Why Do You Give?

Giving is something we do all the time. We give in the form of gifts, time, energy and finances. But today, I want to ask you (and myself), “Why do you give?”

Because while many of us give in different forms, be it to a cause we believe in, to our family and friends, or to the church, this is a very important question that we must ask ourselves so that we give with the right heart. From what I’ve observed from myself and also other people, there are usually 5 reasons why people give.

1. Insecurity

Some people give because when they look around, they see their peers doing it; and in order to sort of fit in or not appear to be selfish, they give too. And while in a way, it is good because they still gave in some way, this kind of giving gets painful in the long run. That’s not how giving is supposed to feel! I believe giving is meant to be a joyful thing.

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

2. Instruction

There are also people who give because someone told them to do so. Maybe it’s a parent, a senior, a leader or an elder. And while it is good that we obey all these people, we must also have our personal convictions in giving. If not, we will eventually be unwilling to give. Giving by instruction is one of the lowest levels of giving. Let’s not stop here!

3. Intention

Then, there are others who give with personal motives. They give out of their own will but there is an expectation for something in return. Some people give to their “friends” so that in the future, they will lend a helping hand when they need it. Some Christians give to the church and to God because they want to be blessed by Him.

While we will be blessed by our loving family and good friends and God will also honor our giving, we must not give with this dangerous mindset. Because there is always a possibility that we will not get anything in return! Are we going to throw a tantrum and stop giving then?

If we give with expectations to get something in return, it is NOT giving, it is buying. You go to the cinema, buy a ticket with your money and expect a great movie. You go to the restaurant, buy an expensive dish and expect a great meal. You go to the store, buy something with your salary and expect a great product. And if it turns out that any of them doesn’t meet your expectations, you’ll get upset.

But this is not how things work with giving! With hidden intentions or expectations in our hearts, we will not be giving, we will only be trying to buy people’s favor and God’s blessings. We want to be givers, not consumers.


So there are people who give out of insecurity, instruction and intention – motivations that makes the spirit of giving temporal, unpleasant and even selfish. But there are also another two groups of people whom I’ve really seen giving with the right attitude, and we want to be just like them.

4. Intimacy

The first of these two groups give because of intimacy. They give out of a heart of love and thankfulness towards someone. It is natural to give to someone whom we love or are intimate with! Have you ever seen how a loving couple would give to each other?

If you’ve ever wondered how to be a “cheerful giver” as described in the Bible verse above, this is it. When we give out of our hearts to love, we will do it cheerfully. We can give without loving, but we can never love without giving. There is a joy in giving to people we love. We are cheerful in doing so. Let’s give with a heart of intimacy towards our friends, family and God.

5. Involvement

Last but not least, there’s also a group of people who gives to be involved. They give to a disaster relief because they want to be involved in helping people. They give to a loved one because they want to be involved in their lives. They give to someone or something that once helped them and now want to be involved in doing the same for others because they are grateful. They give to a vision and a cause they believe in because they want to be involved in making a difference – in changing the world.

Today, let’s give out of intimacy. Let’s give to be involved in something greater than ourselves. Most importantly, give with a smile on your face. God loves a cheerful giver, but I believe a cheerful giver also loves God.

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Pain

Pain. It is something that can come in many forms. It could come in the form of a sickness or a discomfort; you know the kind of feeling that you get when you have a fever or the sore that you have after exercising for the first time in a long while? Or how about that sensation that you feel at your fingertips after playing the guitar for an hour? Accidentally stubbing your toe against something? That’s pain.

Yet beyond all that, we know that pain can also come in less physical forms of disappointments, discouragements and rejections. I’m sure that you and I have had a fair share of all that. But I guess only those who has been in pain will understand it. And only those who understand pain can relate to those who are hurting.

So in a sense, could God use our current pain for a future purpose? Because it is true that we connect to others not by our strengths, but through our weaknesses; that we relate to others not by our personal gains in life but by our personal pains in life. So maybe God can use our pain for a greater purpose – if we have the right perspective and allow Him to do so.

Besides, if there is one Person that we should use as the ultimate example of pain with a purpose, it is Jesus Christ! He was nailed to the cross for the remission of our sins. He was betrayed, He was tortured, He was humiliated, He was abandoned. He went through the most physical, emotional and spiritual pains and suffered more than any of us just so we can be set free. Yet after all these things, He is perfect, He is alive and He is all powerful.

Maybe right now as you’re reading this, you’re in the midst of a painful season in your life. Never think that no one understands your pain. Because even if the people around you don’t, Christ does.

Before I conclude this last post for the week, let me just say one final thing. Pain never lasts. Sometimes it feels like forever, sometimes it might even really take forever to subside. But trust in God and one day sooner or later, He will bring you through it. Jesus came to loose the chains of eternal pain in our lives, and essentially also – eternal death. Of course, I pray that as much as possible, you do not experience pain in your life. But if it does happen, have faith.

And also, remember that there is always the possibility that your pain could have a purpose. At times, your pain can even make you stronger. Out of painful experiences, victors can be made. Go ask any Olympics champion if winning was ever easy. I think we all know the answer. Pain can either drain you, or train you. Choose what it does.

A New Season

Hi readers, it’s a new season! Before I begin writing about the message that was preached by Pastor Lia over the weekend (27th & 28th February), let me first show you in video form the kind of fun we have in church. Be awed.


Haha, have I ever mentioned before how much I love my pastors and my church? If you thought what you saw was cool, wait till you come and experience them for yourselves! Alright. Today we are talking about seasons, and I’m going to once again do my very best in bringing you my pastor’s message. But trust me, nothing beats hearing the man & woman of God for yourself. First scripture of the day:

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

After showing us how cool our “runway screens” can get, Pastor Lia begins her sermon with this scripture. Because there is a season and a time for everything in God’s calendar, as well as our lives. In our school, in our families, in our friendships – all of them go through different seasons. What’s important is doing the right thing in the right season. Because if we flow with God and His seasons, tremendous blessings will be poured out over our lives.

However if we don’t flow with Him, our lives might turn out to be frustrating and disappointing. Today, I believe we are all in a new season; not just for my church as a whole, but for you and I as individuals. And this is how we can all enter into this season and flow with our God.

#1 Don’t get stuck in a season

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Firstly, we got to learn how to flow and move together with God. Don’t let past seasons determine our destinies, no matter how good or bad they were. People are held back in their lives because they can’t seem to get out of a season. For some, it could be due to nostalgia. You know what I’m talking about; their favorite phrase is “those good old days…” Now it’s totally okay to have fond memories of the past, but it’s a whole other thing to hold on to it and refuse to let go!

Sometimes, people also cling on to old seasons because of fear. They fear and worry that the coming seasons will not be as good as their current one. If you’re feeling this way right now, let me just say that God will always bring us to a better place in a new season. As long as you and I walk faithfully with Him, we will go from glory to glory and faith to faith. We will not go from glory to sorry or faith to failure!

There are also those who hold on to these seasons because they can’t forgive themselves for their past mistakes. Maybe they’ve made foolish decisions in this past season and feel condemned, unable to let go and move on. Or maybe it was a season of loss and grief, when they experienced the death of a business, a dream, or a loved one.

“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.” – Joshua 1:2 (NIV)

“Now then, you…” God spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses. He was trying to tell him and all of us here today one thing – it’s a new season. It doesn’t matter whether it was good or bad, it’s time to move on! Don’t let nostalgia, fear, self-condemnation, grief or even friendships and relationships get in our way. It could have been that way for a long time now but it’s time to let go.

Don’t try to resurrect things such as past relationships that God has allowed to die in our lives. Flow with Him, or else everyone except for us would have moved on to a new season. We can then be compared to people wearing fur coats in summer and swimsuits in winter – out of season. That is why we got to not only move on, but also learn to act & talk for the season we are in.

#2 Put away childish things

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When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

After moving into a new season with God, the second thing we have to do is to put away childish things. As humans, we have been designed to improve, grow and develop. Just look at things around us (or on us) like our hairs & nails. They keep growing, and it’s the same for kids! You don’t see them for a few weeks or for a month, and when you finally do meet them again, you’ll be shocked at how much they’ve grown and how different they now look!

So as you can see, we have all been designed for change, increase and progress. But though we were made to desire for growth, we got to know that it is one thing to desire, and another thing entirely to grow. Change is inevitable. Growth however, is intentional. If you sit around long enough, your hair will naturally turn grey. That’s change. But for growth, intentional plans have to be put in place. Especially so in this new season.

Childish things for example, have to be intentionally and deliberately put away. They do not automatically leave our lives. When we grew up, we knew to put away our dolls, toys and games. But it’s not those things that we are talking about here. It also does not mean that we can’t have some fun and recreation once in awhile. What Pastor Lia is referring to is childish ways. These childish attitudes can destroy so many things in our lives, but what exactly are they? Here are some examples:

  • Needing to win all the time
  • Childish ways of responding to rejections and conflicts
  • Needing attention all the time
  • Moodiness
  • Childish ways of handling offense

Let’s go through some of the above. Are you a person that can’t take “no” as an answer? Do you always have to get what you want, be it from your parents or from your friends? Then most probably, you have a childish way of responding to rejections and conflicts. Next, are you needing attention all the time? Are you always so self-absorbed that in every conversation, you’re the only one talking? Time to ask somebody “How are you?” How about being moody? Your kiddish emotions can swing from one extreme to the next within minutes. You’re like a land mine and a time bomb. And in case you didn’t know, people find it difficult to even be around you, not to mention approaching you!

How about dealing with offense? Do you get easily offended all the time? Do not let offense dwell in your heart. In life, we will always have conflicts and confrontations. The key is how we handle them. Because sorry to burst your bubble – there is no end to criticisms. I mean come on, even the best artists, leaders and politicians get criticized. There’s always that small 0.01% group of people who are 24/7 unhappy. Even three Happy Meals a day can’t solve their problem. *ding*

I mean seriously, they complain all the time. Paramedics call such people in an accident “screamers”. You know those people who shout out in pain and agony? Fun fact: the paramedics are trained to go to them last. Because if they are screaming, they are pretty much still alive! So they would “skip” them and go to the ones who are lying by the road lifeless or against the steering wheel silent. Because these people are in so much pain that they don’t even have the strength to call out for help. Some of them might even be breathing their last. So what can we learn from these heroes? Never give our attention to the screamers first. We go to the ones who need us first, the ones who are suffering in silence, the ones who really need our attention.

I have to put in a clause here though. THIS DOES NOT APPLY to people who are correcting us out of love, like our mothers! You might feel that they are nagging at you all the time but please don’t see them as “screamers”. They genuinely care for you. They’re not criticizing you! But regarding those who live to criticize and manage to find a way to speak some of their “kind words” to you, this is how you handle them.

Evaluate

First and foremost, we got to evaluate ourselves based on the criticisms that we’ve received. Ask questions like “Could I have done better?” or “Does the critic have a point here?” The last thing we want to do is to be so proud of ourselves and not learn to change (if the criticism was truly constructive). We have to make criticism work for us and use it to our advantage. See it as a way to make ourselves better!

Expel

Next, we have to expel whatever poison that the criticism might have put in our heart. A lot of criticisms come out of a jealous or cynical person, so we got to make sure to remove the “sting” of what we just heard from them. Take in only the factual part that we can learn from, but never the emotive part. Because that will cause us to take offense and grow bitter over time.

Entrust

In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer.” – Psalm 109:4

Finally, we have to learn to entrust all these criticisms into God’s hands. The Bible says that God is greater than our hearts, and that even if we condemn ourselves, He won’t. So if we ever feel any tint of negativity from these criticisms, the one thing we must do is to lift them all up to Christ. People may judge us easily, but Jesus knows the intents of our heart and that our abilities are limited. He loves us no matter how people criticize us.

So that is why we must entrust these criticisms to God. Because even if our heart condemns ourselves, God is greater than that. He has an amazing future for you and I. Don’t let these criticisms linger and cause you to be sidetracked by offense. Especially if you just came back to Jesus not long ago due to past offenses; put away childish ways of dealing with them, let them go and walk strong in Christ.

#3 Start sowing in this season for the next

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Last but not least, after we’ve moved into a new season and put away all the childish things in our lives, we have to start sowing. Our God is a God of seasons. And these seasons are constantly changing and moving. We need to have a “Harvest Mentality”,  where we not just live for the pleasures of today but also for the fruits of tomorrow.

You never get what you want in life. You only get what you prepare for. Wishful thinking about what you desire for the future wouldn’t help!

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
– Proverbs 6:6-8 (NLT)

Have you ever observed ants work? There are lessons we can learn from these tiny creatures. They know how to prepare for the next season! So in the same way, we shouldn’t squander everything that we have in one season and find nothing to harvest in the next. Look at clothing stores. They always sell clothes for the next season! Why? Because people don’t buy clothes for a season only when they’re in it! It would be too late. You wouldn’t wait till winter comes before you prepare to get some warm clothes, would you?

The lazy man will not plow because of winter; he will beg during harvest and have nothing.” – Proverbs 20:4

In the same way, we must learn to plow in the “winters” of our lives so that in the “summers”, we can be harvesting and reaping what we have sown. So what do you want to sow for the next season? Or rather, what would you like to reap next season? Start sowing. Could it be better grades that you’re looking to reap? Study seriously. Could it be healthy friendships that you’d like to have in your life? Sow healthier conversations that are less frivolous & judgemental but more serious & encouraging.

Would you like to be closer to God? Sow some time into Bible-reading and prayer. Hoping to reach out to your family members? Sow kindness. Looking to reap good health? Exercise and diet. What we sow in this season, we will reap in the next. That’s what the harvest mentality is all about. But that’s not all. In closing, Pastor Lia reveals that there’s another mentality that we need to have – the gift mentality.

What is this gift mentality? Imagine giving gifts to children for Christmas or for their birthdays. When we give it to them, they would receive it happily and thankfully. They wouldn’t think they don’t deserve it or that they need to work for it. That’s the gift mentality that is above and beyond the harvest mentality. We need to have both.

God is our Father and He not only wants us to work hard, but He also wants to give us gifts. More than just sowing with our best, we must also believe for “surprises” from God within the gift dimension. For unless we are like a little child and receive the Father’s good gifts, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. This is not being childish, it’s being childlike.

So we reap and we sow. But on top of that, we must also know that God loves us and wants to give us gifts that we didn’t work for. So you might be studying hard for an examination, hoping for a ‘B’. But God wants to give you an ‘A’. You might be sowing into a sibling’s life, hoping that he/she would one day come to know the love of God. But Jesus wants your entire family to experience Him. We need to reap both the harvest and the gifts that God has for us. The harvest mentality looks to the fruit. We sow, we cultivate, we harvest.

But the gift mentality looks to the gift and to the Giver. It comes free by the grace of God. So if you’re a person that is so used to always fighting for what you want in life, you got to know that with God, you don’t have to live life with your fists raised. You might be used to going against all odds, but Jesus wants to turn your opposition into opportunity. He wants to turn your weaknesses into your weapon. He wants to turn your pain into your promotion. He wants to turn your test into your testimony. Step into a realm where half the effort will produce twice the quantity & twice the quality.

Have faith, my friend. It’s a new season.

What is Grace

Hi everyone! Umm… where do I start.

Well first off, this is not a happy post. But it’s not “emo” either so I don’t know, haha.

Anyway, this has been a rough week for me emotionally and mentally. To cut the long story short and without revealing some personal details, I’ve basically over the past few days, come to a realization of the huge mistakes I’ve made in the way that I treated people that are important to me, in the way that I saw them and how ungrateful or insensitive I was to some of them. And it’s not only people that I have made these mistakes on, but God as well.

So after I had this realization, a lot of thoughts went through my head. Some good, some bad. I looked at myself in the “mirror” after a long time. And that’s when I had my next realization – I don’t deserve at all, all the blessings that I have around me. These include the important people that I talked about, significant things that I’ve been given opportunities to do, and generally this great life that God has given me.

Interesting isn’t it. That when you start to recognize how little you deserve, you become humbled and thankful. So of course, with all these sort of discouraging thoughts and feelings going through me, the best thing to do is not to run away from God but towards Him. That’s exactly what I did.

After spending some time of solitude in worship, in the Word and in His presence, you know what I felt Him telling me? He still loves me. In that moment, I had my own personal understanding of His grace. I knew how little I deserved – to be blessed and to be believed in. And yet God has given me all these amazing people and things in my life. A sense of encouragement, strength and faith just rose on the inside of me.

I told myself that I’m going to change. Because this is what grace is about. It’s an empowerment for change in our character. If the process of pursuing Christ-like character and holiness can be likened to rock-climbing, this is how it would look like. At the top of the “wall” that we’re climbing is the next level that our character can grow towards. It is the next standard of holiness that God has challenged us with.

As we climb towards the top, sometimes we will slip and fall. But thankfully, we have a safety harness of grace that prevents us from falling to our deaths. At this point of time, we have a few choices. One is to descend and quit rock climbing totally. Another is to just stay hanging there. Sounds dumb, but some people reflect that in their lives. The last one is different. It’s to keep on climbing and continuing on our journey to the next level.

You know which one you would choose. Because of the grace of God, we can choose to keep on changing ourselves in His image! So why not? The “safety harness” doesn’t bring us to the top of the “wall”. It only brings us to the foot of it unless we choose to climb it! It isn’t there so that we can relax. It is there to take away the fear and concern of falling to our demise, so that we would have the assurance in our hearts that we can look up and continue climbing.

So in the same way, now that I know that God loves me even after I have made those mistakes, I am even more motivated to continue growing myself and be made the man that He has called me to be! In fact nothing can make Him love us less or love us more. One would never die for a person that he doesn’t care about or believe in. And thus Christ has died for every single one of us – while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). I am super confident that He loves us and believes in us, that through His sacrifice, we can change for the better.

Right now, I still feel a little bad about myself here and there. But hey, if I wasn’t fine, I wouldn’t have written all these! Hahaha so don’t worry about me. For now, I’ve decided to readjust myself and shift my focus a little bit for the time being to work on these rough edges that has been revealed to me. But be assured! Fool’s Bench will not be affected and will go on as per normal. If you read to this point, thank you and I’ll see you in the next post.