandate from Jesus, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25) Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15) Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for you brought nothing into the world, and you cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these you shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

In whatever situation, good or bad, we are to count our blessings even in the little things, and learn to be contented. Only then will we realise how blessed we are for God’s mercies and love are often disguised in what we deemed insignificant. We are forgetful beings and need constant reminders that God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

God doesn’t just bless us with bigger things all the time, but often the little things that made us learn to depend on Him more, and more.

Courtesy photo from a friend who visited Canggu, Bali, on 1 October 2017.

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.

The Green-Eyed Monster

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A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30) It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else. (Ecclesiastes 6:9b GNT)

Many years ago, I used to love this perfume, Envy, by Gucci. I simply love its scent, and the green colour was soothing to the eyes too. It was the only perfume as a self-confessed brand loyalist, that I would stick to for years. The second generation after the popular Envy series was, Envy Me. I was contemplating then to try it out, until a remark from a close friend in the church,, “Are you sure it is a good idea to fall head over heel in love with Envy? Are you not aware that Envy is a green-eyed monster?” (My friend was trying to raise her concern without malicious intent on the product, for she knew I struggled with envy……)

Envy reared its ugly head in the early stage of my life because of my own imperfections that I seek perfection elsewhere in order to compensate for the gap: Where I should be in my career; What I should possess in life; And how I should appear to others. I was always on the pursuit of “bigger and better things”, failing which, I was green with envy whenever someone had what I could not have. I once held a conviction that I needed to have certain things to be happy, and envy bred a competitive spirit in me, “Look what they are getting? Why did they deserve it? I deserve what they have! So I am going to get more and have it better!” to a point that I secretly wished they would fail, because it made me feel better that they could not have what I could not have.

Envy was eating into me every time I compared myself to others- it didn’t make me feel superior but rather painfully lousy. And my heart could not be at peace because I was obsessed with covetousness. And contentment was never found in my dictionary.

It took me years to learn that making comparison is the root of all envy. And the very key to overcoming envy is to stop comparing yourself to others. I have to recognise that the Bible says, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need.” (1 Corinthians 4:7-8 The Message) For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)

Instead of focusing so much on the-never-haves and the-never-happens, I should be grateful for what I do have, since life itself is a blessing, and what I have been given not others can have. There isn’t anybody like me, for God made me to do which others can’t. So there isn’t really any basis for comparison. When I knew the truth, the truth sets me free indeed.

The Bible also tells us that we already have more than we need and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God. We can pick a leaf from the Apostle Paul who said, “I have learned to be content.” So being content is a learning process that we have to exercise continually- when we are content, there is no room for envy.

The Value Of Giving Thanks

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I have learnt something very interesting in John 6:1-14 where Jesus fed the five thousand people. I am sure many us may processed the passage like this:

1. 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 small fishes how to feed 5000 people? Like the disciple Philip, we think it is not possible.

2. Philip has wanted very much to keep the portion to themselves (the disciples) and ignore the needs of the rest.

3. How impossible it is to have 12 basketful of leftovers!

4. Jesus created a miracle of multiplication!

It is nothing unusual as we are well acquainted that God is the God of the impossible- He is more than able to create miracles; He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

But, I would like to shed a light to verse 11-13Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Here’s the catch: Jesus GAVE THANKS (emphasis in caps) for the little, and the 5000 people had enough to eat!

(You can also cross reference to Matthew 15:29-39 where Jesus fed the 4000 with just 7 loaves of bread and few fishes- Jesus gave thanks.)

So I have learnt that giving thanks is a key to multiplication! Such is a power of an attitude and heart of thanksgiving in prayer.

Giving thanks:

1. Releases God’s providence- MULTIPLICATION

2. Realigns our perspective on God not on our circumstances- GOD-FOCUS

3. Reminds us about the heart of our Heavenly Father- DEPENDANCE

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7-11

Having said that, it does not mean God will multiply our material possessions whatever we desire. The miracle of multiplication is meant to advance His Purposes and to display His Glory. If you ask for cell multiplication or more souls to win, the Lord will most surely honour such a prayer. If you ask for a two-fold financial support — not on coveting personal abundance– so that you can run a business that bring Christian values to the world and impact lives for Him, surely God does not withhold?

Instead of focusing on the “little” (whatever that you have or are facing now), be thankful, count your blessings for what you have than what you do not have. Never forget to give thanks for what you are given, and in HIs time, He will bring about something beautiful.

Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, – Ephesians 3:20

Satisfaction At Work

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It has always been an encouragement to me especially in my early walk trapped in prolonged darkness. And for the first time in 12 yrs I noticed this verse 13 “satisfaction in our labour is a GIFT fm God.” A carnal mind would strongly refute that satisfaction is a result of what we sweat for and a reward of our toil- “I deserve what I work hard for!”

Sounds familiar? Many people strived today because of discontentment and seeking satisfaction that never truly satisfied. They were not satisfied because they go after things that fade away or never meant for them to enjoy, they focus on their selves that subject to inconsistencies and fallacies of a fallen nature.

Satisfaction mentioned herein is not a promise of success or wealth, but that of an enjoyment of the fruits of our effort. The goal of our work is not to gain wealth and possessions on earth, but to serve the common good and bring glory to God- Because: (1) He is the ultimate Creator, Boss and Owner of our jobs; (2) He made us with the talents He wants us to put to good use for Him; (3) He wants our lives to be attestation and testimonies of Him, and (4) He wants to usher us in His Highest Plan for our greatest good, according to His blueprint for each of us.

So when we work unto The Lord, with the focus in pleasing and glorifying Him, our work will be enjoyable, satisfied and multiplied. (Having said this, it does not mean we will not face problems at work…)

Satisfaction is a gift from God, because of our obedience:

Whatever we do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (including one self), and we shall receive our reward. – Colossians 3:23-24; Ephesians 6:7-8

On another hand, there is also a flip side or a danger to being satisfied:

As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me. – Hosea 13:6

Awwww… God knows our hearts, what we are made of and even knows where we will b falling away… Pay heed that we shld always seek and find satisfaction in Him and not the things He made.

Read Ecclesiastes 3