Calling and obedience

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Ezekiel 33:31-34:31; Proverbs 27:21-22

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Ezekiel 33:8 “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”

REFLECT
Ezekiel was called to be God’s mouthpiece to declare His message of warning and repentance to the people of Israel. If Ezekiel heard the word of God and declare it to the people; and even if the people did not turn from their wicked ways, the prophet will be saved. If Ezekiel heard the word of God but failed to declare it to the people; and if the people did not turn from their wicked ways and perish, then the prophet will have to bear the consequences. It was a difficult assignment. Yet God’s calling of His workers is always purposeful and His will is not to be denied.

RELATE
This passage reminded me of my own calling from the Lord to be a minister of His Word and Sacrament. Have I fully obeyed God’s call to speak into the life of His people each and every time? No, I have not. Yet by His mercies, Christ’s work on the cross atoned for these times when I have failed to be faithful. However, I cannot take God’s grace in Jesus Christ for granted. Because of His grace and truth, I must grow in obedience and faithfulness for God’s call for my life as a pastor. Even if He has called me to do and say things which might not be popular or even offensive to some; i must obey in faith. I must trust in God’s heart for His people.

REST
Lord God, help me to be the minister that You have called me to be. Your call is purposeful and no laughing matter. Help me to treat it with sanctity and grow to be the person You want me to be. Amen.

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Day 79

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 19:4-7
So Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul. “You should not commit a sin against your servant David,” he said. “He hasn’t sinned against you. Instead, he has done some very fine things for you: He risked his life and killed the Philistine Goliath, and the LORD gave all Israel a great victory. When you saw it, you rejoiced. Why then should you sin by shedding David’s innocent blood for no reason?” Saul listened to Jonathan, and he promised, “I solemnly swear, as the LORD lives, he will not be killed.” Jonathan told David all of this. Then Jonathan took David to Saul. So David was returned to his former status in Saul’s court.

As family members, we have access that others who are not flesh and blood related, will not have.

Too often I hear of people complaining about a son or a mother, an aunt or a grandfather and they ask for an “outsider” – a person of no biological relation to speak to the family member.

The strange thing is that they themselves haven’t given it a real try – to speak to their family member and brush it off as “Oh they wouldn’t listen to me.”

The more accurate description would be that they are afraid to damage ties as they would still have to meet the difficult relative on a regular basis long term. And thus it would be better for an “outsider” to handle the criticism, however constructive it might be.

I think God makes us one family for a reason. And if we can’t open up to our kinsmen and tell them the truth that can set them free and prevent them from sin – then we are no better than strangers to such relatives. Our relationship is only skin deep.

Proverbs reminds us that as “… iron sharpens iron, so 1 man’s life shall sharpen another.”

Day 78

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 15:10-11
Then the LORD spoke to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king. He turned away from me and did not carry out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he prayed to the LORD all night.

Samuel was upset.
Angry and disappointed at the turn of events.

But what did he do?
He prayed to God all night before he confronted Saul the next day.

What a wonderful example for us to follow, the next time we get upset – before confronting our spouse, our boss, our neighbor – we can pray all night.

Might make some of us want to be angry less often!!

Discipline and discipleship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Hebrews 11:32-12:13; Psalm 112:1-10

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Hebrews 12:6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

REFLECT
The author of Hebrews stated with clarity that God disciplines those whom He love. The goal of discipline is to help those whom God love to grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Godly discipline is therefore not to be shunned but instead to be seen as the way of discipleship. The word “discipline” in its Greek “paideou” gives the sense of “correction”, “guidance” and even “rebuke”.

In this day and age, such a word is not highly tolerated and widely received. In fact, some believers even consider it “un-Christian” to discipline someone even if the discipline is done out of love and for the sake of discipleship. No wonder many are getting nowhere in our attempts to fulfil what the Lord has commissioned the church to do i.e. “to make disciples” (Matthew 28)

RELATE
I know of believers who refused to discipline their church leaders who committed wrong-doings which clearly call for them to step down from ministry. Their reasons were that these church leaders had done great things; they had been serving for a long time and that no one is perfect. If these are the reasons, then everyone can serve as a leader in the church. There need not be any criteria nor is there a need for spiritual accountability. Anything goes. In that case, there really isn’t a need for the church to exist either since we can just do what we feel is right.

Perhaps it is not so much that some believers are not interested in communicating what is right or wrong; but there is the inherent fear that the talk of discipline creates disunity and even unpopularity. Such thinking is very much a form of deception. Discipline, when done in a godly and loving manner can create even more unity and authenticity. The lack of popularity is a personal struggle with insecurity and that should never come into the way of answering God’s call for us to do what is right. Let us therefore not be afraid of having discipline in the church as an important ingredient of discipleship. For that is the way of the Father.

REST
Lord our God, may you grant us the humility, courage and love to do what is good and right; even if doing these things may cost us our “popularity” with people. Amen.

Day 77

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 12:6-9
Samuel told the people, “The LORD appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors out of Egypt. Now, stand up while I put you on trial in front of the LORD and cite all the righteous things the LORD did for you and your ancestors. When your ancestors went with Jacob to Egypt and were oppressed, they cried out to the LORD, who sent Moses and Aaron to bring them out of Egypt. The LORD settled them in this place. But they forgot the LORD their God. So he handed them over to Sisera, who was the commander of the army of Hazor, to the Philistines, and to the king of Moab. All of them fought against your ancestors.

Samuel reminded the people of their ancestors’ folly. God would rescue them when they cried out but each time they would lapse into complacency and forget Him.

That is human folly.
To take God for granted when things are going smooth and only run to Him in times of trouble.

It is a good spiritual habit, I find – to recall God’s deeds in our life on a regular basis.
This produces thankfulness and gratitude.
And keeps us from being complacent and ungrateful.

Try it today.

Day 76

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 7:1-2
The men of Kiriath Jearim came to take the LORD’s ark and brought it into Abinadab’s house on the hill. They gave Abinadab’s son Eleazar the holy occupation of guarding the LORD’s ark. A long time passed after the ark came to stay at Kiriath Jearim. For 20 years the entire nation of Israel mournfully sought the LORD.

Eleazar was given the task of guarding the Ark.
And it remained there until David came to power and sought to bring it to Jerusalem.

It wasn’t an ideal situation. The Ark belonged elsewhere and was in transit.
A long transit.
Eleazar didn’t have the important task of a chief priest or a temple Levite. He was just the watchman over the interim transit of the Ark.
And boy did he end up doing it for a long time.

I wonder if he felt it was rewarding.
I wonder if he pondered how long it would be until they moved the Ark and he could embark on another task.

Perhaps you are in a vocation that is like that.
You were picked for a task and they told you it was going to be a temporary task but it seems to be spanning longer than you had hoped.

I would urge you to be faithful to the task.
Who knows what would have happened if Eleazar abandoned his post and when David came for the Ark, he would be greeted with “Uh we kinda lost the Ark.”

Some tasks seem small and they seem unrewarding but they play a great role in the grand scheme of things.

To watch the Ark for 20 years- while the people of Israel learnt lessons in repentance. I think that is a worthy task.

For Israel to treat the Ark in contempt- it would have meant their destruction.
So the separation was necessary.
Eleazar was performing a crucial role for the sake of Israel’s reconciliation.

Day 75

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 5:1-4
After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. They brought it into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. Early the next day the people of Ashdod saw that Dagon had fallen forward on the ground in front of the LORD’s ark. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the next morning they saw that Dagon had again fallen forward on the ground in front of the LORD’s ark. Dagon’s head and his two hands were cut off and were lying on the temple’s threshold. The rest of Dagon’s body was intact.

You cannot put the Ark of God in the same place as an idol and expect nothing to happen. No false gods can stand in His presence.

That is why the idol kept falling down.
Notice that the idol could not stand without even human help.

That is what idols are- manmade carvings and without the true essence of divinity.
The Bible teaches in the 10 Commandments that we are not to worship idols.

God doesn’t want us pursuing meaningless pursuits that are to our detriment.
He wants us to pursue purposeful things that do not just