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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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifices

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“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

I had a catch-up with an old friend, Jae, whose sharing got me in deep rumination:

Snippet 1: When was the last time you can feel that you have grieved the Holy Spirit?

Jae shared about an argument that his 13-year old niece had with her mum who was so upset over her words that she was sent off to her room, “You better think over the words you have just said to me…” My friend knew his niece would cry badly as she had a very stern mother, so he went to check on her. True enough, she was crying badly, so Jae went to comfort her and tried to offer the usual niceties… But guess what was the response of his niece upon receiving his comfort? “Uncle, I do not blame my mum at all, I cry because I have grieved the Holy Spirit…”

I was absolutely stumbed for words to hear that coming from a 13-year old girl. It got me thinking when was the last time we could really FEEL that we have grieved the Holy Spirit by the things we said or did? If it has been a while to have such sensitivity like his young niece, it means that we have not been walking in the spirit closely in our daily lives. So often we pointed fingers and go around the blaming circle, without reflecting whether the problem first lie with us.

Snippet 2: “If this caused my children to stumble and turn away from the Lord, then I rather forego it…”

Jae’s brother can afford to upgrade his comfortable abode to a beautiful luxurious home as God has blessed him with much wealth over the years. His brother has been planning over 3 years how to build his dream home, that he looks forward to living in it with his family. Until a day he just decided to abort his plan and forfeit a huge deposit. Jae was shocked by his abrupt decision so he sounded him out what had happened. His reply was, “If living in a lap of luxury is going to stumble all my young children, especially the youngest one, that they start to behave like some rich pampered kids, just because they are blessed to have a lot more nice things, I rather forego my plans than to risk them to turn away from the Lord…”

I really salute this father for having a kingdom mindset- A God-loving father gives up all his rights for the sake of the next generation in the fear of the lord! Are there any of our decisions or things that we do will compromise the values of the Kingdom? So often, we thought by doing certain things will better the lives of our family- better house, better car, better things, without considering the true value of living on earth.

“Those who honor me I will honor.” – 1 Samuel 2:30B

What Truly Matter?

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For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:26

Recent news about my friends in their 40s, have lost their fight with cancer, one after another since the beginning of the year. A friend rued over the missed chance to have a last meal with one of them whom he was close to, because he couldn’t find the time of convenience. And he missed the opportunity twice. He didn’t expect she be called Home so suddenly… He lamented that there was no way to assuage his pain and entertained many “If only”s…

Life has no “if only”s. And we only live once. Something that is lost is lost forever, there is no turning back of the clock… So what truly matter?

Many of us are so caught up with the world (busyness and self-pursuits) that we neglect the things that truly matter. What if you discovered that you only have 24hours to live? And what if Jesus come and it is right now a Judgement Day? How then will you account for your life? Do you shudder to think that you really get to Heaven? Be warned, Jesus said, amongst us are sheeps and goats, and some sheeps God tells them plainly, “I don’t know you! Depart from me!” (Matthew 7:22-23)

And no one can tell you if your salvation is genuine, only you know. We may even live our spiritual life pious, but God looks at our heart, and He knows whether we are fake-label sheeps. It is undeniably a frightening thought but good to always hold us in check. I shuddered most to think that I may fall away before His coming that we do not know when. I shuddered to think that I have nothing to present to the King of Kings my offering when I stand before Him, when He expects how I have lived my life on mission on earth.

Many of us lived life “soul-less” (i.e. Without purpose or meaning, and even losing your character), or “as we like it” or “when we feel like it”, or “it is okay there is always another time”. That is when we often take things for granted. Ever considered:

(a) Time waits for no man?

(b) You spend your entire life to build wealth, but it can’t buy you health; only to end up we have to spend all our wealth to regain our health.

(c) A career or your money can’t buy you happiness, eternal security, and even relationships. Life will have no meaning.

(d) You can’t take anything to Heaven, except your character and your “report card”.

What truly matter? The sting is, you won’t know what you may have to pay in the future.

Consider how you live NOW, for you never know what is going to happen the next hour. It all boils down to your choice.

The 7 Virtues To Transforming Your Relationships And Your Character

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In the church, we have heard a lot about the importance of having faith, trust, love, holiness and perseverance. We have also been taught that our mind and words have hidden power that either edify or destroy, whether with husband, children, parents, colleagues or even the people whom we are trying to reach out to.

Yet, in life’s tsunami of challenges, we are often greet with situations that not only challenge our spiritual credentials, but also affect our relationships. I have discovered treasures in the bible that help to transform our relationships and even our character:

1. The virtue of LISTENING

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.” “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”” – 1 Samuel 3:9-10 NASB

2. The virtue of SILENCE

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. – Proverbs 17:27-28

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14

3. The virtue of PATIENCE

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. – Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. – Proverbs 15:18 

Love is patient, love is kind. – 1 Corinthians 13:4 

4. The virtue of HUMILITY

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:5b-6

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. – Isaiah 66:2b

…he crowns the humble with victory – Psalm 149:4b

5. The virtue of DENYING YOURSELF

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:3-8

Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. What out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives. – Hebrews 12:15TLB

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

6. The virtue of REST

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:28-29

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  – Exodus 33:14

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” – Mark 6:31

7. The virtue of FOCUS

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

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

A Gift Wrapped in Love

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A father and his little girl went shopping in a toy store. The father asked his girl, “What would you like to have this season, my dear?” The girl throbbed with excitement, grabbed her daddy’s hand to lead him to the toy she already had in mind. “Daddy, I would like to have this music phone I have always been longing to play with. Will you get this for me?” The father scrutinised the toy and told his girl, “My dear, I think this toy is not suitable for you. How about I get this talking story book? I think it is better. Let’s go!” The little girl pouted her lips in disappointment, holding her new toy woebegonely.

Muffling her displeasure with fretful purses of her lips and tiny furrows gracing her forehead, the little girl stashed her new toy away under her bed. She snuffled unhappily as she mused over why her prayer for a music phone left unanswered. Days passed and the little girl scribbled cynically to her tantrums as she tried to fiddle with her new toy but still she did not like it at all. She resented her daddy for forcing her to play with the things she did not like. The toy fell off her hands and clunked onto the bare tiles, tears of misery trickled down her cheeks.

Every now and then, the father peeped surreptitiously at his little girl. His heart ached upon seeing his little girl with her chin propped on her knees at the corner of her room, weeping as she wistfully prayed that her daddy would still get her that music phone.

At that juncture, the father ambled into the room, knelt down to hold his little girl up and looked into her eyes dolefully, “My dear, I know it has been hard on you. I thought you would grow to like the toy I thought is best for you. As that music phone isn’t appropriate at this moment and thought I will give it to you when you are older and you will understand my good intention then. But I have counted your tantrums, I have seen your tears, and it pains me to see how dispirited you are. So this time, you can have my blessing because I love you.”

Her daddy’s love suffused the little girl’s eyes with tears, joy soon effaced out every other feelings…

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 7:11-12

“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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? – Matthew 7:7-10