Week 5

30 November 2018 – Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

Scripture

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection

This is the crescendo of an amazing chapter. The author Paul sums up His long and complex doctrinal arguments by assuring us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” Our authority comes not from money, status, job title, material possessions, friends, family name or citizenship. Our victory is because God loves us. God. Loves. Us.

And that love is like nothing else. Neither death nor life. Angels nor demons. Not present things. Not future things. No powers in this world. No height is greater; no depth is deeper. NOTHING can separate us from the amazing love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, while Paul’s letter to the Romans may have a lot to offer in terms of the tenets of the Christian faith, let us not lose sight of what is at its core: that the God of the universe loves us and all good things come as we receive that love into our lives through a relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ (Charlie).

Thoughts for the day

  • In what areas of your life has God made you a “conqueror?”?
  • How can you better grasp the infinite greatness of God’s love?

Prayer

Pray for those who are in prison.

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By |2018-11-25T09:24:26+08:00November 30th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

29 November 2018 – Romans 8:26-30 (NIV)

Scripture

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Reflection

“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” What a promise! This verse does not say that “God works for the good of those who follow the law.” Or “God works for the good who try hardest.” God is a relational God. He loves us and desires more than anything that we can be in relationship with Him. As any good father, he also longs for us to experience joy, peace, and satisfaction. He wants us to thrive. And that can only happen when we are living in a loving relationship with Him – our creator and the author of our faith. It is not that God simply rewards the people who love Him; rather when we are in loving communion with God – which is what we were created for – we can know what goodness is. Outside of relationship with God, our eyes are blinded, our minds are distorted, and our hearts are desensitized.

If you desire a deeper relationship with God, then spend time in prayer with Him. You can even do it now. Tell Him you long for His love. Confess the things that you know are against His will for you. And open your heart to Him. If you don’t know what to say, then just ask for His Spirit to intercede. God loves you and wants nothing but good for you and your life (Charlie).

Thoughts for the day

  • Think of a time in your life in which God has made good out of difficult times.  How did He reveal more of Himself?
  • How can you better see God as your Heavenly Father?

Prayer

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Shanghai Community Fellowship.

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By |2018-11-25T09:20:41+08:00November 29th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

28 November 2018 – Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

Scripture

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Reflection

Throughout this chapter, Paul is juxtaposing ‘living in the flesh’ and ‘living in the Spirit.’ One practical application is our focus during times of hardship. The most power antidote to present suffering is having a sense of purpose. God has gifted us with two things that allow us to overcome our current situation and have hope: self-awareness, which is the ability to reflect on our thoughts, desires and feelings; and imagination, which allows us to see beyond our present circumstances. In addition, God’s own Spirit lives in and works through us so that can celebrate that which is yet to come.

So, in time so hardship, do you focus on your immediate circumstances and allow them to dictate your mindset? Or do you focus on the things of God – that which is eternal, life-giving and good? Living by the Spirit allows us to say with confidence that our circumstances are nothing compared to the glorious things of God. And with that confidence, we have hope that God is at work and that He will bring His plans to completion (Charlie).

Thoughts for the day

  • How can you focus on God during times of suffering?
  • In what areas of your life are you having a hard time? How can God work in those circumstances to refine you?

Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you create a space in your calendar and a place in your life for prayer. Where?.

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By |2018-11-25T09:16:53+08:00November 28th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

27 November 2018 – Romans 8:9-17 (NIV)

Scripture

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[c] And by him we cry, “Abba,[d] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Reflection

What is your identity? If someone asks you who you are, how do you respond? Do you define yourself by your nationality? Your job title? Your physical health/beauty? Your social class?

In this passage, Paul is revealing a powerful truth – that our identity is as children of God.   We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the God of the universe. This is a life-changing truth for those who truly believe and accept. Not only are we heirs of God’s promises, but we also have been given direct access to God (just as any child would have access to his/her father). Not only that, but God deposits His very spirit in us so that we can fulfill our calling as heirs of the King of Kings.

What a blessing! And the only thing we must remember is to be bold in accepting God’s gracious gift. He desires relationship with us. He wants us to come to Him and cry “Abba, Father” because he longs to shower us with His love. This is not just a right, this is calling – that we embrace our identity as children of God (Charlie).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you put your identity in?
  • What does being a child of God mean in your life?
  • Are there areas of your life in which you are not embracing your identity as a child of God? If so, how can that change?

Prayer

After the workday encourage your flat mate, your family or friends over dinner to share something they’re thankful for, and praise God for his blessing.

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By |2018-11-25T09:13:48+08:00November 27th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

26 November 2018 – Romans 8:1-8 (NIV)

Scripture

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Reflection

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Our righteousness is not a result of what we do. The law no longer has any authority over our lives. We are FREE!

How is this possible? Because we are IN Christ. Jesus, God’s only Son, came to this world to satisfy the requirements of the law. His death set us free. His resurrection gives us life. And His Spirit was sent so that we may live in fullness even now as we await His second coming.

This is the hope of the Gospel – that we are no longer slaves to the law, to this world or to our fleshly desires. God’s power can be made manifest in us so we can live in abundance as we walk in His Spirit.

So, are you living in the flesh or in the Spirit? If you struggle with a “mind that is governed by the flesh,” then there is good news: God is waiting for you to turn back to Him (and turn away from the things keeping you from Him) and His promise is to remake you into His image as you accept His life-changing grace (Charlie).

Thoughts for the day

  • Do you ever feel ‘condemned?’ If so, why?
  • Are there things in your life that you feel enslaved to? Food/drink, relationships, material things, habits?
  • How can you change from having a “mind governed by the flesh” to one governed by the Spirit?

Prayer

Stop and ask God to place a nation on your mind and heart. Pray for the people to blessed by God, the church to shine brightly and for God to be present in that place.

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By |2018-11-25T09:09:30+08:00November 26th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

3 August 2018 – Acts 18:18-28 (NIV)

Scripture

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Reflection

Alexandria was a major international city consisting of three large people groups; Greeks, Jews and Egyptians. The Greek culture dominated the city and Jewish people would often take a Greek name, like Apollo. Alexandria was a well-educated city and the high educational standards influenced everyone in the city, including Jewish people. It’s not surprise then to read of someone from Alexandria who was well educated and skilled in public speaking. All good things, but no substitute for the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in all of his fullness in a person’s life. Priscilla and Aquila saw this and encouraged him, “There’s more” (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • Who do you feel God is prompting you to encourge in their faith?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for the spiritually lost among the global community in Shanghai; pray that they will be drawn to God by the Holy Spirit.

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By |2018-07-26T10:58:37+08:00August 3rd, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

2 August 2018 – Acts 18:9-10 (NIV)

Scripture

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Reflection

Ever since Paul had received a similar vision to “go to Macedonia”, i.e. Europe; it had been a lot of struggle. He had been imprisoned, beaten, rejected, and debated. Now here he was in yet another city doing the thing God had given him the direction to do and the opportunity to do and it was the same hardship all over again. There was a tremendous spiritual battle being fought over the continent of Europe and Paul was right in the heat of it; a battle that was extracting a cost from Paul. So, a word of encouragement comes to him from his captain, “Do not be afraid. Keep on speaking. I am with you.; You are going to get a break in this place. You are not alone.” It was enough, Paul stayed another year and a half and the gospel stayed in Europe (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • When you face hardships, who do you turn to for encouragement?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for the nation of China. Pray for China’s leaders and for all those who are in authority. May they call on God for the wisdom to lead this country.

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By |2018-07-26T10:46:48+08:00August 2nd, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

1 August 2018 – Acts 17: 22-23 (NIV)

Scripture

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Reflection

Paul is addressing a crowd who doesn’t believe in just one deity, but in a multiple of deities. The Greeks worshipped all of them to ‘cover all their bases’, and just to make sure they have ‘covered all their bases’ they even worshiped a deity labeled ‘unknown god’. One of the underlying issues that are portrayed through this account is a deeper sense of trust issues. The Athenians didn’t believe in just one deity, because they didn’t have enough faith or trust for that singular deity to answer their prayers or petitions – hence worshipping a multitude of deities. However as a believer, we have the assurance that not only is Yahweh enough for us, but that He listens and answers our prayers. We can fully trust the Lord (Con).

Thoughts for the day

  • Which area in your life do you need to trust God more?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Think of someone you know who could use a little joy in their lives and pray for presence of the Lord to rest on them. “In His presence there is fullness of Joy” Psalm 16:11

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By |2018-07-26T10:43:17+08:00August 1st, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

31 July 2018 – Acts 17:10-15 (NIV)

Scripture

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Reflection

People are receiving the good news about Jesus in different ways. In the city of Berea the people come to faith in Jesus by “examining the Scriptures”, that is the Bible. They heard Paul’s message then they checked it out for themselves. An increasing number of people are turning up where Christians are gathered to discover what it is that Christians believe and teach, to “check it out” for themselves. Let us always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Be still and allow the presence of Jesus to bring rest to you right now.

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By |2018-07-26T10:05:52+08:00July 31st, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments

30 July 2018 – Acts 17: 5-9 (NIV)

Scripture

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

Reflection

Interesting enough, the very same accusation that Paul, Jason and some of the other believers are accused of in these couple of verses are the exact same charge the jealous Jews are guilty of namely: false testimonies, unrest and turmoil. These believers in Acts experienced how it felt like when people accused them falsely, and or for a situation to be blown out of proportion for personal gain. Yet, is seems they left the situation in God’s hands and for God to fight their battle for them (Con).

Thoughts for the day

  • How do you deal with unfair treatment or false accusations?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Stop and ask God to place a nation on your mind and heart. Pray for the people to blessed by God, the church to shine brightly and for God to be present in that place.

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By |2018-07-26T10:02:09+08:00July 30th, 2018|Week 5|0 Comments