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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The Past Provides Clues To What You Are Today

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Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. – Ephesians 2:1-3

I was watching a Korean drama, “Criminal Minds”, where the scenes depict how perpetrators were who they were because of their traumatic upbringing and sadistic exposure to the depravity of humankind during their childhood. Although the drama may be fictional, it contains distressing truths on:

(a) how the environment at childhood can shape innocent minds and frame a human’s psyche, and parents play a very crucial role in teaching and upbringing of their offsprings;

(b) we can sink deeper into the deep abyss of deception and come under the diabolical influence of devils which lead us to commit more evils.

The bible has warned in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” And everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4), and everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

I have often heard many professed, “I am born this way.”, but the truth is, the past — our childhood and growing years — provides clues to what we are today: what we think, how we feel and why we behave in a certain way. The environment (including the people) we were brought up in holds the key in shedding light to this misconception.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

We all have a past, but the past should no longer hold us in bondages to the acts of the evil ones, nor should we be continuing to live and walk in darkness. No matter how painful to open that door to the past, true healing can only come when we face it courageously. God is gracious and love us too much to go through pain all at one go, just like an onion, peeling comes layer by layer until it reaches the core, where God deals with us gently and lovingly, if only we allow Him to. Give that key to your prison to Jesus, He will hold your hands and walk with you through it. Only then, can you walk in true freedom and be who God has created you to be.

P.S.

Parents also play a crucial role in bringing up their kids responsibly in God’s ways.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18)

Courtesy photo (P1040075) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Enslaved

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

The modern day world of the fallen times, we all come under pressure by people and things around us which resulted in some form of enslavement: some are slaves to social media; some are slaves to fears; some are slaves to the opinions of others; some are slaves to the expectations of others; some are slaves to past hurts; some are slaves to pornography; some are slaves to alcoholism; some are slaves to materialism; some are slaves to money; some are slaves to work; some are slaves to recognition; and the whatnots.

Whether we are aware or not, sometimes, our enslavement can be a form of escapism or as a coping mechanism, consciously or unconsciously. But God does not designed us this way nor intended for us to be enslaved by anything perishable in this world. That is why we need freedom in Christ. Only by knowing the truths, Christ can truly set us free indeed (John 8:32). Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). And as a believer, we have the Spirit of the Lord in us, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Sin is no longer our master, as we live under the freedom of God’s grace (Romans 6:14). Though we all were once slaves to sin, but so long as we wholeheartedly obey the Word of God, to which we are committed to live in genuine repentance, we will surely be set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:14

Call sin a sin, and recognise that we all need help to deal with the issue. We must humble ourselves to cry out to God. True transformation can only happen when there is genuine repentance. We can deceive others, but we cannot deceive God, we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It is better to quickly do something about our enslavement before sin gets full-blown which resulted in death (James 1:15). Therefore, let us not misuse our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13).

How Big Is God Or How Big Is Fear?

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“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” – Psalm 34:4

Someone once asked, “How big God really is?” I must admit it is hard to describe how big, how great and how infinite God is in literal terms. Not long ago, I managed to grasp a better concept- I love to spy at my mini pet shrimps and water snails with a magnifying glass from time to time, so that I can observe how well they are doing in the tank. And the more I zoom in, the larger the size of the object. Distance also plays a part because the nearer I am to the tank with the magnifying glass, the clearer the details captured. And when I take a step back, the object doesn’t look so intimidating after all.

This macro-view and micro-view analogy made me realised how big the size of God depends on how near I am to Him. And the more I focus on the object at close-up, the more I am able to see every thing with much clarity.

But in reality, the size of God is often downplayed by our fallibleness- things of this world and of darkness are more magnified than they really are, especially fears. No one is immune to fears and often legitimate enough to rob us of peace, joy and even faith in God. Search has also revealed that the word “Fear not” or in its equivalence, “Do not be afraid”, appear 365 times in the bible! Isn’t it intriguing to know that God in His infinite wisdom know we need help in dealing with this subject while living on earth? God has already prepared the bible for us to have one ammunition against any fear per day!

First and foremost, we need to recognise the fear that we have, and face it point-blank- confess it, confront it and conquer it. Fear is simply an acronym of False Expectation Appearing Real. And the opposite of fear is faith, in other word, you will need supernatural faith together with God’s living Truths, to counter fear.

You may realise that Satan’s most effective strategy in instilling fears to strike you down is nothing new nor creative:

TRICK 1: Fear of poverty or not having enough.

Who doesn’t fear lack? Though money is important for survival but it isn’t omnipotent. When money becomes an obsession, that is where evils (i.e. worries, anxieties, fears, idolatry……) reside. And the more you chase after something, the more it will elude you. Would it not be better to go after God, who is the God of Multiplication of 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 small fishes (Luke 9:15-17), who says He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and knows exactly what you need even before you ask of Him (Matthew 6:8)? So seek God first, and He will provide all that you need.

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 10:3)

TRICK 2: Fear of failures.

All man are imperfect and fallible with our fallen nature, and it is inevitable for us to make mistakes periodically. Therefore, it is ok to fail but we should stand up where we fell and not be too harsh on ourselves. Instead, we should embrace failures as rare opportunities to learn or do better, after all, life lessons are always learnt best through hard knocks. Remember, we have the wisest Counsellor and Teacher living in us whom we can consult with.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)  We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

TRICK 3: Fear of men 

If we are honest enough, all of us feel good when we are paid compliments, and we thrive in relationships where we feel appreciated. However, that can be a very thin line we are threading on as we can easily fall into the trap of pleasing men in order to win their approval, for the fear of men prove to be a snare (Proverbs 29:25). So put our confidence in God, who is not fickle-minded, that we can be secured against rejections from capricious men.

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies (Isaiah 51:12A) Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?  (Isaiah 2:22)

TRICK 4: Fear of the unknown.

Venturing into the unfamiliar or considering the unknown future can be unnerving to all of us. With each passage of time, things around us never stay constant, and uncertainty often precipitates unsettling changes. The bible counsels us not to worry about tomorrow since we do not know what it may bring (Matthew 6:34). That is why we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) for faith operates in the supernatural and has the power to overcome this natural fear.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

TRICK 5: Fear of losses.

There is no gain without pain, and changes are often necessary for growth; and when there are changes, there are inevitable losses or pain in some ways. Sometimes, through losses, we draw nearer to God and gain new insights about our lives. Losses may not be that fearful if we look in light of God who owes everything in our life and we are merely entrusted with stewardship to take care for Him on earth. After all, we come to earth with nothing and we shall depart with nothing too.

I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor. (Isaiah 43:4 (GNTD)) I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

TRICK 6: Fear of sicknesses.

Our bodies are subject to degeneration when we age, and susceptible to any diseases while living on earth. Although sicknesses and infirmities can be threatening, the bible warns that it is scarier to lose our soul (Matthew 10:28), for nothing will profit a man who lost his soul. And when we look in light of a better home in Heaven, whatever we are going through on earth pales in comparison to the crown of life and an unperishable body we will receive when God calls us home.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) The Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalm 41:23)

TRICK 7: Fear of inadequacies.

Both Moses and Paul wrestled with feelings of inadequacies and inferiority, when they were assigned with tasks that seemed too big a hat for them. But God who created us, know exactly what we are made of, He will not put us in places where we cannot perform nor glorify Him. Sometimes, God uses our weaknesses to display His Strength so that others can praise Him for what He can do. We can take heart that when God commissions us for a task, He will provide the means to accomplish what He has set us to do, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). So trust Him, and do whatever He calls you to.

Paul conceded, ‘Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NASB) ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB).

TRICK 8: Fear of being alone.

God made us to have a relationship with Him and others, He never intended for us to be alone. That is why church and cell fellowship helps to meet this need of companionship, where we need each other to be encouraged, edified and supported through this journey on earth. And with Holy Spirit living in us and God who is omnipresent, we are never alone. So look deep inside and look up, and you will find  that God is always near.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

TRICK 9: Fear of losing control.

Control-freaks fear losing control because they are afraid their lives will be out of tune, they do not even leave to chances for any unexpected situation. Such control freaks have to constantly stay on their toes in order to hold their ground. But no matter how meticulous we plan nor how strong we are, life will always caught us by surprises. Only the Sovereign God, who is all-mighty hold the reins and remains in control over everything. It is wiser for us to relinquish this right and let Him have the driver-seat of our lives; with God, nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27).

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

TRICK 10: Fear of stepping out of comfort zone.

Almost all of us love status quo and remain where we are because it is undeniably comfortable. We are averse to stepping out of our comfort zone because what challenge us can cause us to become a bundle of nerves. Imagine if Abraham did not obey God’s call to go to a faraway place (Genesis 12:1) and chose to remain in his comfortable zone, Abraham would not have fulfilled his destiny that God had for him. It certainly took Abraham a lot of faith and courage to overcome his human tendencies, but it was wise of him to trust God for the result. Only by stepping out of our comfort zone, can we see a new beginning. Therefore,  when God calls, do not fear, for He promises to be with you on the way and all the way.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Courtesy photo (P1040139) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

 

Under Siege

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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

I ever wondered, since God has given us His divine authority over everything with His keys of the kingdom of Heaven, that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loose in Heaven, reinforced with all His promises of providence, deliverance and victory, why do we still struggle or wrestle with defeat from time to time, or we have yet to experience a breakthrough?

I observed that there are four areas which we may be under siege:

  1. We fell prey to the Devil’s schemes. 

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. – John 10:10A NLT

Satan is a master strategist, having live thousands of years, he has been honing his skills- he has the dexterity to steal our peace and joy; kills our hope and destroy our faith in God. Before we know it, we have been ensnared by his deceit. We can never outsmart him with our finite wisdom, we will need the living power of God’s Truths to combat his lies and send his demons helter-skelter. If we are not well-guarded in our heart and mind, we will fall prey easily to the devil’s schemes.

  1. We get entangled in our own sins that we are immobilised

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. – Colossians 2:13A MSG

When we are caught up in our sins, our spiritual antenna is not sensitive, which result in a loss of spiritual discernment, where we can no longer discern the Voice of God. Our mind will also be darkened and our understanding about God will be dimmed, we will then be easily susceptible to distortion of truth and deception from the devil. And once we give the devil a foothold in any area of our lives, we will be incapacitated under his yoke of slavery.

  1. We have not been training for war.

May the Lord, my rock, be praised, who trains my hands for battle and my fingers for warfare. – Psalm 144:1

All athletes competing in any race have to undergo strict training almost daily. We will lag behind if we rest on our laurels any time. The devil is always hungry, ready to pounce on his victims and devour them (1 Peter 5:8) without mercy. So without training, we will be feeble;  and without regular training, we will not be as effective.

  1. We have not been putting on the full Armour of God properly for 24/7, 365 days.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:11-12

The Armour of God (read Ephesians 6:10-20 to understand what consists in the full suit) is actually indestructible, but we can be susceptible to attacks if we do not arm ourselves properly. As read in Ephesians 6:11, we are exhorted to put on the full suit of the Armour of God where each part protects us in different aspect. In other word, we cannot pick and choose which we would like to put on, since if any part of the Armour is missing, then we will be guaranteed to attacks easily. Consider that when an army goes to war, the soldiers cannot afford to be flippant about putting on the full set of proper gears, for we do not know how the enemy strategises to attack. The soldiers even sleep with their gears on 24/7. How much more the battle with Satan and his demons which require spiritual weapons to fight against them, any time any day.

We can be sure that Satan knows our weaknesses, and what cause us to crumble easily, in the area which we have exposed to him. Therefore, we need to take a proactive stand, having done our part, and standing firm on our faith, we can then command Satan to get lost, and the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20A)

Courtesy photo (P1040340: Stone Garden) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Extrapolation. Inferences. Deception.

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He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; – Isaiah 11:3B

As a visual person, I have the propensity to observe and read things around me with my eyes; and as a creative person, I have a knack for piecing together bits and pieces into a whole new creation. As a result, I have inherited a predisposition to making extrapolation almost all the time.

To extrapolate is to draw an interference or a presumption about something with existing information that is not explicit.

In other word, that means, I can tip the scale to being judgemental since my eyes judge and my ears decide. And that is dangerous because:

(1) I can be led into deception easily;

(2) I can make illogical inferences that are not true;

(3) I can become irrational;

(4) and the worst of the lot is, I, as a mere human, is sitting on the judgement seat that is only reserved for God.

Judging, in its simplest definition, is forming an opinion or conclusion about something or someone. In other word, whenever I draw an inference, I have formed a judgement. Of course, God does us a spirit of sound mind and self-control, but the flip side is, what if, my inference is wrong, based on false impression or insufficient information, my judgement will then be impaired or impartial.

It took me years to restrain in utilising this inherent trait, until I read a verse from Luke 6:37, that if I judge, I will be judged; if I condemn, I will be condemned too. And I will also be treated the same as I treat others. The standard I use in judging will be the standard by which I will be judged (Matthew 7:2).

Isn’t that scary enough to hold us in check? For only the Lord knows the heart of men, after all, who are we, standing on the same ground as imperfect beings elevate ourselves on higher ground on moral or biblical standards? Let us not deceive ourselves, for “the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). 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).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19