Monday, May 31, 2021

Verum Dicens | Telling The Truth

“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” – Galatians 4:16

 


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Dear brothers and sisters, how many of us have friends? As a social creature, yes, most of us have friends. How many of us are able to criticize our friends and vice versa? Paul in Verse 16 says, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

Paul had a close relationship with the Galatians (v.13-15). It was because an illness, he spent 2 years in his early ministry in Galatia, preaching the gospel. Therefore, he urged to write a letter to his old friends in Galatians by himself and rescued them. Galatians drifted from the blessedness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a false gospel.

Paul wrote in the letter of Galatians what the false gospel was. The false gospel was that Galatians had to live under the Law of Moses. Meanwhile, Paul taught the non-Jew Christians to have a new life live in the Spirit – not by keeping the Law. Moreover, through Jesus Christ, the gentiles got the justification to be Children of Abraham and got the blessings of Abraham, not by keeping the Law. Abraham had Faith to God without keeping the Law of Moses. Last but not the least, Jesus died and resurrected to free people from the Law.

My reflection on the passage: In our search and zeal to know God on a deeper level, we could ask God to surround ourselves with the right people. Then we ask ourselves: Are we able to criticize our friends who drift away from the gospel? On the other hand, are we open for criticism? – Amen.

To God be the glory. God bless you.

 

Reflection on Galatians 4:12-20 by Veralin Uneputty

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Non Servus | No Longer a Slave

"So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." - Galatians 4: 7

 

 


 

There are two children in a family. One child studies hard after being asked by his mother. He doesn't want to study unless his mother asks him to. The other one learns without being asked by his parents. Sometimes this child also takes the initiative to help his mother who is cooking in the kitchen.

Such was the human condition before knowing the Son of God who brought salvation - merely following the commandments. The situation changed after the Son of God came and worked. Believers now are adopted as sons, no longer slaves or servants (7). As a child, independence and creativity are possible.

Paul likens the condition of being a slave to when humans are bound by the law. Christ came and freed man from the bondage of the law - to redeem them. Since he obeyed the Law perfectly, He was not imprisoned by the Law; he was not a slave of sin. No. He stood on the outside and was able to redeem, or 'buy us out of slavery' through the payment of His own death (4:1).

Paul began the letter by speaking of Jesus who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age. And that redemption was more than just a transfer of ownership from one master to another. It wasn't only that. But that redemption was also an adoption! Through the cross of Jesus, the slave becomes a son.

We are no longer slaves who carry out orders out of compulsion and consider them a burden. We are children who do anything for the love of parents. As believers, we may ask too often, "Is this permissible or not?" As children who are redeemed by Christ, it should no longer be our question as we are considered adults. God-given freedom and creativity enable us to choose between right and wrong. We no longer question whether it is permissible or not, but which ones glorify God, bring goodness, and show qualities as children of God.

That doesn't mean we live without rules. The principle is not to let the existing rules shackle us. Churches generally have various rules. All these things are needed to organize life with the church members. These rules should not turn around to enslave us, let alone kill our faith. However, creativity must also be accompanied by sensitivity to hear God's voice.



Reflection on Galatians 4:1-11 by Fr. Fransiskus Diaz, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sub Pedagogo | Until Christ Came

"So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith." — Galatians 3:24 

Image by Pexels from Pixabay



Walking in Spiritual Darkness
Looking on the exhortations from the Apostle Paul, about the law being our guardian until Christ came. I recalled a dark time in my life (as a pre-believer) when my mind was held hostage by disturbing images of men and women being put through various forms of torture in the 18 levels of Hell, as per Taoist beliefs. I often woke up in the middle of the night covered in a cold sweat as I had recurring nightmares of dying and suffering in Hell for sins that I've committed in this life.

As I grew older, I found myself drawn towards Buddhist philosophies which seemed a lot more palatable, especially the karmic law of cause and effects. However, with that new-found philosophy, there came a new nightmare. I woke up in the middle in a cold sweat wondering what would happen to my soul after my death, what would happen to my beloved family members too? Would I be reincarnated into the body of a pig, a dog, or even a cockroach for all the evil things I had committed from a young age? There seemed to be a natural inclination towards evil inside of me, and I was really afraid of that evil nature.

However, as a pre-believer then, I found it ridiculous whenever Christian evangelists knocked on my door or approached me in public places, and said I was headed for Hell if I didn't believe that Jesus died for my sins. It drew an angry response from me and I often chastised them with this angry question, "Who has come back from the dead to report or support this ridiculous claim of yours? If you have proof, show it to me now or get lost!!!" I found it incredulous that men, women and children alike could believe in the incredible myth of a man who had died, was buried and was resurrected. Thus, I spent a good part of my young adult years ridiculing Christians and/or persecuting Christian evangelists who dared to knock on the door of my hardened heart. Although I had not known it then, God was already working behind the scenes to extend His Grace to me and my family.

Coming of faith in Christ
The first inkling of this unseen Fingers of Grace first revealed itself in 2003, when shortly after my father's death, my uncle visited our parents' home and delivered stunning news. He shared that about 2 weeks before my dad's death from cancer, the Holy Spirit prompted my uncle to visit his oldest brother, i.e. my (late) dad, to share the gospel with him. Of course, my uncle received the prompting with fear and trepidation. My dad, being the oldest sibling in the family of 6 boys and 2 girls, was known for his explosive anger and tendency to use expletives towards whenever he was triggered. Unknown to me then, my dad was actually suffering from mental health issues which he had sought treatment in his 40s. I only recognized this in my own 40s after I was diagnosed with clinical depression and was prone to mood swings including expletive-laden angry outbursts towards people I care about. I have burnt more than one bridge with loved ones after an unfortunate outburst, including my ex-wife.

Back to the story of God's Amazing Grace, after my uncle said a fearful yes to the Holy Spirit, he still knocked gently on my (late) father's hospital ward. It was during the era of SARS in 2003, and there were many restrictions to hospital visits. The first sign that God was preparing the soil in my father's heart, was the sight of my (late) dad sitting up eagerly on his bed as if waiting for a visitor. My uncle was pleasantly surprised and walked closer to his bed so that my dad could hear him clearly. With fear and trepidation, my uncle asked my (late) dad in Hokkien, "Lu Zhai Ya Sor See Simi Lang?" (Do you know Who is Jesus). Expecting my (late) dad to explode in anger, my uncle was pleasantly surprised as my (late) dad vigorously nodded his head and told my uncle that he had already told him about Jesus. This was the next surprise that the Lord of the universe had pulled on my uncle, a long-time believer in Christ and prayer warrior for his family's salvation because as far as he recalled, this was the first time he had mentioned Jesus to his oldest brother, i.e. my father. So he proceeded to lead my dad to say the sinner's prayer in the hospital which was momentarily transformed into Holy Ground where the Holy Spirit of God was truly present. 

Two weeks later my dad was called home to the Lord. He had Buddhist funeral rites and his ashes are inside a Buddhist Temple together with my (late) grandparents and 2 of my uncles' ashes. As I was still a staunch Buddhist and still grappling with my father's death, with my own wedding only 4 days after, I took the news rather angrily but didn't confront my uncle then as my mom was already too distraught and tired from the funeral proceedings. 

It was only 2 years later, after God engineered a Circuit Breaker in my right brain, i.e. an acute right-brain stroke at the age of 33. I reached the end of my human ropes, that I was brought unto my knees to acknowledge the sinfulness of my heart. Finally, the Lord had softened this heart of mine to welcome Him as the Lord and Savior of this once proud and sinful heart. My uncle was overjoyed that I had finally become a treasured child of God, and warmly invited me to join him and his family to worship in Bartley Christian Church. 

He also introduced me to a friend of his, a godly older man, who invested a whole in weekly bible studies and prayers. He knew of my marital troubles and prayed frequently for God to engineer a miraculous turnaround in my marriage situation. This man of God never failed to amaze me with his enormous faith and prayerful spirit. When I knew him, he had been in between jobs for many years and still had a young family to support, yet despite all these daunting challenges, he never failed to encourage me with praises for God or cease praying for me. I was reminded of how Paul loved his spiritual child Timothy and constantly wrote words of encouragement to the young pastor to a young and persecuted church, even when he himself was a prisoner for Christ.

Looking back, there's been many twists and turns in these 16 years of walking with Jesus, and I know that though my (late) dad and I are separated in this life, I know the Blessed Assurance that one day, we shall reunite in the Heavenly Mansions where Jesus had gone ahead to prepare rooms for each of us. I will close with the beautiful words of this classic funeral hymn, Blessed Assurance…

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.




Reflection on Galatians 3:23-29  by Chris Tan

Friday, May 28, 2021

Promissa Dei | Promise by faith

"But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." —Galatians 3:22 (ESV)





I will begin my reflection with a story. In one village, there was a famous catechist by his testimony, also known as a drunkard. One day, a couple who had been married for three years and had no children asked him to pray together with them. But the catechist told them that he would pray for them by himself. When they went away, the catechist said to himself, “How can they come and ask a prayer to a drunkard? But I will pray for them." A year later, the couple returned and thanked him for the prayers, and at that time they had been with a child.

Sometimes God listens to the prayers of those who are always looked down on by society. For they pray earnestly and are thoroughly aware of all their shortcomings. Like St. Paul, he always said that he was a prisoner who persecuted Christ's followers, even though he was a highly educated preacher. He never considered himself the greatest among the disciples. On the contrary, he always prayed for those who believe in Jesus, including us. He always prayed that the faith which was instilled in the hearts of the chosen people would be strengthened. So that in whatever situation we come to encounter we must always trust and hold steadfastly on the love and mercy of Christ.

Now the question is what prayer means to me. Our Prayers should not just a kind of a routine or merely a duty or come from fear of leadership or be done only when we encounter difficulties. But our prayers must come from the core of our inner side. It must be a self acknowledgement of  our weaknesses before God. When prayer becomes our habit, by itself it would form our attitudes and behaviors.




Reflection on Galatians 3:15-22 by Sr. Maria Venidora SND 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Ex Fide | By Faith

"The real descendants of Abraham are the people who have faith" - Galatians 3:7


Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 



What is your experience of faith? From whom have you learned to believe? How strong is your faith? 

We understand that "all who believe are blessed" (3:9). At the same time our faith is not an easy thing. In the center of our faith is Jesus Christ on the cross (3:1). We look at him and learn from him. 

However, faith is something more than our choice to follow Jesus. Christian faith is also a gift of God's Spirit. We grow up in Christian families and in the Church. All the time, the Holy Spirit is working on us. So we read and meditate on the Word of God. We cooperate with the divine Spirit. We do not live by our own power. The Holy Spirit works miracles among us while we read the Scriptures. 

Believing in God is an everlasting process. It never ends. As believers, we are to help other people believe in God. Through faith our life is more fruitful. We are given the blessing and the Spirit promised by God (3:14).

Lord Jesus Christ who was hanged on a cross for our salvation, redeem us and strengthen our faith. May the Holy Spirit make us your true disciples. We thank you for the grace of Christian faith. We want to keep our promises and become real descendants of Abraham. We pray in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


Reflection on Galatians 3:1-14 by Fr. J√≥zef Trzebuniak, SVD.
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Non Recte | Not Correct

"When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others..." — Galatians 2:14 (NLT) 





Galatians 2: 11-21 shows the readers a conflict between two chosen men, Peter and Paul. The conflict started with a trivial matter, which was "sit with". Verses 12 to 13 (NKJV) say, "for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 

At a glance, we can see that Peter's attitude in this story was wrong. I say wrong because he did not show his wisdom as one of Jesus' closest apostles. By separating himself from the Gentiles, he showed his inconsistency. His act seemed like a hypocrite. But here, I can't blame him totally. If I were in his position, I might do the same because as a leader of Jerusalem church I had to keep my reputation as a great apostle who already won three thousand Jews to become Jesus' followers. 

By reading this section, we get the first point that even though someone as great as Peter - one of  Jesus' disciples - who lived closely together with Jesus, could still fall into a dilemma applying faith in truth.
  
The second point is how Paul showed his consistency and deeper understanding in the truth of the gospel. In Galatians 2:14, Paul saw that they did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel so he said it to Peter before them all. He corrected this publicly that God's love and the Salvation were not hampered by the works of the law. Jesus saved all people, both the Jews and Gentiles, so that Peter should not shun the Gentiles but embrace them as those who also have a share in God's plan of salvation. 

Here, I appreciate Paul's bravery when he corrected Peter publicly although I may not agree in correcting people in public. Matthew 18: 15 says, "moreover if your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother." However, Paul must have a strong conviction for his action - as Peter was a leader who set an example for all. 

The third point is about the characteristic of believers, who live righteously in Christ, which is a change in life. In Verse 20, Paul emphasized that as a believer there must be a real change in life. Paul also said that we must be crucified with Christ so that there can be a real change in life. Therefore we must repent so that the Holy Spirit can bring about changes. Don't wait until we experience difficulties, then we want to be changed by God. Now is the time for us to submit ourselves to be totally changed by God.

By learning those three points above, I really hope that we also learn about the gospel truth. For me, with the promised salvation, Jesus asked me to spread his love to everyone around me without discrimination. Beside that, I need to be wise in examining the questions of faith I find in this life. Then the important thing is to let the Holy Spirit work so I know well what Jesus wants from me as his follower.

Reflection on Galatians 2: 11-21 by Paulus Renggo
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, May 24, 2021

Per Revelationem | By Revelation

"...I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." —Galatians 1:12 (NIV) 





My brothers and sisters, the church does not consist of sacred people but sinners. And the sinners are called to be holy. Paul was an apostle in the history of Christianity who was a sinner and came towards a holy life because of the apparition of Jesus to him. 

Before seeing Jesus, Paul was a sinful person since he was a leader to persecute Christians. He chased and killed those who believed in Jesus Christ. Paul did not believe in Jesus' resurrection because he was a kind of person who needs a reasonable argumentation rather than a blind faith. 

But according to Paul, God - who had set him apart before he was born and called him through his grace - was pleased to reveal his Son to him so that he might proclaim Jesus Christ among the Gentiles. Paul was a man who was able to transform himself from a persecutor to a proclaimer. Paul showed that Jesus could change our life to be better.

Once, Pope Francis said, "We are all sinners who need God's mercy. Only He has the power to change us and give us hope every day". This statement insists on fragility which is our natural condition. We get our strength from the Lord himself.

Learning from Paul's changing life and Pope Francis' statement, we can evaluate ourselves before God and others. We should realize our dependence on God and others. Thus, we always need God's mercy to make our life better. 




Reflection on Galatians 1:11-24 by Fr. Aris Mada, SVD
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Anathema | God's curse

“… If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” – Galatians 1:9 (NIV)

 

Image by falco from Pixabay


It’s clear that sin is bad. It separates us from our holy God. We are talking about indulging our flesh in any kinds of impurity including sexual immorality, being greedy including stealing and deceiving, anger including bitterness, slandering and abusing, and every form of malice (Eph. 4). Nevertheless, as bad as it is, there is always hope in Jesus. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He comes for anyone who is willing to repent.

However, in today’s reading, Apostle Paul did not shout a repentance but he wished God’s curse for those who commit a certain act. He said in Galatians 1:9, “…If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” He repeated it twice – exactly the same consequence (Verses 8-9).

The Gospel is crucial. It talks about Jesus Christ and the salvation work he has successfully accomplished. God the Father let his Son – his only begotten Son - suffer terribly and die for the atonement of the sinners. In return, He wants us to honor his Son. In John 5:23 Jesus said, “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” Mark 9:7 also tells what the Father highlighted, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

At the time Paul wrote this letter he was facing an opposed credence which was Judaism (Gal. 1:13). Judaism takes Monotheism as their core belief – believing the only one (singularity) of God. The idea of Jesus as a human who was actually the incarnation of God on Earth was not acceptable by the Jewish. Let alone the doctrine of Trinity. They could not welcome the fact that God had a Son; that Jesus was in the same nature as the Father.  They refused to acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that it was the work of the devil (John 8:42-44).

Sometimes, we encounter people who come with a so-called gospel. They talk about Jesus, but a different one. It might not be an open attack to what we believe. But as Apostle Paul said that they are throwing us into confusion and trying to pervert the true gospel (Verse 7).

The corrupted image of Jesus is presented in many forms. It could be a Jesus who was merely human but somehow got an honor to die for us - which could raise a doubt on him. It could also be that he was only a spirit – which means he actually did not die for us. It could be that he was God but not human (not came as 100% God and 100% human) and therefore he could not die for us as God cannot die – making our salvation impossible. Another one could be, that Jesus’ work is not enough – means we need to add more regulations (work) to save ourselves, and thus deny the finished work he actually did on the cross. It is important to notice that people who bring this doctrine do not confess that Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom 3:24).

The perverted gospel degrades the Son of God and destroys our faith. Sometimes we hesitate to admonish those people who come with this belief. Apostle Paul asked us, that we must be strict about it. He said in Verse 10 that we have to win the approval of God – means we have to earn God’s decision that we have chosen a correct doctrine of Christ. It is really serious. Paul said, “…If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Love for other people should not exceed love for Christ. God wants our total commitment in acknowledging the true person of Jesus Christ and the perfect work he has done.

We also must be careful and examine our doctrine, as Paul said,” But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Let’s start with honoring our Savior Jesus Christ and read the scripture carefully. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the Truth. May God help us all. Amen.

 

 

Reflection on Galatians 1:1-10 by Desire Litaay

(Listen to the Podcast here)


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Per Orationem | Keep on Praying

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." —Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) 






The Bible reflection for today is about prayers and as always gives us practical advises for it.

 

Verse 18 – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. The Bible tells us to pray – always, in all ways and for all people. This passage clearly tells us this. It also tells us to pray in the Spirit – to always ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in prayer so that we know we are in communion with God.

 

Verse 19-20 – Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should. Here, I believe St. Paul is asking for prayers on his behalf. It speaks to me on the power of prayer intercession for others. It is a reminder for us to always pray for each other, not the least our leaders – in our families, churches, governments, at work.

 

Verse 21-22 – Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you may also know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage you. This is a reminder to me to check the leaders I follow and whose principles I adhere to. I have to check who commissioned them and if I see God in the way they conduct themselves. And that I should always pray for them – for people in authority and those with influence. It is important to pray for them.

 

Verse 23-24 – Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. And finally, remember that if it comes from the Lord, they come in peace, and love with faith. Let that always reminds us for all those speaking in the name of Jesus Christ. And as always, pray for them.

 

So for today – the message I hear is this – Pray, always, in all ways and for everyone. God bless you, my brothers and sisters.



Reflection on Ephesians 6:18-24 by Blessie Sto Tomas
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Friday, May 21, 2021

Arma Dei | Armour of God

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." - Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)

 



There is one painting that always impresses me, namely the painting of "the Archangel Michael" in the Chapel of the Novitiate of "SVD" in Batu - Malang, Indonesia. The novitiate is a basic formation house for a Catholic priest candidates. In that chapel, there is a painting of the Archangel Michael against a demon. But Michael the Archangel in the painting does not carry a weapon - while in the Catholic art tradition, Mikael the angel is always depicted carrying a sword. I asked the painter, Br. Othmar Jessberger, about it. He said, "It was forbidden by God to use a weapon, so I painted Michael the angel without a weapon, but he fought with the power of God."

The reading from Ephesians 6:10-17 reminds me about the painting again. God wants us to be true warriors, while our enemies are sin and evil. We fight against sin and evil. The equipment we use is not a sword, a gun, a tank or any other worldly weapon but "the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:7).

God wants us not to fight evil with evil, but with tenderness. The word of God will always protect our heads from the influence of evil because we are still weak imperfect humans. Our thoughts are easily corrupted by evil thoughts. Meanwhile, the sword of the Spirit will enable us to sort out and divide the bad and the good. The word of God, according to Hebrews 4:12, is "sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart".

Sometimes we are tempted to respond bullying with bullying. We go savage and think that others deserve the same bullying that they have given us. Like warriors, we prepare strategies to fight others by words and actions. But God wants us to become true soldiers, namely soldiers of Christ. Let's think before we act, and response an evil with a right and wise way. The guidelines are the Word of God.


Reflection on Ephesians 6:10-17 by Fr. Fransiskus Diaz, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast 
here)

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Honora Parentes | Honor Your Parents

"Honor your father and mother" —Ephesians 6:2 (ESV)





Today’s reflection reminded me of a quote I recently encountered. And it goes like this – Sometimes, the most honoring thing we can do for our parents is to forgive them for however way they may have hurt us.  I am amazed at how practical the bible can be.

Verse 1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. It is the natural law, as spoken in the Word. It is like gravity, the changing seasons, the passing of time – it simply is how God intended it to be. Our parents are divinely assigned by the Great Planner Himself, and we have to obey them as we should.

Verse 2 – “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise). I’ve heard of this before, but I was honestly surprised it was actually written outright in the Bible, and only further solidifies God’s design for parenthood.

Verse 3 – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. We can hold on to this, because God never goes against His Word. He is faithful.

Verse 4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The Lord has never been unreasonable. And while the commandment is directed to children, we know the Lord gives responsibility to our parents too. Such is God’s design for parenthood.

Back to the quote I mentioned at the beginning, it’s easy to honor our parents if they are kind and responsible. But the world is a fallen place and a lot of parents are not as ideal. And every person should know that yes, sometimes, the most honoring thing we can do is to come from a place of love and embrace them with forgiveness. Understand that the Lord has given you your parents for a reason, and if only by that, they command your respect and honor.  

I am just reminded how God is concerned by all that concerns us – and most especially our relationships. He is the God of both the big things and the small things in our lives. Praise and glory to Him. 


Reflection on Ephesians 6:1-4 by Blessie Sto Tomas 

(Listen to the Podcast here)

 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Imitatores Dei | Imitators of God

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." — Ephesians 5:1 (ESV) 


Photo by Alena Darmel from Pexels


In Ephesians 5:1-20 Paul asked Ephesians to put off the old humanity and put on the new one with Jesus. Before they knew Jesus, the Ephesians were alive but spiritually dead, entrapped in purposeless life of selfishness and sin and they were deceived by dark spiritual forces of evil. 

Ephesians' condition is similar to us. By the love and grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we buried our old human habits and resurrected to live in spirit of God. We are a new creation, new humanity. The Holy Spirit works within us to extinct the old habits. Here, Paul elaborated how to do it.

First of all, in Verse 1, Paul asked us to be the imitators of God, as beloved children. It was like my 4-year-old son copying his father’s behaviours. He walked like his father, he talked like his father, he played roughly like his father, he cooked like his father. He learned and grew while copying his behaviours.  As a child of God, we shall do the same, imitating God. How could we imitate God in Heaven, while we are still on earth? Let’s check the second point.

In verse 2, Paul asked us to conduct our life in love like Jesus did. Jesus is the living example how to live fulfilling our purpose and glorifying God (v.2). And He is God - "who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:6-8).

Third, in Verses 3-17, Paul put in contrast of what the new habits and old ones are. In short, new habits are to be holy, thankful and obedient. How we think will be shown in our actions, right? Check our actions. The actions of a new man will be all good, right and true. So that, how do I know what pleases God (v.10) and what is God’s will (v.15-17)? We must read the scriptures (Psalm 119:105) and build a relationship with God (Matthew 22:37-38).

Forth, in Verses 19-20, new humanity or new men in Christ always sing from the Spirit to Jesus - whether they are alone or together - and express gratitude to God. Singing and gratitude are natural expressions of love. If we love God, we will sing in the Spirit and give thanks. Love is related to a meaningful relationship.

The last but not the least, Verse 18, we can do those above-mentioned points of new humanity only if we live a life filled with Holy Spirit. We can only imitate God or Jesus perfectly, extinct the bad habits totally, singing and being thankful heartily, if the Holy Spirit works in us. The bottom line is that new humanity is a life led by the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

To God be the glory. God bless you.


Reflection on Ephesians 5:1-20 by Veralin Uneputty 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sermo Bonus | Good Language

"Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" —Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) 




 
My dear brothers and sisters, once there was a friend who used inappropriate or dirty words in front of us. When he was reprimanded by another friend, it caused a big fight. The one who said the foul words stated that he was still within limits. While the other one who rejected him affirmed his argument that the words had gone too far and it would be very bad when heard by other people.

The case of inappropriate words was not discussed as a matter of debate in the church at Ephesus. Paul firmly commanded believers that one of the ways they can be grateful for the redemption and new life in Christ was to keep His word. Paul did not want them to be known by their old ways of life, including their language - that means lying, being disrespectful by throwing dirty words, spreading evil gossips, slandering, or anything that can hurt someone else and cause a dispute. Instead, he wanted the Church of Ephesus to be known by their words that would give grace and strengthen one another as needed.

Brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should strive so that the words that flow in our hearts and come out of our mouths become a fountain of life.  May all who hear our words receive life and abundant blessings. Amen.



Reflection on Ephesians 4: 25 – 32 by Fr. Risco Batbual, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Novus Homo | The New Man

"and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" —Ephesians 4:24 





How long have we been a Christian? It's been years, even from birth I was a Christian.
It is not enough just to be a Christian or boast just because we are labeled a Christian if it is not accompanied by real life changes.

As long as we are alive, we will always struggle not with other people but with ourselves. There are many people who can beat others but it is difficult to win our own selves. The challenge that we will face is the challenge between the old man and the new man. What must we do to win?


Putting off the old man

"Therefore I say and affirm this to you in the Lord: Do not live anymore as those who do not know God with their thoughts in vain." (Verse 17). The way of life that God wants from our lives is to leave the old way of life that we did before knowing Christ. "That is, that you, in connection with your former life, must put off the old man, who met his destruction by his perverted passions," (Verse 22). We are encouraged not only to wear new clothes but also to live in new ways. Because we are called not only to believe in Jesus, but also to follow Jesus. And our decision to follow Jesus has the consequences of leaving life with the old, futile ways. Yet many Christians still have old human traits. The evidence is like the biblical description which are fornication, uncleanness, lust, idolatry, witchcraft, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, self-interest, abuse, spirit of division, envy, drunkenness, debauchery and so on. 


Putting on the new man

"... and put on the new man, who was created according to the will of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Verse 24). If we want to win against the old humans, we inevitably have to familiarize ourselves with God's ways of getting things done. We must have the courage to say "NO" to the old ways of life and always say "YES" to God's will.

It is not easy to make it happens, but remember we are only required to "put on" - means that The One who provides this new life is God. It means God will also enable us to live that new life as long as we surrender to Him who owns that life. And God will provide victory for everyone who believes and who relies on God in their daily lives. As new humans, we should no longer put on our old human nature; instead we put on the character of Christ and live according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

To grow into a new human being, the step we must take is to get rid of the old man's way of life and turn to Christ-like way and be led by the Holy Spirit. It is clear that sin is a major stumbling block to our fellowship with God. Therefore, never keep past sins that continue to haunt us and hinder our spiritual growth. Confess so that the blood of Christ may work to wash away our sins. Take a lot of time to study the Word and have a fellowship with God so that we get to know His person more deeply and can imitate his life. It also means that we want to be led by the Holy Spirit and no longer indulge in our own desires. GOD BLESS US!



Reflection on Ephesians 4:17-24 by Frt. Sandre Loreng
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Omnia in Christo | All things in Christ

“…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” – Ephesians 1:10

 

 


In this passage Paul wrote about how we, as the body of Christ, live our daily life in unity and maturity. Each of us is a church. We unite in the body of Christ with Christ as the head. The head moves the body. As Ephesians 1:10 tells about God’s purpose to unify all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Unifying different people is not a simple thing. How do we do it? Let me start with this analogy. When a couple goes to a marriage counsellor to settle conflicts, the counsellor will find the common ground of both parties in the first place. It is the same as the unity of the body of Christ. Paul wrote that if we have any disagreements, disputes or conflicts, as the body of Christ, please focus on 7 things: We are one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. We are one.

Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Everybody has a unique gift (Verse 7). This uniqueness builds up the strong body of Christ.

How to build a strong body of Christ? By learning from the right and true leaders and teachers (Verse 12). We can find leaders and teachers in our community, in our support systems, in our family, or maybe, in you.

It is important to ask God to surround us with people who strengthen us in Christ. I called it support systems. They are people who lead and teach us, who pray and support us, who participate in spiritual battle, and vice versa. These activities will lead us to unite in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ and become mature (Verse 13).

Dear brothers and sisters, when you are asking for a support system, Christ as a head joins us together in miraculous way in order to unify all things in heaven and on earth. To God be the glory. God bless you.

 

 

Reflection on Ephesians 4:1-16 by Veralin Uneputty

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Friday, May 14, 2021

Superabundanter | Immeasurably

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," - Ephesians 3:20

 



In Ephesians 3: 14-21, Paul prays for the church at Ephesus. Paul prays that they may experience the fullness of Christ's love (v. 17-19). In closing, Paul glorifies God "who can do so much more than we pray or think, as it turns out from the power that is at work in us! (v 20).

What is our attitude when we pray? When we pray, we often let our experiences limit our prayers. We are often trapped in situations that we think cannot change such as being bound by our bad habits that we think cannot be changed, or by a bad character of other people we cannot change. As time goes by and as more and more of our prayers unanswered, we think that the situations can no longer be changed. But Paul says that this idea is completely untrue. By the power of His power that is at work in us, God is able to do much more than we could ever imagine or expect.

Let's allow ourselves to take some moments in the presence of God who is so much greater than what we can imagine or comprehend. Believing that God can accomplish more than we ask or imagine. We take care not to let God's work be limited by any narrow boundaries that we set.

 

 

Reflection on Ephesians 3:14-21 by Fr. Fransiskus M.Diaz, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast here)


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Gratia Dei | God's Grace

“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me… which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.” - Ephesians 3:8-9

 




Growing up in a Taoist/Buddhist tradition, I was a sickly child, and in order to shield me from illnesses, my mom had brought me to a Chinese temple, to be dedicated as a godchild to one of the temple gods. I was indeed protected from harm and did exceedingly well in my Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) to qualify for Dunman High School (DHS). As per temple traditions, I was brought to the temple to release my vows to this unknown god when I was 12 years old.

High school was a huge struggle as I experienced what is now known as Dysthymia (undiagnosed), and my parents, being busy with their small fish mongering stall, were clueless about the "demons" that I was battling in my young mind. I dreaded school, had zero friends and was perpetually late to the point that I was hauled into the Discipline Master's room more than once as he lectured me on Confucian principles while I zoned out and stared blankly. I felt utterly alone and spent many lonely recesses in a secluded corner of the school, contemplating if I should jump from the 4th level, as I witnessed the chatter and the laughter of the other kids on the basketball courts below.

My grades suffered as I turned from a student who scored As easily in primary school into a troubled teenager who failed from Sec 1 to Sec 3, and was almost expelled by the principal who wanted to protect the reputation of Dunman High as an elite school with academic excellence. My mom begged him through tears on bended knees and I was given the ultimatum to pass my final year in high school or get booted out before the 'O' Levels.

Thanks be to God, I managed to buck up in the final 12 months of high school and scraped through with a passing grade, and passed my 'O' Levels to qualify for a local junior college. Even though I was still a pre-believer, it was God's Grace which enabled me to pass my 'A' Levels, and qualify for the local university too. Truly, God's Grace had started working in my life even though I was a very broken human with low self-esteem and deep-set loathing of myself. It took me another 20 odd years of rebelling against God, and living a fast life as a successful young sales manager, a habitual smoker, and an almost weekly clubbing ritual with friends. Back then I was pursuing what many young people today would call YOLO (You Only Live Once) values, but deep inside I was still broken and deeply angry with my own parents and angry towards myself, while wearing an outwardly happy smile and outgoing personality.

My worldly treasures crashed in 2005, after suffering an acute right-brain stroke. It was God's Grace that brought me to my knees to recognize that everything that I had been chasing up to my early 30s was merely  "Chasing after the wind" – as King Solomon had wisely pointed out. As a result of the stroke, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and 2 years later I hit rock bottom again when my marriage fell apart and I lost my job in the same year.

However, God's Grace kept me going even though I railed at God and raised an angry fist to Heaven for the unfairness of everything that was crashing or falling apart around me, including my sanity. Like the father in the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son, God the Father had always kept His Arms open to receive me and kept looking into the distance with loving eyes to see if I would run back to Him. Eventually, I did come back into His Arms through the loving community in the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Christian Peers Support Community in PSALT Care.

Today, I want to echo what St. Paul wrote to the young church in Ephesus, "Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me… which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things."

I will close my reflections with this timeless hymn of God's Grace, penned by a former slave trader, who was touched by the Holy Spirit to immortalize these beautiful reminders of His Amazing Grace.

 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch; like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

 

The Lord hath promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

 

When we've been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise

Than when we first begun.

 

 

Reflection on Ephesians 3:1-13 by Chris Tan