Natalie grew up in a Christian family and one of the formative experiences in her life was when her father sat her down at aged 4 to explain to her how different her life could have been if she were born into an impoverished family. Though young, she felt powerful emotions and had a vision to reach out to those who have been forgotten. As she grew up, Natalie began to believe that a successful life was defined by her outward achievements and sought to be on top of everything she put herself into; however, as she continued down that path she began feel a distinct lack of God’s presence—one that left her feeling abandoned and eventually made her extremely angry at God. Despite that, she heard the call to go to Tanzania, and while laying on the ground staring at the night sky she heard God speak His love for her. Today, that vision she had when she was 4 is realised and Natalie sees how God’s plan for her life is so much bigger than her own plans.
We know that something is wrong. Though it shouldn’t surprise us, sometimes recent events like we’ve experienced in Hong Kong really highlight this truth. The world is broken. There is sickness, struggle, injustice and crime. We live in a fallen world and recently we’ve seen it displayed in lurid detail in our streets.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later. For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect His children. For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay – the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command – will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy. Romans 8:18–23
The church is being watched. Christians are being evaluated. Our words, actions, and lack thereof, can be used as evidence to make broader conclusions about the validity of Christianity itself. Realise that your life and attitude are giving others a reason to either believe or not.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 1 Peter 2:12
Many people use disappointment in the human experience as a rationale for distancing themselves from God. “How could a good God allow this?” or “I’ve tried praying, but it doesn’t work.”
If there is no God then there is no reason to be upset with a violation of right and wrong. If we are all simply evolved from an accidental explosion then survival of the fittest is sensible, and there is no universal right and wrong – no basis for moral absolutes.
Our sense of indignation – our outrage at wrongs – is a reminder that we are made by a God who is the embodiment of Truth, who has infused in mankind a conscience.
This doesn’t mean that God is pleased with injustice, or that we should be complacent. It simply points out that our sense of morality is divinely given. It reminds us that we are made in His image.
Allow your frustrations and disappointments to be a vehicle for renewed faith. Like a muscle, faith grows when it’s exercised. It’s easy to have faith when life is full of rewards but when hardship comes, our faith can really grow. Lean into God even with your confusion.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2–3
If someone doesn’t have a faith, it is only right to expect them to create meaning for their lives. We were made for more. Non-believers must find an anaesthetic, whether that is numbing through materialism, escapism, or activism. If we don’t know “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”, we will create our own way, truth and life.
But for the follower, we can care deeply, and be active politically, but it doesn’t define our lives. We have a greater Cause. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3–4
So much of the pent-up anger is a result of people not being heard. You have a unique platform to listen with care during these trying times. Ask open-ended questions. Help others process by simply prodding them with thoughtful questions. In a world of increasingly loud and competing voices, a tender, listening ear is a massive gift.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19–20
There is much to be discouraged about, no doubt, but don’t let fear rule the day. Don’t be overwhelmed with negativity. Make sure you are filling your mind and heart with real, authentic, and positive thoughts.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Certainly, there are those in your circle of family and friends who disagree with you – strongly even. Understand that people have different backgrounds, perspectives, hurts and fears, and all of these come to the forefront when a crisis presents itself. Make sure you allow room for others to think, feel, and speak differently than you. Don’t flush future opportunities for ministering to others by strongly offending over this issue.
Do not judge, lest you too be judged. Matthew 7:1
It’s easy to get sucked into discussions and arguments that are rarely profitable. Everybody has an opinion. When emotions are at a high, you are more likely to say things you may later regret.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable; but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
Historically, the church grows in times of turmoil. In Hong Kong, the same is true. Through SARS and through the Asian financial crisis, the church grew throughout the city. God weaves together circumstances for a greater tapestry than what we can fully see. Leverage the confusion and unrest in our city for opportunities to speak about the Prince of Peace. There is no policy, no leader, no government, no punishment that will satisfy the longings of the human heart. The answers we deeply desire are found in Christ.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5
The People Rejoiced
We have wonderful news! Over 1,100 of our church households are participants in the BOLD Faith campaign, an extraordinary response given that we still await a final location. This is truly evidence of trusting God to do great things in and through Island ECC.
Bold Faith is now part of your incredible testimony, part of your story... giving towards something you can't yet see, but are trusting God to provide! That's the very definition of Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we don't see.
Your faithful giving is reminiscent of a campaign launched by King David to build the temple. That story is also quite extraordinary. It starts with leadership stepping out in faith and modeling generosity, as David asks his people,
"Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?"
The response was amazing:
Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king's work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly. (1 Chronicles 29:6-9)
Rejoicing! What a God-honoring response. This is a season of rejoicing at Island ECC for all God has done through this campaign to date. But it gets even better. After David's song of praise to God, he reflects back on this wondrous event and realizes that for all the generosity shown by him and his people, in the end, everything belongs to God, it all comes from His hands.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. (14-17)
All the leadership at Island ECC can proclaim the same: "We have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you." We still have a long way to go, but this is a moment to celebrate as a community and rejoice in this display of faithfulness as stewards of the good gifts of God. To Him be the glory!
Island ECC is pursuing a potential site in North Point. Please join us in praying for ongoing discussions with the stakeholders of the building and certain government bureaus for this redevelopment opportunity.
Thank you for partnering with us in Bold Faith through your prayers and generosity!
It was a surreal moment for me to see the images of July 1st on the news. We flew out of Hong Kong on Monday morning. It was sunny and clear – a beautiful summer’s day. Then, we landed 12 hours later in another country and saw what had happened. It was such a stark contrast with dark scenes of unimaginable destruction in half-lit interiors.
Many times in life, we face situations where we don’t know what to say or how we should pray. Some situations are so complex and overwhelming that we’re confused and stunned, and no prayers come to mind. Maybe we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, like when we’re trying to comfort someone who’s grieving or going through a low point in life. Often in a political or politicised situation, we are cautious with our words so as not to offend someone or to inflame a situation.
In these moments, I have always leaned heavily on Romans 8:26-27:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
The context of this is waiting and hoping for the redemption and glory of the future but having to live in and accept the suffering and reality of the present. Our “weakness” is that we don’t know how to live in the present very well. It’s hard to hope for the best outcome and difficult to trust in His sovereignty when we don’t have anything to fix our eyes on (“Now hope that is seen is not hope” v. 24). It’s hard sometimes to know how to pray.
The comfort of this verse is that God knows us and our weaknesses. Communication with our Heavenly Father isn’t cut off just because we don’t know what to say. In His mercy and love, He sends the Spirit to fill in the silence, to intercede on our behalf, and to put our formless thoughts into prayer using a spiritual language deeper and richer than any of our words could be.
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Psalm 33:1
As believers, we are called to clothe ourselves with many things, like love, humility, and compassion. The goal, then, is for us to increasingly embody these characteristics so that eventually they are words used to describe and define us. In fact, they will completely define us one day in heaven.
Psalm 33 would like to add one more characteristic to that list... praise. “Praise befits the upright,” the psalmist writes. This means, ideally when you think of a Christian, you should be able to think of someone who is known for their praise.
What is praise? Praise simply means to “honour, commend or worship”. And praise, as the Bible speaks of it, is not handcuffed to Sundays, but is a lifestyle of responding to everyday life with language and actions that exude honour, commendation, and worship.
Now, if you’re like me, you often find that a day’s circumstances are the real driver of your praise levels. This is natural, and an okay place to be for a season, but as we mature in Christ, the hope is that we would grow into the characteristics we were made to embody.
So, let’s use today’s post as an opportunity to stop and reflect:
Are you known for your praise?
Would others say it’s common for you to exude language that honours God and celebrates Him?
Has it become natural for you to respond vertically to things that are happening horizontally around you?
If not yet, think about this:
You were made for it. Whatever your personality type and natural demeanour, God’s Spirit is wanting to empower you to be someone who is full of praise.
So friends, I encourage you to begin your journey today of clothing yourself with praise, it fits you.