25 January, Saturday – Lead Kindly Light

Dear readers, 

Today we are pleased to welcome a new writer to the Oxygen team – Christian Eber. We thank him for stepping forward and pray that this writing journey will be a grace-filled one for him.

Christian was baptised shortly after birth and grew up in the East district of Singapore. After confirmation, he got lost in the frivolous pursuit of pleasure but after his grandfather passed away, he read his biography — Camp Four Kanburi on how a former WW2 POW escaped death by loving and forgiving. He experienced an epiphany and went back to complete his undergraduate studies.

After spending some years in sales attaining a significant milestone, he realised that true joy lies neither in achievement of titles nor in possession of wealth, but a more intimate relationship with the creator and being authentic in all things.

This prompted his career switch into a social enterprise, which serves the youth at risk and tackles global warming. The tenacity of his beneficiaries encourages him to search out the best in people to find the untapped potential in each individual. He now always tries to keeps a balanced approach to pursuing financial goals with spiritual outcomes.

He is thankful for his fiancée Stephanie, who introduced Oxygen to him and finds that the daily articles and reflections help him dive deeper in His Word, hoping to become a wellspring of joy.

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul (3-65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptised, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He died a martyr for his faith.

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

  ‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

  ‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:

  ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

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It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name

Today’s readings are a retelling of the conversion of Saul and how the newly baptised Paul goes on to preach in Damascus with the Christians, instead of bring them to the Jerusalem prisons as he was commissioned by the religious leader.

The mercy of God upon Saul and the use of men and women to serve are, for me, one of the main reasons for the great expansion of the church today as St John Chrysostom shared:

“Would you even like to hear something strange from the point of view of our behavior but true from the point of view of our religion? Listen! Whereas God shows himself demanding with regard to the just, for the sinner he has only kindness and gentleness. What strictness towards the just! What indulgence towards the sinner! Such is the novelty, the reversal God’s behaviour presents to us… And this is the reason why: to terrify the sinner, and especially the obstinate sinner, would be to deprive him of all confidence, throw him into despair. To flatter the just would be to soften the strength of his virtue, make him slacken his zeal. God is infinitely good! Fear of him is the safety of the just; his goodness brings back the sinner.”

During my national service, I was knocked down by a van while riding a motorbike and almost got rolled over by a bus. The accident gave me much time to reflect in hospital about my irreverent behaviour and six months wearing a cast, due to my fractured right wrist, taught me about being merciful and kind to others, something I had thrown out the window after confirmation. I had developed a false image of God and allowed material possessions and vain ambition to take control of my life. After the fall, came repentance, and I felt the pain but, like Paul, received mercy and love from my family and made new friends. However, several years later, I forgot about his mercy and like the Israelites in the desert, started another bout of prideful and selfish behaviour. This led to another fall, this time off a shipping container on a stormy night while working as a stevedore, fracturing my left wrist and leaving in a tremendous amount of pain, but enough to get me back to school to complete my undergraduate studies.

The falls in my life have helped me realise how much I needed to stay grounded and hold on to faith with much humility. I love how God’s timing is right in every situation and to always trust in His mercy and rely on the wisdom to do the right thing in any given situation.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Christian Eber)

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, fill us with an indomitable spirit of joy that no earthly trial can subdue. Holy Spirit, help me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for providing the light and mercy to convert even the vilest of sinners to become a great witnesses of your eternal joy, which is in store for all who call upon your name.

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