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the most inspiring purchase policy, ever.

This post is a follow-up from the previous one and I’ve written it immediately after I published the last one.

There are many reasons why I patronise and advertise the Desiring God website with such enthusiasm and fervour. This mother-of-a-website offers over 30 staggering years of books in PDF format, weekly articles, sermon transcripts, MP3 and video of sermon and conference recordings – AND IT’S ALL FREE OF CHARGE. But their Whatever-You-Can-Afford Policy simply takes the cake.

I am lifting the following excerpt wholesale off the Desiring God website (emphasis mine). I am confident that you will not find another more inspiring or impressive purchase policy online or offline. A million kudos to JP and his team – WOW! – now I want to meet him even more.

Even though we seek to keep our prices on resources like Don’t Waste Your Life low, we realize that sometimes folks simply cannot afford to pay for our resources. For that reason we have a “whatever-you-can-afford” policy for most of our materials. We will accept whatever people are able to pay—even if it’s nothing. In this way a lack of available funds will not need to prevent anyone from hearing the gospel of Jesus.

If you would like a Desiring God resource, but your limited cash-flow won’t allow it, don’t be ashamed! Just contact us by phone, email, or letter, let us know what you would like, and we will be happy to fill your request. We only ask you to limit your order to $25 and under. If in the future, the Lord provides you some excess funds, you may prayerfully consider contributing to DG’s work, but do not feel any obligation to do so.

Are there any restrictions to DG’s whatever-you-can-afford policy?

Yes, a few. The W.Y.C.A. policy is intended for individuals who desire to obtain our materials for their own personal use. The spirit behind this policy is that we don’t want to prevent any person from obtaining a DG resource that they believe will help them understand truth and fuel their passion for God simply because they don’t have enough money.

To take advantage of this policy, we ask people to inquire on their own behalf and not on behalf of others. Why? Because generally if folks are interested enough to seek us out, they are more likely to actually use the resources. If you know someone who could benefit from this policy, please encourage them to contact us.

The W.Y.C.A. policy is not intended for bulk purchases (multiple purchases of the same item) by individuals or organizations. We have a lot of friends who love to give away DG books and audio resources to others. We consider them vision partners in the ministry of distribution and our heart’s desire is to encourage them. So we provide bulk discounts based on the quantities they purchase to make it more affordable for them.

The only materials that are covered by the W.Y.C.A. policy are resources by John Piper.

(Source: Desiring God’s Whatever-You-Can-Afford-Policy)

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paying it forward pays you back.

Two weeks ago, I placed an order for 11 DVDs and 2 books from the Desiring God website. I have received the goods and I am absolutely delighted because I will soon embark on a JP buffet. My DYLM cell group would be the immediate beneficiaries of this purchase for they will feast on my regurgitation (if you know what I mean). My friend helped me to process the order and sent it to his friend who happened to be in the States. He actually went two miles for me for he paid for express delivery to ensure that the products arrived at his friend’s place before his friend returned to Singapore. When he passed it to me last Saturday, he refused to accept my payment. “Let me bless you”, he said. I was stunned, but thankful to God and appreciative to this brother. I offered to buy him lunch, but he said, “If you were blessed by it, then go and bless someone else”.

The year was 2004. I had a group of friends who gathered frequently at a friend’s house in Kembangan to play all kinds of boardgames. I stayed in Bishan then. It was a good 45-minute commute home. One in two times, this friend who hosted the gathering would send me back to Bishan, then travelled back home. I thanked him for his hospitality and I remember he said that it was his (then) fiancee’s father who taught him to be generous. He quoted his father-in-law, “Go and bless others”.

A year on, I remember how I paid it forward. I sent one of my musicians home after a late-night worship practice and he was appreciative of my gesture. He said, “Eh bro, thanks man, next time when I start driving, I’ll definitely send you home”. I replied, “Don’t mention, send others home instead”. I realised that this pay-it-forward mentality was already ingrained into me.

If I wrote an autobiography, I would be able to fill out an entire chapter with God’s blessings to me through people, in point form. I consider myself to be a blessed person and so from time to time, I will pay for meals and drinks, especially if the other person is younger than I am, or is one of my sheep. When they show their appreciation, and whenever I remember to say it, I will tell them to “Go and bless [their] sheep” then.

“… Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35b)

When I was younger, I was a selfish boy who subscribed to the “Give and Take” theory – you give, I take. I don’t know about you but the older I get, the more I want to bless others. I used to keep track of how much I spent on someone and my spending amount was directly proportionate to that person’s relational proximity to me. And I take mental notes; if the person doesn’t reciprocate, I’d reduce or cease completely the next time I am presented with an opportunity to bless him or her. I thank God that He’s helped me to overcome my old childish ways.

At the same time, I will also never be able to out-give my mentors; I don’t think they expect me to anyway. And just as my mentors have invested their time, energy and resources into me, I have done likewise, but I paid it forward to my mentees. I am convince that when we start to give without expecting anything in return, we become liberated gift-givers and blessing-bringers. I cannot deny how God has blessed me over the years and each time He blesses me through someone to remind me of His faithfulness, I can’t help but to be liberated and encouraged to be even more generous with my friends.

My friends, we will never be able to out-give God and it’d be crazy if we tried to out-give one another. May I then encourage all of us to give unreservedly, love unconditionally and expect absolutely nothing in return – especially to those who are in need. When all of us get involved in meeting each other’s needs, no one will be in need anymore. I don’t subscribe to the “full circle” theory, but you never know, one day all these blessings may return to you, but will probably end up with your children instead. I am half-confident to know that my youths – the ones whom I’m investing my life into right now – will, in time to come, invest their lives into my children and my children’s children.

Let’s pay it forward, for the valueless payment we receive for paying forward actually has the greatest payback value of all.

“there is no such thing as mere coincidence.”

In the end, one must finally come to see that if there is a God in heaven, there is no such thing as mere coincidence, not even in the smallest affairs of life: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Not one sparrow “will fall to the ground without your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29, RSV).

– John Piper (Desiring God, p.37).

I’m neither a scholar nor a theologian and I’m still trying to make sense of the above-mentioned. However, the more I think about it, the more illogical it is not. I believe that in light of God fulfilling His own intended will and purposes, “there is no such thing as mere coincidence”, really. I am of the notion that nothing will stop God from achieving what He had planned, from the beginning to the end; not even sin or the evil acts of men will prevent or stop it. I am of the opinion that God is truly in control of His own sovereignty. For if “coincidence” really did exist, then it is an audacious conclusion that there is something (far) greater than God (oh, the thought!) who is able to control what God is doing and will do. That, my friend, is sacrilege.

These are the fresh thoughts in my head as I re-read JP’s Desiring God for the third time; If there was any book that one should read after the Bible, this book would receive my hearty endorsement a hundred times over. But I digress.

Interestingly enough (at the time of posting it on my FB status), MW commented, “I was just thinking about it Joey, if there’s such a thing as ‘coincidence’ or if it is just God’s hand working in His perfect timing”. And coincidentally, LK’s first post on his blog after a five-month hiatus, was about how God is in control. He wrote, “Today God reminded me that He is sovereign and that His priority is not what He can do through me, yet, but what He is doing in me”.

I think this is a topic worth discoursing over and hence I’m inviting you to share your opinions by leaving a comment. I’m calling out to theologians, pseudo-theologians, atheists, scholars, cynics, zealous Christians, back-sliding believers, Muslims, Taoists, politicians, mothers, youths, and of course, you – the invisible reader of my humble blog. In other words, all are welcome to offer their two-cents’ worth.

What is coincidence? How does it tie in with the will of God? What is the will of God? Is there evil and blemish in the good and perfect will of God? What does it even have to do with you? I’m not attempting to prove any point or convince anyone of any opinion. I sincerely just want to hear what you have to say, so please, share your thoughts on this!

financial advice: how to invest your money.

I’m three months shy of turning 21 years old for the seventh time and I’d like to think that I’ve had a blessed life. Of course, I could always be happier but I’ve arrived at a stage of my life where I’ve never been so contented with my current material well-being.

I have a healthy variety of shirts, pants and shoes to choose from, a good collection of watches, a decent guitar, camera and laptop, a branded wallet and a smartphone. Two years ago, I remember counting my collection of 20+ Threadless t-shirts and 10+ Crumpler products. My room is hooked up with a 27″ LCD TV and a 5.1 surround-sound system. Bottom line is, there’s nothing I need, really, and I’m thankful to have (almost) everything that I’ve always wanted to purchase. I’ve done my fair share of possessions-accumulation during my days of earning a higher income.

But, so what? All these thing amounts to nothing at the end of the day for I will take none of these with me when I exit this earth; they will be useless and worthless eventually.

Of course I still have material desires – I’ve been eyeing this and this for some time now and each time I walk past an optical shop, I’d always check if that pair of sunnies is in stock and if there’s a promotion, and without fail, I’d politely say to the disappointed sales representative, “Okay thanks, maybe I’ll get it next time”, and walk away. Would I ever buy it? I think the question I ask myself these days is, “Is that good stewardship of money?” I’d be honest to admit that I’m still tempted by some items but I also deliberately desensitise myself from accumulating things.

I like what RS, the founder of this website, stated about conscious spending, for there’s truth and logic in his philosophy, even if it’s of a secular mentality:

“Spend extravagantly on what you love and cut costs mercilessly on what you don’t.”

Having a reduced income over the last nine months have certainly helped me to be more decisive and cruel in differentiating my needs and wants. At the same time, it has also helped to shape my “investment portfolio”. While I’m a prudent spender and a happy saver, I don’t think I’m qualified to give real financial advice – I mean, did you really think I was going to teach you how to invest your money on my blog? Come on! (:

But I’d like to share with you how I have been investing my money and why I’ve chosen to do it this way. Perhaps this could encourage or challenge you to revisit your spending habits and investment inclinations. I’m not sure if these items have eternal worth, but I’m confident that they have a life-long value. So, please allow me to share the three things I delightfully invest money in:

  1. People. I used to be stingy in treating people to meals. But over the years, I’ve learnt to be progressively generous, simply because people have been exceedingly generous with me. Nowadays, I’m always quite happy to foot the bill, especially if I am fellowshipping with a young person who has lesser resources. When people buy me meals, they indirectly tell me that I’m worth their time and money. And so, I pay (pun!) it forward – I hope my young people will feel the same way too – that they are worth my time and money. (Pun!) I’m putting my money where my mouth is. (I can also instantly detect those who are out to exploit this…)
  2. Knowledge. The older I get, the more I spend on books, seminars, conferences and audio CDs and DVDs. In fact, I just took advantage of the Desiring God July DVD sale and invested good money in some DVDs which I will be sharing with my cell. As for gifts, I also find myself buying books because I think that there’s nothing better than to give my friends the gift of knowledge. Besides, this is one investment that can be passed around, shared and revisited.
  3. Perspective. Lastly, I always enjoy expanding my horizon of perspectives and there’s no better way to do that than to visit new places and to do new things. I try to go on a couple of vacations every year and I always try to visit new destinations. I enjoy investing into my worldview (and sabbath too!). I get a kick from meeting new people, learning new languages, visiting new places, immersing in new cultures, tasting new cuisines and enjoying new experiences. And as a budding preacher, I believe that all these new perspectives will empower and enhance my ambitions to be a more dynamic and balanced communicator.

People, knowledge and perspectives are indefinitely more valuable than material possessions and I’d gladly invest extravagantly on them. Apart from these three items (at this point in my life), the rest of my money is really spent for function’s sake, like functional eating and functional travelling. My question then, to you, is:

What do you invest your money in?

why should I pray?

Two days ago, I embarked on a five-parter with my GII shepherds on the topic of prayer, (loosely) based on JP’s chapter on Prayer in Desiring God. I’ll expand his excellent teaching in order to ensure that the lesson remains relevant and applicable to our context. This was a natural follow-up from my previous lesson on Philippians 4:4-7. Each time we meet for cell, I make us memorise scripture. Although these verses are familiar, I’m fairly confident they have taken a paradigm shift as they store these powerful, dynamic verses in their hearts.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (English Standard Version)

Anxiety does nothing for you. On top of adding zero benefits to your situation, it also distracts your concentration and injures your soul. Paul dispenses such practical advice – anxiety is so useless and negative that it doesn’t even change or improve your situation. No wonder he warns you against it.

The remedy to being anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. When we pray, we acknowledge a few things: (1) We openly admit that without Christ, we cannot accomplish anything; (2) We deliberately turn away from ourselves because we have the confidence that God will provide the help that we need – I call this, “Anti-self-sufficiency”; (3) We actively humble ourselves as needy and exalt God as wealthy. No wonder Paul instructed us to turn to prayer!

Allow me to rephrase “prayer and supplication”. Basically, it is to present the request for the first time and continue to present the request earnestly (until something happens, or until the Spirit changes the way you pray). And you do this in an attitude of “thanksgiving” because you recall the many times that God has answered your prayers in the past. This should give you the confidence to ask boldly – for God is a faithful God who would answer prayers (according to His will)!  Remember also, that you are actually making known your requests and not telling God about it like He doesn’t know; this gives you the confidence that God already knows what’s in your heart; So your role then, is to verbalise your request(s), and to do it ardently, both audibly or inaudibly.

An easier way to understand “guard” is to imagine our hearts (or affections, passions and emotions) safely protected in a castle that has bricks made of God’s peace. The peace of God supersedes all human understanding, garrisons our hearts and protects it in Christ Jesus – what a powerful imagery! It’s not any other peace that will be in our hearts but that which is subjected to the rule and reign of Jesus. This peace is a result of the Holy Spirt that is at work within us.

We pray because we need God’s direction and support in our often misguided and heavy-laden lives. And the result is God’s peace – which is all that we really need. No wonder Paul exhorts us to rejoice in (verse 4)! Finally, the question then, in light of this knowledge, isn’t “Why should we pray?” but “Why shouldn’t we pray?”

weak desires.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis)

Before I am done with this life, I will attend Pastor John Piper’s Desiring God Pastors Conference. Yes, I will. May someone make my dream come true. (: On the same breath, I pray that my desire for the Lord, no, I pray that OUR desire for the Lord, would never weaken but only get stronger with each passing day of knowing and experiencing Him, for His glory.

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