Daily Archives: February 23, 2019

24 February, Sunday – It Takes Two

24 February 2019

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1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23

Saul set off and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, accompanied by three thousand men chosen from Israel to search for David in the wilderness of Ziph.

In the dark David and Abishai made their way towards the force, where they found Saul lying asleep inside the camp, his spear stuck in the ground beside his head, with Abner and the troops lying round him.

Then Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has put your enemy in your power; so now let me pin him to the ground with his own spear. Just one stroke! I will not need to strike him twice.’ David answered Abishai, ‘Do not kill him, for who can lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt? The Lord forbid that I should raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed! But now take the spear beside his head and the pitcher of water and let us go away.’ David took the spear and the pitcher of water from beside Saul’s head, and they made off. No one saw, no one knew, no one woke up; they were all asleep, for a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on them.

David crossed to the other side and halted on the top of the mountain a long way off; there was a wide space between them. He called out, ‘Here is the king’s spear. Let one of the soldiers come across and take it. The Lord repays everyone for his uprightness and loyalty. Today the Lord put you in my power, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.’

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1 Corinthians 15:45-49

The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.

In the face of injustice and sheer ineptitude, how does one remain compassionate when people are paid a decent wage to perform in a job? I was struggling last year with a situation that, thankfully, resolved itself just before the Christmas break. That made the turn of the new year and my planning for my division retreat that much easier and less fraught with uncertainty. I am convinced that God’s hand was at work when I received the much-awaited resignation letter in the middle of December.

Hypothetically, let’s take the same circumstances (frustration and all) into ministry, where everyone is a volunteer. Is it possible for us to also ‘wish away’ those who don’t pull their weight and just appear when things are resolved and everything is hunky-dory? I had that conversation recently with a colleague and he shook his head and agreed that when it comes to labouring in God’s vineyard, we cannot apply the same ‘corporate lens’ to situations and people. So what happens then? Do we just let things fester and deteriorate? What about those of us who are eager and willing to change things and to improve on simple processes that would make things smoother, less fraught with tension, and a lot more ‘idiot-proof’ so that we can all focus on the bigger picture – worshipping God and providing those around us with a conducive environment to pray and receive God’s blessings?

Inevitably, many well-meaning, ‘gung ho’ ministry members fall by the wayside when they don’t see the fruits of their efforts after a certain timeframe. I made a quick calculation (with some assumptions) and worked out that what usually takes an organization (500 to 600-strong) a year to implement takes a parish council or religious organization between 3 to 10 years, given a very lean administrative office of 10 to 15 paid staff (mind you, they are likely to be lowly-paid and not even competently trained in the areas they are handling such as HR, IT or Finance – the ‘square pegs in round holes’ conundrum).

I think it would be fair to surmise that should we, as ministry members, ever be appraised by our leaders, we would be found seriously wanting in hitting our KPIs (not that we ever had any to begin with). It is precisely because we give of our time, effort and talent that our leaders have no choice but to be compassionate when equipment starts to fail, when programmes take who knows how long to implement, when after a year of meetings/discussions/gatherings, the proverbial needle hasn’t moved much because the person tasked to lead change in one area hardly even turns up.

Brothers and sisters, if you are involved in church ministry, take care that you be compassionate not only to those around you, but to yourself as well. While it is good to set expectations, don’t let them overwhelm and dictate how you look at those who are perhaps wounded themselves and seek ministry as a sanctuary from their everyday work in the office. Because at work, we are answerable to a superior, but in ministry, the only one we answer to is God. And when it comes to dealing with God, we know that it is never a one-way street.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, you know us through and through, and our deepest motives for working in your vineyard. Give us the grace to recognize that sometimes, we may falter as we serve you but let us not chide ourselves or feel inadequate because you have something greater for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for your gifts and talents so that we can serve you mightily and without fear of being judged.

23 February, Saturday – Faith in spite of Fear

23 February 2019

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Hebrews 11:1-7

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It is by faith that we understand that the world was created by one word from God, so that no apparent cause can account for the things we can see.

It was because of his faith that Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain, and for that he was declared to be righteous when God made acknowledgement of his offerings. Though he is dead, he still speaks by faith.

It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not have to experience death: he was not to be found because God had taken him. This was because before his assumption it is attested that he had pleased God. Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.

It was through his faith that Noah, when he had been warned by God of something that had never been seen before, felt a holy fear and built an ark to save his family. By his faith the world was convicted, and he was able to claim the righteousness which is the reward of faith.

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Mark 9:2-13

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True,’ he said ‘Elijah is to come first and to see that everything is as it should be; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of Man that he is to suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? However, I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.

What is the weight of faith without being challenged or tested in the midst of fear and hardship? Life is certainly fraught with difficulties, trials, and sufferings. The weight of our faith can only be ‘measured’ by how much trust we place in the Lord – in spite of all that runs contrary.

But alas! Faith is a gift that is both given freely, but must first be sought out by the receiver. We who receive the gift of faith must first desire to seek and find and cherish. This is the essence of today’s scripture readings. In Hebrews we are reminded of the many Fathers of Faith who not only had faith, but held steadfast to their trust and reliance on God in the face of evidence that questioned whether God exists or was faithful to the promises He makes. With faith, we believe there is always more than meets the eye, that God is ultimately in control and He sees, knows, acknowledges, and blesses.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with Leukaemia, just at the cusp of our family relocating to another country for a new job. We were literally grounded. It has been a harrowing time for us and our families – and I cannot imagine how we would have managed in this whirlpool without our faith in God. The scripture readings today hit very close to my heart – like a mirror held up, asking, “How much faith do you have in the Lord?”

Sometimes, it seems that faith feels like a double-edged sword. In times of certain hardships, my faith had kept me afloat and steered my direction towards God. Those were times I had managed to grab on to Jesus’ staff with both hands and said, “Lord, guide me.”

Yet in other times, my reality is absolute chaos. Like now, when cancer strikes the family. We were without a roof over our heads, with our household belongings sailing as ship cargo, my little baby and I bouncing between grandparents’ homes, while my husband was bed-bound in hospital for weeks. In those moments, I wondered aloud many times, “Where are you, Lord? Is this a crazy joke?!” My world crumbled and I felt my circumstances were throwing us under the bus repeatedly, I could not seem to reconcile our painful reality with a good God. We were scared, suffering, and dealing with the grief of our lives being ripped apart from normalcy.

Still, we tried our level best and plodded on with a spark of faith which felt so tiny like the mere glow of a firefly in a dark, deep cave. The rough days and the hard moments come in choppy waves. At the same time, with one foot in front of the other, in spite of the fear and darkness, God led us into the light.

Indeed, like the scriptures today, our faith allowed us to trust in the “existence of the realities that at present remain unseen”. By God’s grace and merciful healing, my husband has been responding well to chemotherapy and it is amazing to realise how this period has not only brought my husband and I in deeper union in our marriage. It has also bestowed untold depths and texture to my husband’s faith life and relationship with Jesus. With God, everything is possible! 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Abba Father, I pray for healing for my husband and all who are suffering from cancer and other critical illnesses. I pray you bind up their wounds and bind up their hearts and homes that are shaken with fear and sorrow.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for the gift of faith that you first bestowed upon us which allowed us to hope for realities that at present seemed dim.