When Philip and I were living in Singapore in the early 1990’s, we had the chance to attend an Anglican Confirmation service held at the cathedral there. In the service we found ourselves not among local Singaporeans, but among expatriates like us — people from Europe or the U.S. who were temporarily living in Singapore. But the service didn’t lack for Singaporean influence because it was conducted by the Rt. Rev. Moses Tay, 7th Bishop of Singapore and later to be the first Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia.
Bishop Tay is a small, lively man with a very big presence and an obvious, passionate love for Jesus Christ. Before moving to Singapore, we had heard stories of his visits to Southern California for charismatic renewal conferences where he had danced in worship around the Communion Table, in front of God and everyone! We were excited to hear him preach and to witness his ministry. He did not disappoint.
Now nearly 20 years later, I still remember something Bishop Tay said as he admonished his Western confirmands. It was in the context of his simple sermon as he exhorted the young people to make their commitment to Jesus Christ FIRST in the lives. He explained what that meant in a practical sense and he included this charge, “When you wake up in the morning, make God first. Don’t read the paper first — read His Word first. Don’t listen to the radio first — listen for His voice first. Don’t talk to your friends first — talk to Jesus first.”
All these years later, I find myself rehearsing his simple but sound advice. At least once a week, as I pick up the L.A. Times off the counter and check out the headlines while coffee is brewing, I think of Bishop Moses Tay. Most days, I put the paper back down and choose to read God’s Word first, to listen to God’s voice first, and to talk to Jesus first.
But occasionally, I don’t do as Bishop Tay instructed. On those days I don’t lose my faith or stray far from the path of righteousness! But I do find that something shifts in my day.
- On the days I read the paper first, the tragedy in the world seems to loom larger than God’s goodness. Instead of joy, there is a sadness — after all, the world is so sad right now! And it’s as if what I encounter FIRST in the day gains precedence in my thinking and colors my emotions for the rest of the day.
- On the days I read the paper first, the sounds of the world around me are easier to hear than God’s voice. It’s as if what I listen to FIRST dims the sound of the sweetest voice — the one I long to hear — the voice of my Kind Savior Jesus.
- On the days I read the paper first, I have to work harder to commune and to be one with Him during the day. When I go first to my prayer chair and seek His face — when I speak to Him first, it’s as if I open a gateway to communication with Him that lasts the entire day. On the days I read the paper first, I miss that sweet, day-long flow of conversation and communion.
Okay, confession time: This morning, I picked up the paper and read it while my coffee was brewing. It was just sitting on the kitchen counter staring at me and its headlines beckoned me: The Santa Monica shootings, the security breach by Edward Snowden, the jury selection in the Zimmerman trial. I admit it — I read the paper first.
But half-way through my first cup of coffee, I remembered Bishop Moses Tay and his sound advice. So I am back in my prayer chair, asking Jesus to forgive me for not choosing Him first today. I am back in my right and proper place in His presence and I’m reading His word, listening for His voice, and talking to Him at what is still (relatively) the beginning of this day.
I’m so thankful for Bishop Tay in my life who spoke a little gem of God’s wisdom that has formed and shaped my Christian life. Bishop Moses Tay doesn’t even know me, but he changed my life with his simple admonishment to a group of young people being Confirmed into the Worldwide Anglican Communion back in 1991. Thank you, Bishop Tay.
How about you — now that you’ve heard Bishop Tay’s advice, will you remember it too?
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.