Blog

Man’s Plan or God’s Plan
Apr 12, 2019

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:

  • Praising our triune God: Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, at all times. He is love, the source of riches, goodness, forgiveness, wisdom, talents, time and grace; and,
  • Asking for God’s help to remind us to sit down and consider the cost before we proceed with any venture.

Blog

To Die For
Apr 04, 2019

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:

  • Praising God for the gift of salvation and the privilege to fight for Him in this world; and,
  • Asking God to equip and help us use Paul’s formula to face this fight

Blog

Bold Faith Newsletter (March 2019)
Mar 28, 2019

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! 


Please Pray!

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: 

Rich Farmer

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.

Poor Widow

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!

 

Blog

Don't Be Wowed by Power
Mar 27, 2019

Power is intoxicating. It goes to your head pretty fast. The allure of power is immediate results at your whim. Healings and miracles fall in this category too. Whether we are the healer or the healed, it’s the same draw: the ability to change your reality when you want to.

By this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus has predicted His death twice already (Luke 9:22,44). Together with the spectacular moment on the Mount of Transfiguration when the Father affirms His Son (9:28-34), Jesus is trying to communicate to His disciples that He is absolutely unique, even in His death and what that will accomplish.

But the disciples completely miss it, partly because this wasn’t easy to get their heads around, but also because they were distracted. They were distracted by the promise of power: the ability to cast out an evil spirit (v.34), drive out demons (v.49) and even call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that doesn’t welcome them (v.54).

And now in chapter 10, Jesus has just sent 72 people to go out, empowered with His authority to get people’s attention by prayer and healing in order to tell them about the Kingdom of God.

The first thing they say when they return is not a praise report about how many people repented or if anyone asked about the living, loving God behind the miracles. Their first report was, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!” They were wowed by power.

Then Jesus shifts their focus and resets their priorities: “However do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (v.20)

As we follow the Easter story to Jerusalem and to the Cross, we should remember what makes the claims of Christ unique. It wasn’t the show of power. Miracles are not exclusive to Christianity and non-Christians can heal too. But only Jesus had the power to tear apart the veil that separated us from God, and only by His death can we enter into the Father’s presence. And this He did not by using His divine power as the Son of God,

Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross. Philippians 2: 7–8

Praise God that you can pray directly to Him because of the Cross. Tell others about your relationship with God, and include the healings and miracles if those are part of your story. Just keep the focus on the right things.

Blog

Impossible Love
Mar 22, 2019

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-6 

My wife Kristen and I just started a marriage study and the first chapter was “Realise your inability to love”. One exercise was to reflect on the well-known love passage (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) and highlight what you struggle with the most. What immediately came to mind was how I have a hard time with patience and irritability.

When I reflected on my “ugly” moments with my wife and family, I recall countless instances that I just lost my temper, raised my voice, or used unloving words. I know what I am supposed to do, but when my patience runs low, irritation takes over, and love is far from me. 

When we read this chapter, we often focus on “love is patient, love is kind,” but it actually starts with Paul warning the people of Corinth about even when they use their gifts to do wonders or sacrifice to the point of death, they are nothing if they are not done with love. What a challenge!

His point is that serving God is not about what you do on the outside but how you are on the inside. It dawned on me that, most of the time, I focus on my actions and try to “white knuckle” my pursuit of being a good husband, a loving father, and even a good Christian. All the while I have forgotten that this standard of love is simply unattainable on my own. Loving well is not the same as acting lovingly. Being more loving is not an issue of behavioural change, but how your heart is positioned towards God. Loving well requires a position of humility and full dependence on God.

We know the standard, which is to love selflessly and sacrificially; but we must come to terms with our inability to do it. Our will power alone will never suffice because we are fallen. And the best we can do is to pray unceasingly for His guidance and power. 

Let’s practice impossible love by:

  • Praising God for loving us first and sending us His son; and,
  • Asking God to show us what is keeping us from loving others well.

 

 

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