But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Do you have a regular morning routine before heading off to work, school or otherwise getting the day started? It might involve waking up at a set time, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, and so on. My mornings typically follow a similar pattern as just described. After leaving my flat, my day continues with a 30-minute bus ride to the office.
I use my commute to settle my heart and mind as I break open the Word and converse with the Lord in prayer. That time with the Lord is especially important to me as I know the day ahead will contain episodes of stress, temptations and other situations that may cause me to sin.
To prepare for those encounters, part of my daily prayer is asking the Lord to help me be salt and light to those around me and to be able to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as listed in the verses above.
While I am far from perfect, starting my day with the Lord and reciting those verses reminds me of the importance of those qualities and helps me to calibrate my heart and mind with a Christ-like perspective.
Let us practice starting the day off right by:
… My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:7
The elation of Easter Sunday was quickly tempered by news of the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka – a stark reminder that we still live in a fallen world, as if we needed reminding so soon after the shocking similar event in New Zealand.
But my first thought was not to pray for those involved in this far-away disaster; that came only when I was prompted by a chat group message from someone with a personal connection in Sri Lanka calling our group to pray for those affected. Until then, I subconsciously categorised the tragic events merely as “World News”. So often, the scope and potential of our empathy and prayers are limited by an inward-looking, compartmentalised approach to the world around us.
What does that say about our progress in being transformed by the renewing of our minds, loving our neighbour like ourselves, or going out into the world and making disciples of all nations? Limited progress, right?
In the Isaiah verse above, God was referring to His temple being a house of prayer open to all nations; however, now that we have that privileged access, surely we should be exercising it in “prayer for all nations.” So, let’s not be so complacent and self-absorbed. How about adding a God-sized non-personal prayer request every time we ask Him to help us out with something personal or family related? Global warming, Brexit, US-China trade wars, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Libya, ISIS, AI, the wealth gap, New Zealand… and now Sri Lanka, and Ukraine again – there is no shortage of such mega issues, but they will not get much prayer coverage if everyone limits their outlook to personal matters.
Let us move beyond a limited “inward” prayer perspective by:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:28–30
While these verses have a number of powerful implications, I will touch on a very straightforward aspect of Jesus’ words.
Clearly, Jesus expects us to plan and consider aspects including “the cost”, which can be more than just the financial component. The Lord gives each of us unique skills and talents; He has provided time and resources. He has the expectation for us to use them for His glory.
Remember Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23–24, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you are were doing it for the Lord, not for people... You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Obviously, your plans should be God-inspired, God-directed and God-assisted. It is important to go to the Lord in prayer in all aspects of your life, especially in the workplace.
God does not want you to be mocked if the project is not finished and you do not want Him to be mocked because you are a child, servant and believer in Him.
Also, remember not to be a mocker. Ephesians 4:29 makes that clear: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Let us choose God’s plan over man’s plan by:
But you, a man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. 1 Timothy 6:11-16
In a recent conversation with a friend about celebrity vacation homes in Aspen, Colorado, she said, “Some of the houses are to die for!”
“To die for” is a phrase we hear quite often, usually referring to something that is desirable or extremely attractive. Exotic vacations, extravagant clothing, or even mouth-watering desserts are among some of these items. However, it is a really exaggerated expression because I doubt many people would choose to die for those exact things if they were presented the offer. I wonder what we would truly die for, and why we’d choose to do so.
Jesus Christ came two thousand years ago to die, not for something, but for someone. You. Me. And all mankind. This “dying for” is drastically different than the way we informally use the phrase. There was no enjoyment, only pain. It was not something He longed for and wished He didn't have to go through. He came to die for our sins so we could reconcile with our Father in heaven. It was a pure sacrifice that He did not have to embrace but He chose to do out of grace. As receivers of that grace, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we respond with gratitude that drives change in our lives and tugs us away from our sins.
I sometimes wonder how I can be someone Jesus would come to die for. When the day comes for me to meet my Lord face to face, would He call me a good and faithful servant? In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul gives us the formula to fight the good fight. By pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness until our Lord returns, we will victoriously battle the fight that God has given us in this life.
Let us practice “to die for” by:
We are well into 2019 and so thankful to see all that God continues to do through the Bold Faith Campaign!
It's been wonderful to see continued growth at Island ECC, with overflowing events like the Global Leadership Summit to inspire and encourage leaders at our church and around Hong Kong. We also held our first Renew Worship Night of the year at an external venue in North Point, which allowed us to host over 700 people comfortably for this inspiring evening!
Island ECC is pursuing a GIC site in North Point and arranging a meeting with the stakeholders of the building for a redevelopment opportunity. Please join us in prayer for God's guidance for the project.
Introducing Jeff Ryan
(Bold Faith Development Team member and former elder) shares his experience and examples of biblical stewardship:
"Why do I have so much?" is a question I regularly ask myself. Because I struggle with money, have feared that there won't be enough in the future, and to offset a scarcity mentality, this question serves to redirect my thinking and remind me of the abundance I have in my life.
Most of us at Island ECC, including my wife and I, are rich by the world's standards as earning HK$300,000 annually puts us all in the top 1% income earners in the world. Almost all of us have been able to generate a surplus to save and invest. Our worldly wealth has grown as global stock markets have climbed for a decade, and Hong Kong property we own is at its highest value ever.
In life, we can look at our abundance of money and possessions and ask one of two questions: "How much do I need for my life?" or "Why do I have so much?" There are two stories in the Gospels that show the consequence of choosing between these two questions:
In Luke 12:13-21 we learn about the rich farmer who after a good harvest decided to ask, "How much do I need for my life?" He decided to take all he had grown, build bigger storage barns and set it aside to enjoy a cushy lifestyle. He trusted in himself being the owner, provider and controller of all things in his life. Proverbs 28:26 tell us this is a recipe for trouble: "Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe." As a result, God decided he wasn't being the kind of steward He wanted and decided his time on earth was done. Jesus said that's what happens when you "store up treasures for yourself and are not rich toward God." He was unwise and ended up with no treasure in heaven and likely not in heaven itself. The rich farmer's treasure was laid up on earth for himself. He trusted in himself to prepare for his future, but didn't trust in God. Everything he thought he controlled, he really didn't and that also included his time on earth. He ended up in Scripture as an example of what not to do. Tragically, it was in a time of plenty when he could have had a tremendous impact for God, that he thought only about his own wants.
In a contrasting story in Mark 12:41-44, a poor widow took her only possessions in the world, two small coins, and put them in the temple treasury. She went all-in to worship God. She clearly trusted that God was the provider who would replace what she had given with what she needed to live. She recognized that He owned and controlled everything. Jesus praised her generosity. She seems to have asked herself: "Why do I have so much?" She also thought about the best way to use it and invest in the future-giving it to God for His purposes. She put her treasure where her heart was. By walking in wisdom, she grew rich toward God and stored up treasure in heaven, which would last forever. Jesus praised her and her story has been passed down to us an example in stewardship.
Pastor John Piper said, "To be rich toward God is to count God as your riches. If you are looking to be rich, focus on God. He is your great reward. He is your riches. Therefore, laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven would be living in such a way as to maximize God as your treasure."
Gretchen, my wife, and I complement each other in stewarding the resources God has given. She is spontaneous and wired to spend her time and our money on others. I am more wired to plan ahead in terms of who we give to and related details. In this season of life, we are looking not just at how we use our income but also our assets to honor God. Is there something we need to sacrifice?
If not for faithful stewards at Island ECC who were rich toward God over the past twenty years, many of us would not have had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, have our kids taught in Sunday School, been ministered to by Care Groups, or been able to participate in reaching others for Christ through missions.
We all need to ask: "Why has God given us so much?" and figure out what He wants us to do with the income and assets He has provided. If we invest our treasure in Him, future generations will have the same opportunities to hear the gospel message, have their needs met and spend eternity with Him.
As we near the Easter season, we are again reminded that the purpose of this initiative is to point more people to the good news of Jesus through His victory over the cross. Thank you for partnering with us in Bold Faith through your prayers and generosity!