See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Most of us are creatures of habit and we are resistant to change. It is easy to tread the well-worn path and do what we’ve always done. Patterns, habits, and routines feel familiar and safe, and comfort us. Even if the outcome is not that great, we tend to like it because at least we know what to expect.
Sometimes even if we are promised something better, it is hard to let go of the familiar. The prospect of something better can be hard to imagine. But what if God wants to do “a new thing” in you? That’s why dreaming with God is so important. He implants ideas and visions into our hearts so we can start to visualise it in our spirit. Only God can make something out of nothing; after all, He called the whole world into existence. “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” (Hebrews 11:3) It’s who He is, it is in His nature to create.
I recently helped to run a Disordered Eating Support Group at Island ECC. It was a vision that God had placed on my heart since 2013, and the last four years had been a time of preparation. My own past experience was the catalyst but God also put a desire in me to walk alongside others.
My healing journey was a long step-by-step process. I had often wished that God would just do it in an instant and I believed He could do it. But I knew there was a reason it had to be this way: I had to do the hard work of addressing my pain, give up old patterns of control and comfort, deal with confronting the feelings that I was too afraid to feel, and learn a new way of seeking solace in God instead of resorting to old patterns for relief.
God meted out to me the steps toward wholeness and freedom, and the process gave me time to walk faithfully, learn deeply, process thoroughly, and heal completely. I was blessed to have the right people around me who could counsel me in the journey, and my sense of obligation to them made me press on when I wanted to give up. I am so glad that I did not and I wish to encourage others to pursue God for the abundant life that cost us Jesus’ death on the Cross.
Let us embrace the process of change by:
As a church, we want to reach out to the world with the good news of Jesus but many of us don’t know where to begin. Prof. Alister McGrath has had a great deal of experience in presenting and defending the faith publicly and has also written extensively on this topic. It’s our delight to have him come speak at Island ECC!
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:21
I remember a story I once heard about a man who placed biographical books on a bookshelf. The ‘better’ the people, the higher up on the shelf they would go. So, the saintly people, such as Mother Teresa, had their books on the highest shelf, good people had the middle shelves, and then people like Adolf Hitler had their books way on the bottom nearest to the floor.
The man was then asked at which tier people made it to heaven. He pondered, pored over the books on the shelves and debated where to make the cut. He couldn’t decide where to make the cut when the true answer was revealed to him by a wise sage. He drew a line right down the middle vertically from the top to the bottom shelf, dividing the bookshelf into two. The man was confused and the sage explained that what determined whether someone got to heaven or not wasn’t dependent on his or her merits or moral character – it was whether he or she accepted Jesus. And irrespective of their biographical story, as long as they accepted the grace of God in His gift of salvation, they could have eternal life.
That story might not sit well with some of us who think that people who spent their lives doing wrong can enter heaven the same way saintly people can, but that is the lavish gift of grace that God gives us through Jesus. We can do nothing to earn it and nothing we do makes us deserve it. We cannot ‘work’ our way up to heaven by following the law and being righteous; we enter heaven by accepting that Jesus died for us.
His gift of grace meant giving His life so that we could have life everlasting. His gift of grace means giving us God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Oh, what a precious gift we have!
Let us reflect on the “cost of grace” by:
Recently, I have been fascinated by something that I read, something that points to a common fallacy that we easily fall into but also something that few of us are willing to admit.
Author Stephen Covey describes this type of thinking this way, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviours.”
It goes something like this: “When you do something bad, your behaviour is a clear evidence that you are a bad person. But when I do something bad, it’s just an honest mistake, an exception. It is my intention that counts. I am at the core still a good person.”
This kind of thinking is easily found in the public space, in the corporate office, or even at home between family members!
In one of His famous teachings, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
Well, perhaps focusing on the sawdust in your eye distracts me from the pain of the plank in my own eye.
So, how can we learn to be less biased?
In my counselling sessions with couples, I often suggest for them to approach conflicts with the following “observation questions”. (You may replace the word “honey” with the name of a person you are dealing with.)
“Honey, something happened the other day that bothered me. I don’t want to misunderstand you. May I talk to you about this?”
“When that happened, I felt hurt, I felt like …”
“I don’t think you meant it, but can you help me understand…”
Well, this is just an example, and it may not work in your situation. But the point here is to
As James the half brother of Jesus said, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Seeking to understand is perhaps a good beginning to acquire wisdom and develop relationships that are meaningful!
The previous weekend I really enjoyed attending Island ECC’s Singles Conference. There I shared some of my own story and lessons learned along the way about the single life. I will share some of that here.
The single life, like any other mode of life, can feel empty or rich, or more likely some combination of both in various aspects. But one of the unique things about being single is that, largely speaking, the difference is up to you. In marriage, your spouse has a large impact on what you do and your state of being. The SYMBIS premarital counselling course tells couples that, ‘Your marriage can only be as healthy as the two of you.’ In other words your partner’s wellbeing directly impacts on your own. Your schedules, ability to commit to things, and ease of movement are more or less constrained by the life circumstances of both of you together.
However, if you are single, you largely set the limits. You get to decide how much to be involved in community, which organisations you want to volunteer with, where to travel, when to change jobs or go back to school, or even which country to live in. You decide whether to stay at home or go out. So, to the extent that loneliness or community is a choice, it is yours to make. That isn’t to say you can change your circumstances or build good relationships in one day. But if you start today, and continue for a month, a year, 2 years, it will make a difference.
I shared in my talk that it was while I was single that I started investigating and making plans to move to Asia and ended up in Hong Kong. If I hadn’t been single, I probably would never have come to Hong Kong, and not have been able to take advantage of the opportunities here to meet many people (including my fiancée) and to serve in so many different ways.
If you are married, I encourage you to invite single friends to spend time with you. This gives them a chance to see up close what a Christian marriage is like. The times I got to share with and get honest opinions from those who were married helped me dispel some of the myths of marriage that single people can have. Single people have been told, and generally know in their heads that getting married will not solve all their problems, but can still unconsciously feel and act as if it will. Seeing a real marriage at work can provide a more realistic picture and useful observational experience for them.
However, there are some good and not so good things to say to singles. Single people generally do not appreciate being grilled about their single or dating life. (Who would?) Unhelpful lines of questioning might include:
A more helpful approach would be to celebrate singles in their freedom and opportunities, and encourage and honour them in their faithful service of God. Paul said that singleness is a better way for a person to singlemindedly serve God (1 Corinthians 7). So we should thank God for His work in the lives of singles by empowering them to use their singleness to serve others.
Be supportive of your friend and encourage them in their walk with God, as they try to honour God in their single life, regardless of whether they wish to date or not. Remember that singles are fully-fledged members of God’s family. (Also, some Christians remain single because even though they could, they choose not to date non-Christians. This may be a costly choice for Christians who want to live in obedience to God’s Word and should be honoured.)
For singles: Don’t be afraid to reach out and spend time with married folk. They often feel like single people wouldn’t want to hang out with them or are too busy, so take the initiative to ask a family out to lunch, maybe with 1 or 2 other singles so its not just you and them. Singles can learn a lot by spending time with married couples, especially if they’ve been getting all their marriage advice from other singles!
And if you do date, be respectful and gracious. All people are fallen and can make mistakes in this area. Remember that the other person is also made in the image of God, and is precious in His sight.
In the end, married or single, we are all part of the family of God and are journeying towards the same end goal together. We are called to carry one another’s burdens (but also our own!) and so help each other along the way. In this way, we will fulfil the law of Christ, which is to love one another. (Galatians 6:2, 5)