Tag Archives: desmond soon

26 January, Friday – Gifts

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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…fan into a flame the gift that God gave you…

It has been a long and tiring month (so what’s new?) and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I had the resignation of a valued staff to deal with. For me, he had been more than pulling his weight, especially when he shared that he had been covering for his direct report. I had suspected it all along but am dealing with the ‘consequences’ now – spending hours each week coaching, cajoling and mentoring a flawed senior staff in the hope of helping him realise that he has been living with a flawed concept of what ‘work’ and ‘success’ is.

I have never had things easy in my career and believe that aside from my gift of writing, God has moulded me into a leader who has a heart for the downtrodden and helpless. Yet, through my past experiences, I am also able to detach myself from the emotions that arise at work (apart from anger that wells when I see people trying to cut corners or justify inachievement with weak excuses). Some call me a taskmaster but I have come to realise that I have been called to this role in a somewhat circuitous manner.

And of late, a similar path is being carved out for me in ministry. I have answered the call bravely, but with some trepidation. Yet I know that just as He has sustained me throughout my career, He will sustain me on this new journey that I am undertaking. I will soon begin lessons to train myself to be a truly qualified leader and the decision was made after a discussion with a mentor who I value greatly. The way she communicated to me about exercising the gifts He has given to her over the years convinced me that I had nothing to fear. All I needed was a heart of love, one that burns brightly for our heavenly Father.

Looking back, I even surprised myself with the conviction in making the quick decision overnight. And while I look forward to how He is going to lead me along this new journey, I know that it is only by His grace that my talents will fully come to fruition.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to be here on this earth for a reason. Unfortunately, many will never discern what the purpose of their human existence will be. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to discern and fathom a call that is extremely hard to ignore. I am not sure where it is going to lead me, but I know for certain that I will emerge from the experience with my heart still burning for Him and for those I care about.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, help us to fully appreciate your gifts by teaching us how to discern your calling for us and filling us with the courage to say ‘Yes’.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gifts you have bestowed us with here on earth.

26 December, Tuesday – Fortitude

Dec 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. A deacon and a preacher, all we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St. Paul.

– Patron Saint Index

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

– Universalis

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Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

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Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

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“but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

In the face of all that is going on in the world today, is it any wonder that people continue to question the existence of God? Death, murder, unspeakable sins being committed against women and children, the innocent slaughter of refugees…and so much more. Perhaps St Stephen, being firm in faith and with the Spirit in him, was doing precisely that – speaking out against the injustices of the day.

How many of us can say in this day and age that we are really ready to stand up against the tide and to speak up, without fear of shame, ridicule or even death? With same sex marriage being legalised in more countries and abortion (a form of murder) being condoned in even more, how are we ever going to bring up the next generation of Catholics to be truly firm and rooted in faith? What is it going to take for this generation to understand that the time to make a stand is now, before we all get swept away by the trappings of the material world?

I recently spent time with a few friends who were open enough to share their past (and current) struggles. It made me realise how fortitude is always absent as we are facing challenges head-on; but, in hindsight, it is precisely that which enables us to endure what life throws at us. Our God is truly an awesome God He will never let us down…as long as we choose the right path and do not grumble about our daily struggles.

Brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, what we crave most is time to ourselves. To just ‘chill out’ and alow God to heal or nourish us. But to arrive at that juncture in life, He asks that we have the fortitude to go through whatever we are going through now and to realise that, on our own strength, we are powerless.

So by knowing this, how are we, as children of God, going to realise that at many times in our life, He has been there – gently placing the crosses on our shoulders so that we learn about fortitude.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask you to always bless us with patience, understanding and wisdom so that we can live our lives according to your call.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts which He so generously bestows upon us.

24 December, Sunday – Peace Be With Us

24 Dec 

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2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Romans 16:25-27

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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“let what you have said be done to me.”

As we prepare for the coming of Christ, it is perhaps timely to look back on the year gone by and reflect on all we have received and achieved through His graces. During the year, as we face the challenges thrown at us at work, in the home and in ministry, we tend to question God and wonder if He truly is the kind, generous, loving God that we all profess.

Because for me, it has been a year filled with strife, anger, betrayal, greed, broken family relationships and death; at least for the people I love and care for. I have been a bystander and ‘occasional’ cheerleader/psychologist/peacemaker/problem solver. And it has been emotionally tiring. Yet, in hindsight, He has certainly shown me the power of love and how taking a Christ-like aproach to situations can actually free us from perceived constraints or unwarranted restrictions which we place on ourselves.

It is amazing how He has led me through the year quietly, without much fanfare, and yet, I feel as if I have achieved much more than humanly possible. From the relative successes at work, to a growing faith and confidence in my role in ministry, I have been mightily rewarded for allowing Him to lead and listening to His promptings along the way.

It has not been easy though as the choices are sometimes difficult. But in the quiet of the adoration room or even in the solitude of my office when the door is closed, He has certainly been lighting my path more clearly. And, in hindsight, what He has said He would do has certainly resulted in my current state – one of peace, gratefulness and immense love — in spite of all that is ahead (e.g. I have yet to buy all my presents but am not worried; and yet to buy the ingredients we need for Xmas Eve dinner).

Brothers and sisters, perhaps being Christ-like brings us a different perspective in terms of how we should approach life here on earth. We had to cut short a recent family holiday as a dear uncle passed away the morning we left Singapore. Ordinarily, we would have lamented the fact that we would have ‘one day less to enjoy ourselves’ but all five of us somehow just agreed to come back a day early to attend the funeral. And we were all at peace. Today, we sent him off to paradise with a simple, heartfelt mass. And we were all at peace.

As you listen to Him call from the manger tonight, I wish all of you the peace, love and joy of Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, help us to discern the cry of Jesus as we prepare our hearts for His arrival.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Mary and Joseph. May they always be shining examples of what it means to be a true Christ-centred family.  

23 December, Saturday – Plans

23 Dec – Memorial for St. John of Kanty, presbyter

John (1390-1473) was a Polish country lad. A brilliant student at the University of Krakow, Poland, he became a priest and professor of theology at the University of Krakow, where he was falsely accused and ousted by university rivals.

At the age of 41, he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of responsibility, but did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Krakow and taught Scripture for the rest of his life.

John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He was a pilgrim to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.

At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Krakow. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, 30 years before his final canonization.

– Patron Saint Index

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Malachi 3:1-4,23-24

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before my day comes, that great and terrible day. He shall turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.

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Luke 1:57-66

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

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Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me

As always during this time of the year, I have been extremely busy the last few weeks with a slew of events as well as a new marketing campaign to launch, working with new staff who are ‘experiencing the pain’ for the first time. After so many cycles, I have learnt never to take anything for granted and to always be prepared with possible solutions for any scenario that may arise. And while we try to anticipate and plan ahead, I have also learnt to be more open to situations (and fresh ideas/opinions) and not let any hiccups affect me (or my mood) in any way. For no matter how hard one prepares, you can never anticipate all situations and their possible outcomes.

This Advent season has certainly been one of anticipation for me. And I am looking forward to taking a few days off from work just to ‘chill out’ and to be with my loved ones. My brother will be coming back from Perth to spend Christmas with us and we are already planning Christmas meals, cell group gatherings and various other get-togethers (some on the golf course).

Amidst all the preparation, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Christmas. For while God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, heralds for us new hope and signifies a resurrection in our spirits. Christ was sent to prepare us for our journey back to our heavenly Father. So while we plan to a fault, everything that we would like to do here on earth, are we doing any planning for the day when we eventually meet our maker?

For while God sent His son to prepare the way for us, that is only one side of the coin. We ourselves need to be prepared to receive Jesus Christ in our hearts. So I encourage all of us to reflect on the past year and ask ourselves this – have we fed the hungry, clothe the naked, given hope to the hopeless, brought joy to those in despair, a smile to those who weep, comfort to those in sorrow? Have we truly lived our lives the way God intended them to be, in humility and in gratitude for all that He has blessed us with? Or have we lost our way amidst the trappings of success and the hurly-burly of our seemingly busy lives?

Brothers and sisters, take out your management diaries and have a look at your scheduling assistant on your smartphone. What are the plans you’ve made to be with the Lord this holiday season?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will give us the time to spend with you in reflection as we prepare to welcome your Son. May we respond to your promptings and seek you in the stillness of our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your gift of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

22 December, Friday – Rejoice And Be Glad

22 Dec

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1 Samuel 1:24-28

When Hannah had weaned the infant Samuel, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

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Luke 1:46-56

Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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My spirit rejoices in God my saviour

I recently attended the confirmation mass of my niece and was truly honoured to have been asked to be her godfather. For me, it was a real highlight accompanying Ella as she prayerfully walked up to receive the blessing from our beloved Archbishop. The joy and pride I felt was indescribable as I fully connected with the feelings of joy and peace that Ella would have felt the moment His Grace christened her forehead and touched her cheek.

I had made it a point to arrive at the church a lot earlier so that we could spend about 30 minutes in the adoration chapel. I had also fond out that she had attended her first ‘Nox Gaudi’ the month prior and was happy that she had experienced a new way of worshipping God. When I was her age, God was far from my mind and going to church for me was more of a Sunday chore. But as I observed her reverently prostrating before the Blessed Sacrament, I knew that she had been touched by the Lord and my heart rejoiced as we spent some quiet time with Him together.

The Lord has given me much to be thankful for this year. My journey with my discipleship group has led to a deepening of my relationships with my brothers and a new-found confidence that He is leading me to bigger things. Especially so in worship, where my ‘stop-start’ relationship with my violin has finally been set aflame. As a result, I am playing (and worshipping) with a renewed passion and zeal that seems to come from a deeper place within.

He gave me healing and brought me closer to the priests in my parish through the generosity and grace of my other half, who continues to amaze me day by day with her fortitude and inner strength. He sent many angels during our most difficult periods, to assist and to guide us. Indeed, I feel that our relationship, centred on Christ, has taken on a new meaning and while the road ahead may not be too smooth, I am 100% sure that we will weather all storms that will come our way.

I recall vividly how overjoyed I was when we sang ‘These Alone Are Enough’ by Dan Schutte recently at a mass; and continue to be amazed that He would bless a sinner searching for redemption, with the ability to praise and worship Him in song. This is something I will never fathom. All I can do is to continue practising in faith, knowing that the flame which burns in my heart is a gift from my heavenly Father. And that, brothers and sisters, is more than enough reason to rejoice every single day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we ask you to continue blessing us daily with your love and graces so that we may always be grateful for the privilege of calling you ‘Abba, Father’. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, O loving Father, for your gifts that you bestow on us each and every day.

2 December, Saturday – Holding Your Head Up

2 December 2017

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Daniel 7:15-27

I, Daniel, was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through my head alarmed me. So I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him to tell me the truth about all this. And in reply he revealed to me what these things meant. “These four great beasts are four kings who will rise from the earth. Those who are granted sovereignty are the saints of the Most High, and the kingdom will be theirs for ever, for ever and ever.” Then I asked to know the truth about the fourth beast, different from all the rest, very terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, eating, crushing and trampling underfoot what remained; and the truth about the ten horns on its head – and why the other horn sprouted and the three original horns fell, and why this horn had eyes and a mouth that was full of boasts, and why it made a greater show than the other horns. This was the horn I had watched making war on the saints and proving the stronger, until the coming of the one of great age who gave judgement in favour of the saints of the Most High, when the time came for the saints to take over the kingdom. This is what he said:

‘The fourth beast is to be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it underfoot and crush it.

As for the ten horns: from this kingdom will rise ten kings, and another after them; this one will be different from the previous ones and will bring down three kings; he is going to speak words against the Most High, and harass the saints of the Most High.

He will consider changing seasons and the Law, and the saints will be put into his power for a time, two times, and half a time.

But a court will be held and his power will be stripped from him, consumed, and utterly destroyed.

And sovereignty and kingship, and the splendours of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.

His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty and every empire will serve and obey him.’

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Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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“…to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

It is sad that even within a praying family, betrayal can occur because of greed. The phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ has begun to mean less to me after what I have witnessed over the past month or so. Jesus’ warning to His disciples to “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life…” rings ever so true in today’s dog-eat-dog world.

Yet when you consider the desperate circumstances people find themselves in, can you blame them for being ruthless if it becomes a matter of survival? Where does one draw the line? I think that in times of desolation, people make decisions which they eventually live to regret because behind them is a distinct lack of trust in God’s providence.

I believe that is what Jesus means when He exhorts for us to “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen…” He means for us to actually go through the trials that come our way, trusting fully that God will be there to guide us through the fire so that we emerge victorious in faith, rather than succumbing to the ways of the world (and the Devil) and taking the most obvious way out; even if it means turning your back on a loved one and hurting them in the process.

Brothers and sisters, the path of least resistance is never the best solution to our woes. Because that is what the Devil wants us to choose — to forget about God and to rely on our own strength, or the strength of others (be it spiritual, financial or emotional). In doing so, we inevitably end up causing more hurt even though our own problem is solved. I recall a piece of advice given by a priest – that if your decision causes hurt to someone else, then it is not from God. For God always wants the best for all of us, not just for some of us.

And if we approach every difficult situation with a desire to give life to the other party, we will be able to stand before God confident that we have been His true sons and daughters.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer I pray for all the families who have been torn apart by greed, pride, anger and envy. That God will allow His healing graces to flow over all the wounds and hurts accumulated over time so that reconciliation can begin.

Thanksgiving Heavenly Father, we thank you for your words of life that sustain and encourage us to never give up on love.

1 December, Friday – The Power of His Word

1 December 2017

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Daniel 7:2-14

I, Daniel, have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea; four great beasts emerged from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings; and as I looked its wings were torn off, and it was lifted from the ground and set standing on its feet like a man; and it was given a human heart. The second beast I saw was different, like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. “Up!” came the command “Eat quantities of flesh!” After this I looked, and saw another beast, like a leopard, and with four bird’s wings on its flanks; it had four heads, and power was given to it. Next I saw another vision in the visions of the night: I saw a fourth beast, fearful, terrifying, very strong; it had great iron teeth, and it ate, crushed and trampled underfoot what remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns.

While I was looking at these horns, I saw another horn sprouting among them, a little one; three of the original horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for it; and in this horn I saw eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that was full of boasts. As I watched:

Thrones were set in place and one of great age took his seat.

His robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool.

His throne was a blaze of flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence.

A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

A court was held and the books were opened.

The great things the horn was saying were still ringing in my ears, and as I watched, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and committed to the flames. The other beasts were deprived of their power, but received a lease of life for a season and a time.

I gazed into the visions of the night.

And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence.

On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.

His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’

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“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

During a community discipleship group fellowship last week, our music ministry was called upon at the last-minute to do a 10-minute session. Naturally, those of us who had been at the worship leader workshop the previous weekend stepped up to volunteer. But instead of the usual practice session we do a few days before, we only had a few hours notice. I literally learnt the song at 4pm and we were due to meet at 7pm for a run through. Even our keyboardist, a classically-trained pianist, had never played in a band before!

As the Lord would have it, the worship that evening, though a little raw, was smooth and many of the ministry members felt the emotion and the spirit flowing. At the feedback session immediately after, our leaders gave constructive criticism and encouraged us to work together to iron out the kinks so that we would sound more ‘together’. This got me thinking about technique and how it truly is a fine line between worship and performing. I am quite sure many worship leaders tread the line very carefully and some even struggle to make the differentiation.

As a ‘newbie’, I am intrigued by how He has led me on this journey and shown me a different avenue with which to express my love for Him. And in having to learn the new song – Met by Love – He truly spoke to me and opened up my heart to appreciate His words rather than to just try and memorize a bunch of words. I think that is what many of us do when we try to ‘learn’ a gospel passage/verse or the lyrics to any song. We don’t search out the deeper meaning in order to appreciate what the author/writer/lyricist is trying to communicate.

Brothers and sisters, we read newspapers, blogs, postings, memos, letters, brochures and all sorts of other material on a daily basis. But when it comes to the word of God, many of us merely glance at or skim through the readings. We need to make an effort to internalise and appreciate the words which have been given to us by our heavenly Father, whether in verse, in song or in a parable. Let us not get too caught up in the form but learn to appreciate the meaning of each and every word so that we can always call upon them to help us know how much He truly loves us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer We pray for the grace of being able to remain still in order to discern the true meaning of your Word for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving Heavenly Father, we thank you for your words of life that sustain and encourage us to never give up on love.

30 November, Thursday – The Simple Life

Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.

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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

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“…I will make you fishers of men.”

I recently attended a worship leader’s workshop, conducted by a youthful-looking praise and worship leader who had been invited to our centre to share his experiences since he discovered praise and worship when he was only 13 years old.

After spending 37 years travelling the world (and living in Europe for 19 years), he was now focussed on imparting his knowledge in a way which made me feel even more connected with God. Because rather than being anxious and fearful, wondering what songs to choose and how many to sing, he began the first night of sharing with just one song. And he also helped us (there were about 20 present) redefine what worship was while encouraging us to share our own feelings in pairs. At the end of the two hour first session, it dawned on me that worshipping the Lord could be as simple as long as we prayed from the heart. It didn’t have to be complicated!

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls his first four disciples – all fishermen. Not marketeers, lawyers, nor merchants. Just humble fishermen who the Church would eventually be built upon. These were the simple folk who were going to lead their flock to Christ – which is what worship leaders are called to do – to lead the congregation to a Christ-centred experience or encounter.

As I reflected on this idea, I began to realise that as God calls us to mission, all the more we need to be humble and simplify our lives. Because by allowing the complexities of the secular world to cloud our thinking and cripple our hearts, we are not allowing God to work through us effectively. I shared this recently during our discipleship group meeting and some of my brothers echoed the sentiment by recounting how, over the past week or so, they have been amazed by how God has sent them messages of simplicity. Encouraging each one to find his true voice in a simple melody, as opposed to a full-fledged song; by having to step up at the last minute and to lead worship with just a guitar and a voice. It is in those simple moments that we are able to discern the cry from our hearts and to bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Christ’s call to each one of us is a simple one – “Follow me”. Two very simple words with a very profound meaning. Brothers and sisters, amidst the hurly-burly of our lives, are we truly able to hear the call of God and discern in our heart what His mission for us truly is?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Dear God, give us the grace to embrace simplicity so that we can truly discern your voice in our life.

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for sending giving us Jesus Christ, our Shepherd.

29 November, Wednesday – No Need To Be Afraid

29 November 2017

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Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen; a thousand of them attended, and he drank wine in company with this thousand. As he sipped his wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels looted from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his thigh-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.

Daniel was brought into the king’s presence; the king said to Daniel, ‘Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah? I am told that the spirit of God Most Holy lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom. As I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be third in rank in the kingdom.’

Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. ‘Keep your gifts for yourself,’ he said ‘and give your rewards to others. I will read the writing to the king without them, and tell him what it means. You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands. That is why he has sent the hand which, by itself, has written these words. The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin. The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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…I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom…

We recently came to a decision to split our cell group into two smaller sub-groups, in the hope that it would encourage deeper sharings as well as make organising the fellowships a bit less daunting and more manageable. Naturally, the leaders had a discussion among ourselves before consulting the ministry heads, who offered various suggestions on how it could be done.

The day came when the four of us had agreed to meet to discuss how we would manage the process of informing our fellow brothers and then agreeing on which route to go in terms of how we would split the 14 of us. And because it happened to be a day when most of the members were around, we ended up ‘drawing lots’ and ending up with both groupings within the span of 10 minutes.

That night, I slept fitfully. Something gnawed at me and two days later, I decided to message the other three leaders to inform them that I was not comfortable with the way we had proceeded to hurriedly do what was necessary just because 9 or 10 of us happened to be around. I felt that for such an important decision to be carried out, we had been too focussed on the outcome without really discerning the right process. So I offered to meet with the other members who had been absent during our ballot to get a better sense of how they were feeling about being part of our group and the way forward.

Two weeks later, we all convened again and, to the exasperation of some of the other members, I explained why I felt that we had to reconsider the way we had arrived at the sub groupings. After almost an hour of sharing, where I urged other members to open up and share their thoughts, we ended up settling for the previous decision. However, in speaking out and convening the meeting (at the inconvenience of some), I felt that we had done the right thing, regardless of what the outcome would have been.

Brothers and sisters, I thank God for my discipleship group of 14 spiritually alive and aware brothers. It is rare that frank, open and, at times, heated discussion results in something beneficially for everyone. In daring to speak about my feelings openly (I used to shun confrontation), I had nothing to lose because I was relying on the Spirit to lead us to whatever outcome was going to occur. And thankfully, all my other brothers eventually realised that and we achieved what we intended. I ask for your prayers for Albert, Alfie, Ben, Charles, Clement, Eugene, Gabriel, Gavin, Jason, Lionel, Nick, Philip and Sylvester. That as we embak on our new faith journeys, we are empowered to speak out our true feelings for one another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer We pray for the gift of Wisdom; that You may always guide us in every thought, word and deed.

Thanksgiving Thank You for never judging us and for being our faithful Father.

28 November, Tuesday – A Time of Disruption

28 November 2017

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Daniel 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, ‘You have had a vision, O king; this is what you saw: a statue, a great statue of extreme brightness, stood before you, terrible to see. The head of this statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron, part earthenware. While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will explain to the king what it means.

‘You, O king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given sovereignty, power, strength and glory – the sons of men, the beasts of the field, the birds of heaven, wherever they live, he has entrusted to your rule, making you king of them all – you are the golden head. And after you another kingdom will rise, not so great as you, and then a third, of bronze, which will rule the whole world. There will be a fourth kingdom, hard as iron, as iron that shatters and crushes all. Like iron that breaks everything to pieces, it will crush and break all the earlier kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will be split in two, but which will retain something of the strength of iron, just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together. The feet were part iron, part earthenware: the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. And just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together, so the two will be mixed together in the seed of man; but they will not hold together any more than iron will blend with earthenware. In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever – just as you saw the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what is to take place. The dream is true, the interpretation exact.’

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Luke 21:5-11

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

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“…everything will be destroyed.”

I recently attended a worship leader’s workshop, conducted by a youthful-looking praise and worship leader who had been invited by our spitirual director to devote a weekend to imparting to some of us his experiences on leading worship. Naturally, some of the more ‘seasoned’ leaders were a bit sceptical but I could sense the mood in the room lift almost immediately after the two-hour introductory session held on a Friday evening after work.

For me, this was more than just a ‘wake up’ call because the trainer (let’s call him that) truly lived and breathed his vocation. He explained to us what worship was in no uncertain terms and said that as musicians/vocalists, we had no other choice but to worship God from our hearts because He had given us our talents. Of course, God has a wicked sense of humour and at the closing mass, the gospel of the day was the Parable of the Talents.

I came away thinking ‘Wow, if this is how our worship sessions will be like from now on, things are definitely going to change for the centre’. As for me, I would have to rid myself of the fears and anxieties that I had been harbouring all this while, after one of our worship leaders told me that I was going to be called upon soon to lead worship. Looking back, while I have been obedient in supporting the P&W sessions, I had become ‘comfortable’ taking a back seat and just taking direction from the worship leaders who have been at it for more than a decade.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a time of disruption, where old ways of doing things are being challenged and all our previous playbooks are being torn up. I’d like to suggest that even our faith practices need to be re-examined; that while we have our liturgical norms to anchor our practices on and adhere strictly to, we must be prepared that new forms of praise and worship may be more relevant in today’s context, especially for those of us who wish to evangelise to the youth. It was truly edifying to have been part of a weekend where we shared and mingled with our youth who were passionate, energetic and full of missionary zeal in spite of their troubles and shortcomings.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Abba Father, help us to accept that we are meant to be your instruments of faith and to always rise up to the challenges we face, safe in the knowledge that You are with us.

Thanksgiving We thank you Father, for all the blessings you have given to us and especially for the talents you have blessed us with.