This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sins (debts), as we also have forgiven those who sin against us (our debtors). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15
The most familiar prayer in the entire world has statements that are inextricably linked: it is of course the model prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples when they asked His advice on how to pray. Jesus gave the prayer, which we now familiarly call “the Lord’s prayer,” as a model or guide not only for how we should pray but who God is and how we should communicate with Him.
Two lines that are heavily loaded are “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The “as…” links the two statements together. Jesus was absolutely clear on this—we are to forgive and forgive and forgive! WHY? Because we have been forgiven and we go on being forgiven for the most appalling sins of pride, selfishness, self-promotion, greed, criticism of others, gossip—the list is endless.
Forgiveness is not so easy though, is it? Had forgiveness been easy, Jesus need not have died. Forgiveness means letting go. It means taking NO offence and harbouring no resentment or residue. It means allowing the offender to go free or, at the very least, takes the power out of the wrongdoing to affect one further.
However, there is always a cost to be borne. Inevitably, it will mean letting go of hurt pride, damage, emotional wounds, or even physical harm—and this is painful. There may have been many times when we have been unjustifiably hurt or devastatingly let down and have just cause to state our case in righteous anger. Abused children, cheating spouses, victims of injustice: all seemingly have the right to hit back, but Jesus makes it clear that this is not God’s way and it cannot be our way if we want Him to continue to forgive us. What a cost though... to forgive an abusing parent or tyrannical employer!
Yet, there is another cost that is much greater: the cost of not forgiving—of remaining offended, hurt, damaged, and harbouring resentment. The cost does not seem great at first. “I mean why should I forgive? Especially when what the other person did was so horrid or unjust!”
But the longer this goes on, the more it grows and goes deep. It begins to sour our relationships and niggles at us. Unforgivingness can sap away our strength, blind us spiritually, and even affect our overall health. We push the resentment down and try to forget. We can even kid ourselves that we have forgotten all about it but forgetting is not forgiving.
The stuff of resentment is still there and God will remind us again and again because He knows the damage it will do and the gap that being unforgiving will create between us and Him. It is true that, to forgive someone truly, seems to mean that one loses everything but to God, when we forgive, we lose nothing and gain everything.
So let us practice forgiveness by:
We’ve just had two consecutive weeks of baptism ceremonies at Island ECC and we’re going to have one more next week! That’s how much a typhoon can change our schedules.
We love Baptism Sunday at our church. It’s always so encouraging to see people share their life changing stories and then go in the water to boldly declare their faith in Christ. What always interests me about their stories are the little details. The small and seemingly insignificant moments that happen in a person’s life that point them to God. It could be a book, conversation, or small interaction between two friends or strangers. These little things can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives.
I’ve been studying the book of Acts over the last couple of months and something jumped out at me in the story about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It’s a very brief encounter between these two but there’s so much for us to learn from this interaction.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”… Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptised?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptised him. — Acts 8:26-38
Everything in this episode hinges on one moment. In one flash of an instant, Philip has a choice. When the Spirit says to him to go join the chariot, he could have said no. He could have ignored this prompting. But he didn’t. He ran over to the eunuch and shared the good news of Christ with him. And upon hearing this news, the eunuch believed and immediately wanted to be baptized.
Isn’t that wonderful?
Just a quick conversation changed a life.
Saved a life.
How many times during the day do you sense the Spirit directing you to do something? If you’re hearing it, do you respond? If you’re not hearing it, are you listening?
Today, be open to what God would impress upon you by the Spirit. It could be anything. Giving up your seat on the MTR; opening the door for someone; saying hello; helping someone with a task; inviting someone to church; or… starting a conversation that could eventually lead to someone’s baptism!
Martin went to church with his family from time to time as he was growing up. His walk with God began more earnestly when he attended a Catholic boarding school in the UK and that gave him an opportunity to reflect. He kept these habits after returning to Hong Kong and met friends that brought him to a Chinese church. Martin finally recognised the power of prayer when he was facing issues relating to his family. Knowing God loves him, he has chosen to publicly declare his faith.
Over the summer, I had a great time travelling with my family back to Scotland: the place where I studied and where my son was born. The last time we were there was 15 years ago and we have never been back since.
The old places brought back a lot of great and not-so-great memories. There was both joy and sadness as I recalled what happened. This prompted me to re-journal what happened during those years.
As I journalled, I laid outside by the pictures I took 15 years ago with those I took this summer. Scotland has not changed a wee bit but my baby is now a teenager and I am a lot older.
Somebody said, “The days are long, and the years are short.” Whoever that somebody was, they were wise.
As I continued to journal, I was amazed by how God has provided and guided me. Things that I didn’t understand back then started to make sense somewhere between then and now. I am thankful for the prayers that God answered but equally thankful for the prayers that he did not answer.
My conclusion: My God is good! He is surprsingly good!
Have you heard of the name “Ebenezer”?
No! I don’t mean your favourite restaurant or the city in North America or Australia. Try again!
Ebenezer is the name of the stone recorded in 1 Samuel 7:12. This was what happened. At that time, the people of God was attacked by their enemy. Seeing the imminent danger, the people of God approached the prophet Samuel.
At that time, the prophet Samuel “cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.” (1 Samuel 7:9)
God heard their prayers and they defeated their enemies.
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12)
“Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
How do I know that God is good? I look back into my history. That’s why I journal, and re-journal.
Perhaps you need to put a stone on your office desk or kitchen countertop as a tangible symbol to remind you: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
When you are in doubt, look at all the Ebenezers in your history and be reminded that your God is good! He always was, still is, and will be.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrew 13:8)
If you think that you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! — 1 Corinthians 10:13
Typhoon Hato hit Hong Kong fiercely this Wednesday with violent winds and downpours of rain. Dramatic videos filmed in the morning surfaced quickly… Three grown men handling a cart, edging around a corner, the force of the wind pushing them as if ice skating and one of them nearly thrown to the ground. A façade cleaner’s gondola dangling in the gale on an apartment building, swinging freely, and smashing windows. Waves slamming up as high as second-storey high-rise windows and over the tops of smaller buildings in less-developed areas.
I found myself wondering why the people who were responsible for these didn’t prepare better. However, I know well that planning ahead for every contingency, making the right preparations and best decision in a crisis, so that no damage is incurred, is just not that simple.
As believers, it is so important to think ahead what we will do when various crises come and we take a direct personal hit. God’s word instructs us to be careful not to fall, not to give in to temptation while facing life and its frequent storms, and to remember we belong to Jesus Christ and are to be transformed (Romans 12:2).
But sometimes, like Hato, life is unpredictable, worse than expected, inconvenient, troublesome, distressing, shocking and harmful. We need not find ourselves dangerously tossed around by wind and waves, hurting ourselves and others. Instead, we are to be ready to stand firm.
I pray for those here in Hong Kong and other places whose lives were impacted by Hato. For me personally, Hato made me better. It caused me to remember that I need to be prepared to not fall by standing firm in my faith in Christ.