“You want Papa to do it?”

Philip has the sweetest temperament. He is kind to all babies. Very sweet and affectionate to his mom and me. And he takes pleasure in making his mom happy.

That’s why it’s really jarring when he loses his temper. Our sweet, even-tempered boy suddenly starts throwing things around in rage. It usually happens when he’s playing with his Duplo sets and he can’t get it to do what he wants to do.

But now he’s learned a trick. He goes up to me and with his big eyes asks, “You want Papa to do it?” I fix the unruly LEGO pieces and he goes back to playing with his LEGOs happily.

A lot of the time, I’m like Philip. I lose my cool while I’m at work, when I’ve got a God nearby who’d gladly help. I don’t (always) throw things around, but I get worried, fearful, impatient, irritable, or unable to sleep when life starts to stress me out. My wife and son can see this the most.

Then I go to God, our Heavenly Father, and say, “God can you help me with this?” And it’s remarkable how quickly He fixes things. It leaves me wondering. Why didn’t I just do that from the start?

We’re all a lot like Philip. If you’re stressed about something now, don’t take it out on yourself, your family, or your work. Go to your Heavenly Father and ask Him, “Can you do this with me?” The results will surprise you: faster work, better outcomes, less stress.

Philippians 4:5–7

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Short Sentences

A few nights ago, the eighteen year old son of one of my officemates prayed for me. He said something I’ve been mulling over ever since.

“God said He’ll provide for everything. Just pray to him. Always pray. Use small sentences.

The statement caught my attention. Was God really giving me writing tips? Did God think I would find large sentences too challenging? Are short sentences more spiritual?

But the more I reflected on it, the more it made sense to me. It wasn’t a command to keep the sentences short. It was an encouragement to keep praying the right way:

  • Pray unceasingly

God commands us to pray unceasingly. Does mean we don’t do anything else, but pray? Obviously not. What it means, I think, is that we are supposed to pray while doing everything else we’re doing. How do we do that? With short sentences.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing

 

  • Pray at every occasion

Having a fixed time to pray everyday is irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean we can only pray on those times. We can pray all throughout the day, like bursts of divine connections. My favorite example of this is how Nehemiah prayed to God while in the middle of a high-risk conversation. That had to be a super short prayer.

Nehemiah 2:4-5  Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

 

  • Pray sincerely

There are two times that Jesus actually condemns the use of long prayers. He’s not saying that praying long prayers is wrong. He was against hypocrisy. Pray the way you really talk. God hears us all the time. It’s not a shock to Him.

Luke 20:46-47 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

 

  • Pray to a God who’s nearby

Imagine you’re about to ask two people for a favor on Facebook.

The first person is someone you haven’t spoken to in five years. How long will your message be? If it were me, I’d have to build up to the request: Hey… How you doing… Your pics are so nice… Kalbo ka na pala… Oh, I’m messaging to ask you a favor…. I’d have to do it this way because we’re not that close.

The second person is your really close friend. How long will the message be? Or how short? Borrow the car. Or may USB ka? Or can you pick me up? Why is it short? It’s short because you know they’ve got your back. Their willingness to help isn’t in question. You can get straight to the point.

In the same way, the way we pray shows how we think God is. In another verse, Jesus told His disciples not to pray like Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases… they think they will be heard for their many words.” Instead Jesus said, pray to your Father in heaven. God hears, He listens, He acts on our behalf. You aren’t praying to a stranger. You’re praying to a God who’s right beside you.

Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 

How to Make the Most of 2017: For Him and Through Him

Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

The two earlier blogs kept things firmly in the realm of the natural. It seems we can follow them with our ability. That’s great while things go according to plan, but what happens when they don’t? What happens when the problems are beyond our natural ability?

This is why it’s foolish to plan without God. As my wife and I looked back on 2016, it was only God’s grace that got us through it. She had an insight on what God’s grace looked like:

“God multiplied everything. He multiplied our days, our money, our energy so we could do what He wanted us to do.”

This year, we need God to multiply everything so we can survive and thrive. In the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand in John 6, his disciples saw the people who needed to be fed, saw the meager amount of food, and asked, “How far will so little go among so many?

We might see much of our life and our plans the same way.

  • How far will so little money go among so much need?
  • How far will so little time go among so much requirements?
  • How far will so little energy go among so much demands on us?
  • How far will so little wisdom go among so much uncertainty?

The answer is we need God to multiply it. We need Him to create resources where we don’t have any.

  • We can budget our salary all we want. But let’s also trust God to open new income streams.
  • God could give you insight so that our work could get done in a fraction of the time.
  • God can multiply our energy better than an energy drink.
  • Ask God for insight and He’ll give it to you generously.

The secret to unlocking this divine multiplying effect, this grace of God, is in Proverbs 16:3:

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Commit this year to God. Committing means two things:

“God this work is FOR You.” Look back at the plans you’ve made. Are they entirely for yourself?

“God this work will be done THROUGH You.” We acknowledge that these goals are so big and impossible to do alone. This causes us to pray regularly not because we have to, but because we need to.

2017 will be an unforgettable year for us. And we need God to make it happen. What are your big plans for 2017 that you want to commit to God?

How to Make The Most of 2017: Start At the End

You can read Part 1 here.

Begin with the end in mind and you’ll have a great 2017. Put it this way:

What am I doing right now that the future me will be thankful for?

You want to live in January 2017 so that in December 2017 you will look back and say, “I’m so glad I did that.”

The reason for much of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction at the end of the year is we have done the opposite. We do things that make the January versions of ourselves happy, but the December (and ever after) versions of ourselves regret it.

While there are different answers for all people, here are four choices that we can all make that we’ll definitely appreciate in December 2017.

  • Collecting Memories over Collecting Possessions

Last year, our family gave each other memories instead of gift items for Christmas. We all invested to go to Singapore at the same time. It was pricey but made for plenty of stories. Besides, we saved a lot of money in not buying a new phone or flat screen TV. You’ll be less satisfied with most of your possessions at the end of 2017. But great memories generate value all your life.

  • Building Relationships over Building Your Brand

Focusing on building our brand robs us of the opportunity of authentic relationships. Don’t manipulate your image, just relate with people sincerely. Do your family and closest friends agree with the online persona or is it artificially produced?

  • Mental Vitamins over Mental Junk Food

Junk food makes you feel full, but there’s very little nutritional value. Mental junk food makes you feel like you learned something new, but you’re really not a better person. These could be watching endless TV series, cooking clips we’ll never attempt, and updates on celebrities. Hey, I love junk food too. But that’s why we have to deliberately remove it from our presence or else we’ll keep bingeing. Close the laptop; pick up a book.

  • Fulfilling Your Calling over Fulfilling Expectations

People’s expectations on us will never end. Someone will always have an opinion about how you did something wrong. (Usually an Instagram commenter) At the end of the year, we’ll be frustrated we gave so much away and are no closer to making everyone happy. Instead, ask God what He’s called you to do. Don’t just ask what He’s called you to do for life. Ask Him what He’s called you to do today, right now. Do that. And you’ll be glad you did.

In December 2017,

  • You’ll be glad you took that trip over buying that new phone.
  • You’ll treasure your relationships more than your social media following.
  • You’ll benefit more from reading that book instead of binge-watching that series.
  • You’ll be glad you obeyed God’s call over trying (and failing) to please everyone.

Proverbs 20:4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

How to Make the Most of 2017: Count Your Days

It’s January 2. The new year has promises of fresh starts, great plans, and high expectations. This is a three part series on how to make the most of it. If we follow these steps, then the excitement we feel at the start will turn to celebration at the end.

If we want to make 2017 an epic year, then we need to remember that it’s not unlimited. We’ve all committed to doing something at the beginning of the year only to arrive at the end with the task still unfinished. This is usually followed by, “I can’t believe it’s December already! It feels like 2016 just started!” So whatever those plans are, remember that there is a limited amount of time to get them done.

I heard an unforgettable nugget of wisdom from Rachel Ong, CEO and founder of Rohei and Cozeh. She’s also a member of Every Nation Singapore and consultant for Every Nation globally.

She said,

“If you want a great year, you just need twelve great months. If you want a great month, you need four great weeks. If you want a great week, you need seven great days. If you want a great day, you need twenty-four great hours. And if you want a great hour, you need sixty great minutes.”

I love this because it breaks down the daunting task of having a great year and makes it bite-sized. Have great minutes and hours – love your family, work hard, get some rest, eat well, pray to God. If we do this, we’ll have great days. And if we have great days, we’ll have a great year.

Count your days. Make it a habit to ask yourself from time to time, “Is this a great minute? Am I using this hour well? At the end of the year, will I be glad I spent the day this way?” If we do this, 2017 will be our best year yet.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

What are some great minutes or hours that you can do today?

Processing Last Year, Projecting Next Year

Everyone’s on the mode of looking back on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017. The way we look back on the past year determines how we look ahead to the next. This practice can be helpful if it builds our faith for the future. But it can be bad if it makes us fearful.

At a simple get-together before Christmas, I asked our campus team in Katipunan a question that brought unexpected reflection. The question was,

“How would you compare your expectations at the start of the year with how it actually turned out?”

We quickly realized this question would take a while for each person to answer. There were people who experienced relocation, reassignments, accidents, sicknesses, deaths in the family, financial challenges, and love life developments. Some of the team even got teary-eyed as they recounted their past year. We took the time to let each team member have their turn.

Our experiences were diverse, but there were common elements to them. There were three thoughts I took away from the conversation that apply to all of us.

  1. There was no way we could have predicted all of 2016. We can try to plot trends, but that won’t be enough. Personally, I couldn’t have predicted I’d get shingles while my wife was going through a miscarriage. We didn’t expect that moving into our new house would be delayed by more than six months. So much of 2016 was unexpected.
  2. God was faithful through it all. He never gave us more than we could bear. When life seemed impossible, relief and support would come from somewhere else. In fact, many of the setbacks turned out for good. The shingles took me out of work, canceled all my appointments, making me available to comfort my wife during the miscarriage. The delay in moving into our new house gave us valuable time with my parents and grandparents. God really makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him.
  3. Because God is faithful, we don’t need to fear 2017. A number of us on the team expressed some concern or fear about 2017 with all the uncertainty in the world right now. But remembering what God did gives us hope. Next year will definitely have surprises of its own, but God will bring us through them. So we don’t need to fear.

What about you? How would you answer the question?

“How would you compare your expectations at the start of the year with how it actually turned out?”