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Devotional2018-09-28T23:40:26+08:00

13 July 2020 – 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (NIV)

Scripture

for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Reflection

Paul starts his letter to the Thessalonians with praise and encouragement. The readers of Paul’s letter used to worship other deities, but have since put their trust in the Lord after hearing the Gospel preached by Paul a couple of months earlier in one of his missions trips. The readers of First Thessalonians are currently facing persecution, and it’s in light of this that Paul now writes to the church to encourage them by stating how glad he is to see how open they were and still are to receive the teachings he had brought but also to hear from believers from other regions of the transformation that occurred in their lives.

The image of water creating a ripple effect when a stone is thrown into water comes to mind when reading this verse.  In the same way that the first ripple creates another ripple in the water, similarly, the news of the new-found faith of the Thessalonians and their testimony spread to other regions (creating a ripple effect) which Paul is praising them for. May this be an encouragement for us as we choose to follow Jesus, wherever we go knowing we are creating a ripple effect for God’s glory.

Thoughts for the day

  • What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
  • What does this passage tell you about humanity?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
  • Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.

Prayer

Today, take a moment, wherever you are, to ASK God to move in your life: Share what’s on your heart, asking God to provide, protect and encourage you.

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By |July 13th, 2020|Categories: Week 3|

10 July 2020 – 1 Corinthians 1:8 (NIV)

Scripture

He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

What does it mean to be “blameless”? Typically, it means that no one can blame you for any wrongdoing, even God who knows our hearts and thoughts. And in this passage, Paul is writing that God will keep us “blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How is that possible?? We are sinners. We struggle with a wide array of sins – some explicit, others of the heart (like greed, envy, unforgiveness, pride, and self-centeredness). Let’s be honest, none of us are blameless. Indeed, Paul makes this point in other letters – most famously he wrote in Romans that “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Paul also described himself as “the chief of sinners.”

So, what does it mean to be blameless?

One of the central truths of the gospel message is that our righteousness is not a product of what we do, but of what Christ has done. Jesus took our sins upon Himself on the cross so that we can be seen as blameless. We are then given the “cloak of righteousness,” which illustrates that God sees us through the work of Christ and not as people who have fallen short.

So, when Paul prays that God “will keep you firm to the end,” it is really about our relationship with Christ – that our faith in and love for Jesus will endure to the end, so that one day, when we are in the presence of God for judgment, we will be seen as blameless. And this is not because of our supposed piety on earth, but because Jesus took our blame on the cross.

Thoughts for the day

  • What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
  • What does this passage tell you about humanity?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
  • Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.

Prayer

Pray this prayer throughout the day, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

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By |July 10th, 2020|Categories: Week 2|

9 July 2020 – Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

Scripture

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

Reflection

The Christian faith is not just a feeling. As in any relationship, the feeling of love ebbs and flows. Some days our feelings for God are so strong we want to write worship songs and proclaim our affection for Christ to random strangers; other days we wonder where God is and echo the famous question in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If feelings were constant, we would not need faith. Faith is a commitment to act even when we are not feeling the presence of God. It is to worship God, be in community, pray, study His word, serve others and live morally upright not because we are gushing with love, but because we are committed.

Committed love is a higher form of love. It is less fickle. It has more depth. And it comes, in part, through knowledge. That is why Paul prays that “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” We are called to pursue knowledge of God and His ways. We are called to seek wisdom (depth of insight), which is an essential part of a holistic faith. And this is not just academic knowledge. Rather, it is a personal knowledge of God – who He is, what He desires, what He despises, and His work in this world. We can then, in our commitment to Him, follow better. Knowledge is a means, not an end. The end is our relationship with God, which is eternal and the fruit of committed love.

Thoughts for the day

  • What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
  • What does this passage tell you about humanity?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
  • Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.

Prayer

Lord we ask you to shield the world from panic and despair as Your Church boldly proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. In this uncertain time, may people find true comfort and peace in their souls as they call upon Your Name.

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By |July 9th, 2020|Categories: Week 2|

“Get to Know Us”

Like many of you, I can remember a time when I would go to the Pudong Airport to pick up a friend and notice on the “Arrivals” board the many departure cities and the plane loads of people arriving hour after hour. That seems like a long time ago.

While plane loads of people may not be arriving into Shanghai as they once did, there are still many people in our city who would be “new” to SCF.  You may know someone for whom connecting with a local church right now would be a good thing. Think of conversations you have had with people who seemed surprised to find out that there is an international church in Shanghai or have expressed an interest in the fact that you are connected to one.

On Tuesday, July 14, at 7:30pm in the SCF office, we will host a “live” Get to Know Us session where people can discover the value of a local church and a deeper spiritual life. Consider inviting someone; better yet, mention it to someone and offer to come with them!

By |July 8th, 2020|Categories: Pastor|

8 July 2020 – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)

Scripture

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Reflection

This passage makes it clear that sanctification – that is, the process of being made holy – is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and not the product of our efforts alone. This is a fundamental truth in Christianity and, yet, so many Christians live as if salvation must be earned. The default mindset is “I will do better in this area, or try harder in that area, and then God will bless me.” It is a human-centric view of spiritual growth and salvation. But here Paul is saying unequivocally that “God himself” sanctifies.

And sanctification (that process of being made blameless) is not superficial. It doesn’t mean we just stop cussing and instead go to church more often. It is a holistic transformation of the spirit, soul and body. Through God’s Spirit, our priorities change; our relationships change; our cravings change; our thinking changes; and our hopes and ambitions change.

Paul then ends by affirming this process of transformation is not something we do. He says “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Thoughts for the day

  • What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
  • What does this passage tell you about humanity?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
  • Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.

Prayer

Lord, we ask you to shield all doctors, nurses, first responders and vulnerable people from contracting COVID-19.

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By |July 8th, 2020|Categories: Week 2|

7 July 2020 – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (NIV)

Scripture

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Reflection

Paul’s prayer is that his journey would go forth not because of human means, but by God’s grace. This is a prayer of trust and patience (indeed, Paul would not arrive to Thessalonica for another few years). In the meantime, Paul prays for the believers of the Thessalonian church. He asks God to increase their love and make it overflow, illustrating a spiritual dynamic that we can only love others when we ourselves are filled with love. Love cannot be given from an empty vessel. But as God pours His love into our lives, it overflows into the lives of others around us. Conversely, hate, bitterness, unforgiveness and anger can also overflow into others’ lives. Our spiritual states are contagious.

Finally, Paul prays that God will strengthen His people’s hearts so that they may be blameless and holy in the presence of God. This is an interesting connection – that through our hearts we will be made blameless. He does not pray that God will strengthen our abilities; that is, that we will be empowered to “do good things” or to be more morally upright. Those things are important, but they are not the starting point. Instead, Paul prays for a strengthened heart. This is because our behaviors, relationships and attitudes start in the heart. And we are not made blameless by what we do, but in our relationship with Christ.

Thoughts for the day

  • What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
  • What does this passage tell you about humanity?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
  • Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.

Prayer

Lord we ask you to shield us, our families, our churches, our cities and the nations of the world from the ravages of COVID-19.

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By |July 7th, 2020|Categories: Week 2|