“What Is It You Want?” The Trivial Things.

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Throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus jumped up and came to Jesus. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Rabboni, said the blind man, “I want to see again.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. – Mark 10:50-52

It has never occurred to me to pray to God for trivial things. I thought it was incredulous to ask a supreme being who does big things to do something so insignificant. Until a friend put into a new perspective that God is concerned what is bothering us even with the slightest matter! (Imagine God numbers every strand of hair on our head as delineated in Luke 12:7. That shows God is a God of fine details!)

I found it amusing to be asking God, in my 15-year journey with Him, to request Him to be my alarm clock as I needed to wake up earlier to rush work. (Lest you wonder, normal alarm clock doesn’t work on me……) Initially I prayed, “God, please wake me up earlier.” Indeed, I had been waking up earlier than my usual timing, but it was still behind time as planned. Until I decided to be more specific, so I prayed to God to wake me up at 8am.

Yes, you guessed it. I really woke up at 8am!

“What is it you want?”, God asks specifically. (Matthew 20:21)

“What do you want me to do for you?”, Jesus asks specifically. (Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41)

Therefore, be specific, no matter how trivial your request.

Don’t worry about anything (including what you worry that your requests may be too trivial for the Almighty); instead, pray about everything (yes, all the little things that bother you). Tell God what you need (specifically), and thank Him for all He has done (claim and receive by faith). If you do this (by praying and petitioning), you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand (and you be in for a surprise!). His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (just trust Him). – Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

On the other hand, even if we have yet to hear our prayers answered, Jesus encourages us to always pray and not lose heart, through a parable in Luke 18, about a persistent widow pleading her cause continually, until the judge had to grant her request. Although 1 John 5:14-15 reminds us that God hears each prayer: “And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we know He is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that He will give us what we ask for.” Our prayers have to be in line with the Will of God, as not everything is beneficial to us. We have to trust our all-knowing, loving God wants the best for us, and leave the outcome in His Hands.

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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.

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!”

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)

Offenses. Cold Love.

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For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (Matthew 12:34B) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:16)

We all have people in our lives who hurt us, and we hurt others too, consciously or unconsciously. And when we are offended, we are inclined to react or retaliate unchristlike. The fact is, hurting people hurt people- the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

So what is truly residing in our heart? Imagine Jesus, who know our innermost thoughts, probed, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)

Sometimes, people are most critical in the area of their deepest emotional need- It may be their indirect way of needing affirmation, seeking love and requesting for help. As Dr. Gary Chapman puts it, we all have our love language- when we understand this, we can respond more positively. So whenever we hear criticism or get an unwarranted retort, James 1:19 reminds us, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” That means it is time to listen- as he or she may be inviting you to respond to their need in order to make them feel loved.

On the other hand, we have to be mindful that if our heart is full of malice, envy, and contention, we are easily liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. And the root of such evils stemmed from unresolved issue of pride, anger or bitterness from injustice or unforgiveness, and rejection. It can penetrate and wound any dimension of the soul. And the danger is, Jesus had warned that, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith.

“Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” – Matthew 24:10-12

Many will be offended; the love of many will grow cold, if we allow any offense to remain in our hearts. The above verse has warned that for an offended soul, betrayal, cold love, and hatred go hand-in-hand. Instead of dealing with the offense, people carry them until the weight disables their walk with God and incapacitated of overcoming their own. People do not usually stumble over boulders, but over stones– the relatively small things— which the  accumulation of all small little things can be injurious to the soul, which will demand you to retaliate in the flesh.

It is time to take a honest inventory of our heart. Let God perform a “surgery” on your heart (and yes you may need to have the “surgery” daily), “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Each day we are faced with occasions for taking offenses- we are either given the opportunity to be offended by something, or to exercise overlooking offenses. Proverbs 19:11 says, A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy of being Christlike be demonstrated in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abound in our lives.

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.