Tag Archives: leadership

9 January, Tuesday – True Authority

9 January
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1 Samuel 1:9-20

After they had eaten in the hall, Hannah rose and took her stand before the Lord, while Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. In the bitterness of her soul she prayed to the Lord with many tears and made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord of Hosts! If you will take notice of the distress of your servant, and bear me in mind and not forget your servant and give her a man-child, I will give him to the Lord for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head.’

While she prayed before the Lord which she did for some time, Eli was watching her mouth, for she was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard. He therefore supposed that she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to be in this drunken state? Rid yourself of your wine.’ ‘No, my lord,’ Hannah replied ‘I am a woman in great trouble; I have taken neither wine nor strong drink – I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; all this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment.’ Then Eli answered her: ‘Go in peace,’ he said ‘and may the God of Israel grant what you have asked of him.’ And she said, ‘May your maidservant find favour in your sight’; and with that the woman went away; she returned to the hall and ate and was dejected no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord and then set out and returned to their home in Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with Hannah his wife and the Lord was mindful of her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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He taught them with authority

I am an avid user of social media, and one of the most memorable memes I have seen is that concerning the difference between a leader and a manager. The manager ‘leads’ from the back, often dictating what his employees are supposed to do and drives all actions with commands and instructions. His power comes from his official position within the formal organisation.

The leader, on the other hand, leads by example. He is often in the trenches and shows his followers through his actions. His actions lead people, not his words.

As someone leading a team in the past, I have reflected on which category of leader I belonged to; and I concluded that I was probably a blend of both, depending on which organisation and circumstances I was in. Despite calling myself a Christian and a Catholic, I was ashamed that I was not a better reflection of my faith.

In the Gospel today, Jesus shows His authority in ordering the unclean spirit to leave the possessed man. When I reflect on this, I realised that, apart from being the Son of God, Jesus derived a large part of this authority from His relationship with the Father. Before the events in today’s Gospel, Jesus had been baptised and had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. In the wild, Jesus got to spend time fasting and praying, building His relationship with God the Father.

Looking back at my times as a leader, I found that during the times when I was the ‘negative leader’, I tended not to be grounded with God and when I demonstrated ‘positive leadership’, I felt closer to God.

Let us continue to seek God so that He may cover us with His Spirit. Only through this are we able to draw on His strength to lead our lives authoritatively as Christians. May we learn to become models of our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray we may learn to draw on Your strength and our relationship with You. Help us, Father, to be better.

Thanksgiving: Jesus Lord, thank You for coming among us to lead us by example. Thank You for showing us what it means to be true Christians. Thank You for helping us go beyond the shallow, and touch what is real.

26 November, Sunday – Christ Our King

Nov 21 – Solemnity of Christ The King (falls on 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Christ The King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of scripture and used by all Christians. The name is found in various forms in scripture: King Eternal (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3), and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5).

Many denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans and Methodists celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The ideological movement of Christ’s Kingship was addressed in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas (“In The First”). In it, he quotes with approval St. Cyril of Alexandria, notin ghtat Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others. The perfect exemplar of that acceptance is the Virgin Mary, he pointed out. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God’s will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that “God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth”.

– Wikipedia

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Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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…for everything is to be put under his feet.

Last weekend, I was blessed to have been called to take part in a worship session at a conference organised by the Catholic Business Network. Called Christ@Work, it was a full-day conference featuring a keynote speaker from the US, as well as sharings by various Catholic business leaders here in Singapore.

The keynote presentations were extremely insightful and focussed on spiritual leadership at the workplace. Delivered by a former Jesuit who used to run the offices of a large financial organisation in various countries (including Singapore), I was inspired by his thoughts on what makes a good leader, especially the way he got the audience of around 600 to share their ideas openly.

At the end of the day, as Christians, we are ALL called to lead in one way or another. The fact that we are created means that God already has a plan for us and we are on a mission here on earth. Problem is, most of us let life get in the way and, in many cases, we start attributing the wealth and success with attain along the way to our own self. As one esteemed speaker recalled, the more successes he achieved, the worse his relationship with God became. Until one day, when his business failed and he had lost a huge amount of money, he attended LISS and discovered a small praying community, which helped his get back on his feet.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate Christ the King. If we acknowledge that Christ is indeed our King, then surely we have to acknowledge that we are His servants. Whether we are leaders, business owners, or in positions of authority or power, we are but subjects of an all-powerful, infinitely loving and merciful God. And we have been put here to do His will. What that is for each and every one of us can take a lifetime to discover, or for some of us, we may have already discerned His purpose for us. I believe that He has called me to serve through my music ministry and that He will be calling me again and again to worship Him openly.

I was also encouraged to play the violin for one of the mass songs and this was the first time in nearly 40 years that I was going to be playing on stage again; only this time, I had no score to refer to! But as I played the communion hymn, I felt a strong stirring in my heart to just allow God to flow through me and to cast aside my fears, to put everything into His hands. I think He is leading me on yet another journey, and I ask for your prayers to fully trust in His will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Jesus, our Saviour and King, we acknowledge your mighty and awesome presence in our lives. We trust that you will always know what is best for us and that your infinite graces will always save us from any harm.

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for your loving presence in our lives.

11 May, Thursday – Servant Leadership

11 May 2017

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Acts 13:13-25

Paul and his friends went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. After the lessons from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message: ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’ Paul stood up, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out, and for about forty years took care of them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel. Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years, he deposed him and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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John 13:16-20

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.

‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: Someone who shares my table rebels against me.

‘I tell you this now, before it happens,
so that when it does happen
you may believe that I am He.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever welcomes the one I send welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

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After he had washed the feet of his disciples

Last year I went for a company trip with my wife, some colleagues and our agency leader. On the first day when we reached our hotel, we alighted from the bus. While some of us stood around waiting for the luggage to be unloaded, our agency leader helped to unload and carry the bags from the bus to the hotel. This left a deep impression on my wife, who later remarked, “That’s a good leader.”

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus had some words for his disciples, but these were spoken only after he had performed the act that he wanted his disciples to emulate – he had washed their feet. Christ led by example and he asks us, his disciples, to practice servant leadership – to serve those who follow us.

In his first year as Pope, Pope Francis frequently spoke out against clerical careerism, where clergy see their role as a career, much like us in the corporate world. Yet, in Christianity, it is meant to be the other way around – where the higher is one’s position, the lower he is called to place himself in service to others. This is the way of Christ.

This is why the Pope, the highest position in the Catholic hierarchy, has the title “Servant of Servants”. The message that Pope Francis wants to send to the world is this – that Christianity is all about service to the lowest of society. It is ultimately about the individual and loving them, with God’s unconditional love for him or her.

Today, let us reflect on the opportunities we have to be Christ to another by serving them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)

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Prayer: We pray for Christians who think they should be served; may Christ shine his light on them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for a wonderful servant leader.

29 October, Saturday – Self Awareness vs Self Promotion

29 October

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Philippians 1:18-26

Christ is proclaimed; and that makes me happy; and I shall continue being happy, because I know this will help to save me, thanks to your prayers and to the help which will be given to me by the Spirit of Jesus. My one hope and trust is that I shall never have to admit defeat, but that now as always I shall have the courage for Christ to be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. This weighs with me so much that I feel sure I shall survive and stay with you all, and help you to progress in the faith and even increase your joy in it; and so you will have another reason to give praise to Christ Jesus on my account when I am with you again.

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Luke 14:1,7-11

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.’

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“… that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”

I really hate social media. There are some days when I just want to disconnect my Instagram account. Social media has made vanity into a virtue. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking to you, the #blessed crowd, the #partyafterparty people whose sole purpose is to post the perfect selfie, and shame the rest of us for our mundanity. Whatever happened to quiet servant leadership? I thought that was a great concept, and was certain it would take off. Instead, we seem to be bombarded by #redcarpet posts.

Self-promotion is as old as Scripture it seems. The gospel today actually tells us, in no uncertain terms, to be self-aware when attending dinner parties. Even back then, it was considered a complete social faux pas to presume greatness for one self. With position comes a higher profile. People know about you, or want to know about you. And the greater your profile, the more your actions and words are scrutinized. With position comes responsibility. And for those who have not cultivated the art of self-awareness, it is a long descent downwards. People are more than happy to tear someone down. Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows his self-awareness, this complete understanding of his purpose in life, to be of service to them and the furtherance of their faith. Often when we are tired or feel taken for granted, we start to whine and focus on ourselves. We become insular and complain, “What about me? I just want what’s due to me.” At times like these, a healthy dose of self-awareness goes a long way. We are here to serve at the leisure of God, and where He places us is where we are to strive to make a difference. If that happens to be back in the kitchen, wrist-deep in dish water instead of sitting at the banquet table, well then that’s His lot for us. There has to be a reason for it, we are just supposed to trust Him. Not for us, the glamorous life of being a loud and lauded leader, that’s not what He wants for us.

I’m ashamed to say that often, I too feel frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement, or worse yet, when someone takes what you do for granted and then criticizes and complains about your efforts. In times like that, I feel like taking to Facebook and airing my ills. But what is the point in that? Servant leadership at its core means trusting Him to acknowledge your work at the end after your race is done. If we receive our laurels now, what will we have to show at the gates of reckoning? Food for thought.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for patience with the complainers in our life, and for the self-awareness to know our place in all situations.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, that great comforter of hearts and restorer of hopes.

Saturday, 18 Apr – Leading so as to Serve

18 Apr

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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

  The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

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the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews

Arguments within the early brotherhood of Christ’s followers were already present. As shown in the first reading, the Hellenists (Greeks) and the Hebrews (Jews) that comprised the early Christians, had their differences and divisions. This happened as ‘the number of disciples was increasing’. So we should not be surprised that it still happens to this day.

I believe one of the arguments of the early Christians would probably be about ‘primacy’  and ‘eligibility’ of fellowship — that is, who came first and who is worthy of being counted. We can infer this because of the specific mention of ‘Hellenists’ and ‘Hebrews’ as well as ‘widows’. The primacy of the Jews as God’s chosen people as mentioned in Old Testament scriptures could not be avoided by the Greeks who understandably may have felt second-class. Not to mention within themselves, emerged their widows, who were losing out in the ration of grain. Imagine the kind of discontent the first apostles would have to deal with and smoothen out.

Yet, they did not avoid the situation. Instead they convened a council to announce a better way forward. They acknowledged the reality of the situation, but also humbly admitted that they may not be the best persons to administer a solution. Within the Church, this was the start of ordaining bishops, deacons, and various apostolates. From this too, we see the institution of the first ‘public administration’ or ‘civil service’, in today’s speak.

What does this mean for us Christians? It is the notion of leadership, formation, and succession. The Twelve Apostles prefigure for us a leadership that is confident and secure in their own ministry, yet also humble enough to realise they could not do everything. They had a calling, but they also had real limitations.

They had a common higher purpose: ‘continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word’. They had self-knowledge: ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food.’ They cared about formation and renewal: ‘select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them’. They were aware of the importance of succession: ‘They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.’

As Christians who may also be leaders in various offices, let us reflect on our roles and duties, and ponder how we can reflect true leadership for our members and teams. One of the lessons that emerged from the fairly recent passing of ex-Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was the realisation that he had contributed to building a public system that could renew itself and relied not on one particularly person. At the same time, each and every person within the organisation or team has a valuable role and contribution. May we not shy away from leadership, nor fellowship.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we offer up this humble ministry of Oxygen in service to you. We pray that you will continue to sustain our mission and renew our team.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks for the many people you have sent our way. Writers and readers alike, who contribute to giving our work purpose and continuity.