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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God In The Details

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Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:9

A friend gave me a hassle-free nano aquarium with self-sustaining eco-system of mini wonder shrimps and water snails. I love to take a break in between work to peep at these pets as it is therapeutic to observe how carefree they are around the tank. What really amaze me is, they can find food within their environment- they literally feed on any microorganisms bred in the specially designed eco-system. All I need is to feed them supplements – though not necessary- every alternate days to keep the shrimps happy. The round-shaped squishy looking mossy Marimo (in other word, algal ball in Japanese) latched in between the twigs provided decorative filaments to the already pretty aquarium, other than their main function to provide oxygen, and absorb waste and debris. (And yes, Marimo is considered a pet too, according to Wikipedia, since they are living organism.)

This aquarium is a very good reminder as a physical parallel to how I as an owner, an imperfect human, care for these little pets, and make sure they are fed and living well, so how much more our Heavenly Father who is perfect so desired to feed and provide for our every needs?

“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? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… – Matthew 6:25-34A

I have also picked a leaf from these pets that they seem to have a quiet assurance that they will be cared and provided for so they can live worry-free and happy. How much more, we as Children of God, even more precious to Him who love us, care not how we are doing?

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:2) For now You number my steps (Job 14:16A). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) 

God is in the details. He cares for every little things in our lives. He knows what we are going through, and our every innermost thoughts. We can take heart that God takes great pleasure in giving us what we need, because He is our loving Father.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32), And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. (Proverbs 10:3A) 

Therefore, God knows what we need even before we ask of Him. And His provision always come on time, not too much lest we forget Him, nor too little that we dishonour Him. It is always just right and on time. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in men or even ourselves. (Psalm 118:8)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 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.

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

Prosper = Prosperity?

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I was seeking The Lord on a matter about giving last nite, I was brought to this verse in Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to PROSPER you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is the most classic verse to old-time Christians and young believers alike. Truth be told, I actually had a different understanding, and for the first time I ever discover the true meaning of “prosper” (as far as I remember)…

When I was a very young believer, I thought “prosper” means “prosperity”. As I progressed in my spiritual walk, I thought it also means “successful”. Until, I read a different translation and check the original root word in Hebrew (for the Old Testament).

In context, this verse was specifically directed to the Israelites exiled in Babylon. The original Hebrew translated “prosperity” as “peace, safety, completeness, satisfaction, health or blessings”. It does not imply financial prosperity or success as the world defines it. And blessings are not necessary material or financial blessings as well, it can be if God’s Presence goes with us, it is also a blessing; when God answers our prayer requests though may not be in ways we expected, it is also a blessing.

And of course, God can bless us to be successful if it is His Plan and Will for us. But to put it explicitly, “Prosper” is NOT “Prosperity” or “Success”.

Actually NLT translation comes closer to the intended meaning:

For I know the plans I have for u,” says the Lord. “They are plans FOR GOOD and not for disaster, to give u a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“Plans for good” is what God intends for each of us: He is in control of our lives, our future, our destinies that fulfill His purposes and He knows best what we need in the present for our own GOOD or what He thinks is GOOD for us. We can take heart that our infinite God is far greater an mightier beyond our finite understanding of this truth.