Daily Archives: September 1, 2019

2 September, Monday – Grace In All Guises

2 September 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon

It saddens me each time to read about incidences of bullying, especially those that lead to suicide. This is bullying in all forms, either in politics or at the playground. Are we really such inhumane, uncompassionate creatures, the very opposite of what God made us to be? If we are made in His likeness, I’m sure it is meant to be in all aspects. Yet, we still choose the fruit of knowledge of evil to see how far we can go, how much we can get away with. And these perpetrators go about their lives thereafter as though nothing happened. Is there anything to be gained in making someone else miserable? Is there any pleasure at the thought of ridiculing and ending another’s existence? And then go about life like normal as though it was an entitlement to you? A moment of ‘fun’ for the perpetrator is a lifetime of scarring for the oppressed.

If you have ever felt oppressed, rejected, or like an outsider, the stress must be only too great and I do not say this lightly at all. If you find yourself in such a situation, reach out to someone you can trust — a parent, teacher, pastor, or helpline. Seek help — help is at hand, help will come. Remember that Jesus was rejected by his own people in his hometown, remember that they wanted to throw him off a cliff. Remember that they did eventually kill him on the cross, but not before humiliating and hurting him. Remember that he was abandoned, betrayed and denied by those who followed him, some who were closest to him. Yet, at the end, God delivered him from the clutches of death by raising him on the third day. The naysayers were silenced. Tears were turned to rejoicing, disbelief turned to belief.

Remember that you are worthy, we are all worthy in God’s eyes. Jesus reminds us today that God performed miracles in the unlikeliest of places — the widow from Zarephath in Sidon, an area considered to be an outsider, and Naaman from Syria, a foe of Israel. Miracles could have well been performed in Israel, but God wanted to prove a point – that His love knows no bounds. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the unloved – if the world has rejected you, know that God has not. God doesn’t only reserve His mercies and graces to people who are born Christians or high-ranking leaders or active people in ministry. His grace is open to all. His grace is overflowing, even to outsiders (see Eph 2:11-13). His love is for you and me; it is in rejecting His love, where we will lose it and He will move on to others who need Him, until the day we return to Him.

Remember as well the Gospel reading from yesterday (Luke 14:7-14), where Jesus told his host to invite to his banquet “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”. God sees these people worthy to be at His banquet, more so than people who have been invited but rejected the invitation (Luke 14:24). Do not think that God has forsaken you. Those that have oppressed you may enjoy their lives now but there will come a time when they will need help, only to find that help will be denied them.

I don’t think I will understand why people have to be so unkind. There is nothing to be gained from being unkind, only for it to come back and bite us some day. Our lives are given to us by the mercy and grace of God; if we abuse it or reject it, some day it will be taken away from us and given to another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the oppressed, the rejected, the unloved. We pray that You will deliver them from their pain and persecution, and give to them the grace and mercy that You have promised for all of us.

Thanksgiving: Lord we give You thanks for deeming us worthy, regardless of our standing in life, or the value that others may place on us. We give You thanks for Your unending and unconditional love.

1 September, Sunday – Humility

1 Sep 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business,
  and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
  and then you will find favour with the Lord;
for great though the power of the Lord is,
  he accepts the homage of the humble.
There is no cure for the proud man’s malady,
  since an evil growth has taken root in him.
The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables,
  an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

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Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them. But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.

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Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

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Humble yourself more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God

I thought a lot about whether to share this story today, and perhaps it might turn out to be something that may resonate with someone out there. This is a true story of a person I know who rose up the career ladder at a meteoric pace. I will give him the credit of his hard work and perseverance that got him there. As such, his efforts were recognized and he was duly given positions of importance and seniority. Through the years, his success doubled but sadly, I felt that his character changed. The thought that he could do anything seemed to get to his head. He was less patient, less courteous. I don’t know why, but I tried to reason with myself that perhaps people with important decisions to make don’t have time to be as patient as we would like them to be. Why I tried to justify his behavior is beyond me. The day I realized his position went over his head was when he told me that I tried to “leverage on his power”. I was utterly gobsmacked. I remember replying that I was in no way the kind of person to do so, and I reiterated my position during our conversation. We parted ways eventually – amicably enough – though for my part I felt that I had been truly wronged. I could have stewed about it for days if I had chosen to, but with sheer force and lots of prayer, I redirected my energy to move forward instead. I took it as a sign from God that it was time to move on, and I lifted my woes to Him instead and decided to leave it to God to defend me against the injustice that was meted out against me.

Recently, I learnt that this person had lost his position of power and had since been relegated to a lesser position. Wow…I was gobsmacked again. I couldn’t believe it. Was it karma? Was it a case of him having to eat his words? I still hadn’t forgotten what he had said and done to me and wondered if God had a hand in this. I didn’t realise it then, but when his name came up in conversation, my words were still laced with bitterness even though I thought I had been mature enough to put it behind me. I stopped short of rejoicing in his downfall, although I think I was still too stunned at what happened to contemplate it. But I was still hurting and dare I say, bitter.

So what does this have to do with today’s reading? I suppose the most apparent answer is that it resonates with Sirach 3:18: “Humble yourself more, the greater you are”, in that being in a position of power exposes you to the risk of being drunk on power. Perhaps it really was God’s doing. But no, the point that I would like to make is the one of myself — God had vindicated me, yet I was still bitter. It took a friend of mine to remind me that as long as I still criticized him, I would only be hurting myself. I would never be free from the chains of resentment. I would not be doing God any justice by giving in to the power of resentment when He had so graciously given me the strength and perseverance to move forward. If He would say something to my oft-deaf ear, it would probably be “Why are you holding yourself back? Are you waiting for these people to fall? Don’t you trust that everything is as it should be?” My friend also reminded me that negative energy begets negative energy. The resentment I have will just undo all the good work that I have done. And it made me realise that the message of humility is not for this person – that is his own personal business with God. The humility lesson is for me: to be humble in the presence of all that God has done for me. To be humble enough to give thanks to God for deliverance, yet be compassionate enough to pray for the people who have wronged me. To realise that the bigger the grace that God has given me, the more humble I must be. Humility in my prayers, humility in my thanksgiving. And I had been lacking that. Yes, I had put my faith in God and trusted Him to lead me on the right path, but I know now that that is not enough. I had to pray for this person, for those who had done me wrong, because they are hurting now.

There is no happiness in this kind of hurt, no ‘winners’ in this kind of war. But even we can turn this around and be humble in the face of vindication. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, the celebration by his followers and disciples was not a case of shoving it and showing it to those who had wronged him, rather it was a celebration of Jesus who lives. Let our humility be a sign to others that Jesus is truly alive in us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all those who have wronged us, those who have oppressed us and lied against us. We pray for those who did not stand up for us but put us down instead. We pray for forgiveness for them, and forgiveness for our bitterness. We pray that they may turn around and find their way back to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the strength and perseverance that you have given me to move forward instead of allowing myself to be swallowed up in despair. Thank you for the grace You have given me, even though I realise I am not worthy of it. Thank you for counting me worthy to be saved.