But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21
Although everyone loves the cool Hong Kong winters, they should come with such a caution: “Warning! Your rings, which normally grip your bloated sweaty fingers, will suddenly slip off easily without a trace!” That’s what happened to me. Thirteen months after my wedding, what I feared would happen, happened. I lost my wedding ring.
I have a history of losing expensive stuff, which has made me more careful, or paranoid rather. I looked it up to see if there was a genetic predisposition: some German researchers found that most people surveyed for forgetfulness and distraction had a variation in a Dopamine receptor – I forget which – that made them more prone to losing things. I might have that gene.
After I noticed my ring was gone from my hand, I thought it must be in the house, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I commiserated to my friend. (Tip: Next time your friend says she lost something, try to fight the very natural urge to ask: “Have you looked everywhere?”) I thought I might have left it in the office. I told my husband once he came home, and asked if he could drive me back to my office so I could check and have peace of mind. He had the perfect response, “OK. But even if it’s not there, it’s ok.” I was glad he was so calm; if he was upset too it would’ve compounded my distress. The ring wasn’t there either.
I searched “losing wedding ring” on the internet, hoping to find some stories that would make me feel better. Most of the results, funnily enough, were husbands posting questions like, “I lost my wedding ring! How should I tell my wife?” Most of the responses were, “Come clean to your wife right away. Make a move to get a replacement so she knows that you care.” There were stories of renting metal detectors, crawling on the river bed to look between rocks, rallying other passengers on a flight to get on their hands and knees. Stories of miraculous recoveries, stories of forever loss...
The ring, while on the expensive side of the jewellery I own, was more than anything for sentimental value – it was the ring he put on my hand at the altar. But I refused to let the loss of an item steal my joy. When my husband said we should go get it replaced, I half-jokingly said, “I should just get the cheapest thing there.” Part of me didn’t think I deserved more nice stuff. But he looked at me slightly puzzled and said, “You should just get the same one.” He didn’t correlate my carelessness to what he wanted me to have.
It was that moment I realised I didn’t need to be so upset about losing the symbol, when I had the real thing. And the lost ring episode brought it home more than anything. The replacement ring, I realised, can be of even greater significance than the first one. After all, the first ring represented the leap of faith into a new journey. The second one would represent how much, after a year of marriage, my husband had gotten to know me and love me; a reminder of God’s faithfulness in giving me His best.
You can have a beautiful cross necklace. You would be upset if you lost it. But what the necklace symbolises should be your ultimate comfort. The cross represents God’s sacrifice of His Son. And it was at a great cost to Himself. No amount of diamond carat could approximate its value, no amount of money could buy it, no amount of good deeds could earn it.
Where is your treasure? This year, may we truly appreciate the real Cross, wear it upon our hearts daily, display it joyfully, guard it carefully, and cherish it eternally.
Let us practice seeking God first by:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42
Are you in the habit of making New Year resolutions? Personally, I’ve never been that way inclined – not because improvement was unnecessary, but more because it was optional, and/or through defeatism about the likely (lack of) long-term results. But somehow New Year 2019 felt a bit different.
Spending the holidays peacefully in Hong Kong, without rushing off stressfully somewhere else, was a big factor in that change. Too often, we are “worried and upset about many things” like Martha and don’t even realise that they are robbing us of the ability to reflect on the present, and envision a better future: even when I do get a break, I often just focus on recovery rather than growth or contemplation.
We know we are called to become better versions of ourselves, and we likely know at least some specific areas where we should be devoting less or more of our attention. But it’s optional: like Mary and Martha, we are given the choice of what we will prioritise. What will it take for us to step outside our habitual patterns and take a fresh look? If we don’t make a start today, we may be in the same place this time next year.
So for me a peaceful Christmas and New Year break served as a reminder to reorganise some wrong and complacent priorities, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
How about you? Are you “worried and upset about many things,” and which of them are really needed? In the end, only one “thing” is needed, and it will not be taken away from us. In what areas of your life do you need to “choose what is better” as 2019 is starting?
Let us choose a better future by:
We are a few days into the new year. As a new tradition, I have asked my whole family to gather around the dining table to do a countdown just before noon on January 1st because our three boys are still too young to welcome the new year the night before. Also as a family tradition though, I’ve asked the family to write down ten things they are grateful for in 2018 and three things they would like to accomplish in 2019. We had a great time of sharing.
As I read the book of Mark today, I really want to add one more resolution on my list for 2019! In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus heals a blind beggar by the roadside as He and His disciples were leaving Jericho. I was fascinated by this healing miracle based on a few observations:
Quite often you want to know and do the will of God, and spend a lot of time just asking… Today, as 2019 begins, I would like you to stop and reach into your soul to search for the deep longing that you have for God. Like the blind beggar, what is it that you need to cry out to God for? In what area are you desperate for God’s presence? What is that most important healing that needs to take place in your heart today?
Pause, reflect, search your soul, and cry out to Jesus, the true healer and perfecter of our faith and then take heart and get up, for He is calling you.
“I have always thought of Christmas as a good time: a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas.” Charles Dickens
Can you believe Christmas is here? If your home is anything like ours, special decorations have been pulled from boxes and are all in place along with a Christmas tree that is glowing with lights and ornaments.
Christmas is a wonderful festive time of year! It is also a perfect time to remember good news as stated simply in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” In light of God’s marvelous, undeserved gift of Christ to each and every one of us, Christmas is a time to celebrate relationships by giving gifts to others.
As you juggle your time this Christmas week, I’d like to challenge you to intentionally make the days after Christmas more special for yourself and others by giving some “gifts” you may not have thought about. Consider giving one of the following:
This week, let the Christmas spirit continue! In light of the gift of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, give another gift or two.
May your Christmas continue to be filled with Christ’s joy, peace, and hope!
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20–21
Although this is the season when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus (amidst all the other trappings of Christmas), there is always a need to be reminded that Jesus is not a baby anymore. He is the crucified and risen Saviour of the world, and these great verses from the last chapter of Hebrews speak of this fact in no uncertain terms. The power of the Christian gospel lies not in the birth of Jesus but in his death and resurrection, and this is what equips us to lead our lives as Christians.
In the 1st century when the letter to the Hebrews was written, there was no “church” as we know it. There were small and sometimes isolated Christian communities dotted around, some as small as 20 or so, even in larger cities. There was no Bible as we have it, no organised ministry or priesthood, no seminaries, no set teachings except for the various writings of Paul and others, and no celebrations of festivals as we know them (Christmas did not yet exist!).
So, what drove the early Christians to be exceptional? What motivated them? What equipped them to deal with the difficulties of being Christians in a pagan society? What enabled ordinary Christians to preach the word of God? What enabled them to live distinctly Christian lives that clearly marked them out as different from their neighbours or co-workers? It was the resurrection. It was this glorious fact that proved beyond all doubt that Jesus was Messiah, Lord and Saviour; and it was enough to empower and equip them.
It is a good and challenging reminder that, when all else is taken away (as it is for many Christians in hard places of persecution), the only thing that remains is the crucified Risen Lord and His Life born in us for eternity; everything else is just secondary. This is our faith and I pray that throughout it “we may equipped to do His will and what is pleasing to Him” in all seasons.
Let us look to the crucified risen Jesus by: