Blame and Bribe

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Samuel 15-16; Proverbs 17:1

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 15:21 (NKJV)
“But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

REFLECT
Blame and bribe. Blaming the people, and bribing God – that’s what Saul tried to do. The Lord has given him very specific instructions to destroy everything. Perhaps Saul thought that he had already obeyed 90%. What a waste to kill all the livestock. Let’s keep the king alive as a prize catch – and show the neighboring nations what Israel was capable of. But when confronted by the prophet, Saul was quick to blame his subordinates for his disobedience. And he tried to bribe the Creator with creatures. How foolish!

RELATE
Yes, foolish. That’s how I am sometimes. Instead of taking responsibility for my own failures, I try to find scapegoats. Blame the other person. Blame the weather. Blame the government. Blame God. But until I am able to be honest and take ownership, I will remain in my immaturity. I will keep finding excuses, and evade the matter at heart. Worse still, I will begin (like Saul) to think that perhaps I can get God on my side if I share some of my spoils with Him. Yes, I would become religious, yet unsaved. May God save me from such a tragic end!

REST
Lord, help me to trust You enough to always do the right thing – even if it baffles my mind, and hurts my pride.

Advertisements

Dumb questions?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:1-2:21; Psalm 125

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 1:8 (NLT)
“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”

REFLECT
Whenever I read this verse, I can’t help but laugh. Poor Hannah, being asked two dumb questions and then one more dumber one! As a husband, like Elkanah, I confess to sometimes asking dumb and insensitive questions. And the problem is because I have forgotten to step into the shoes of the one suffering. Yes, Elkanah was a nice husband who pampers his childless wife with double portions. Yet he could not fathom why a child was so important to Hannah. All he could think of was himself as the solution of all problems.

RELATE
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, the book of James teaches us. If Elkanah would spend more time listening, he would probably have kept silent. None of us can fully understand the suffering of our neighbor. Instead of trying to offer unhelpful words of comfort, perhaps we should just cry with them. One reason why I sometimes ask dumb questions is because I become impatient. I wish inside that the problem would go away ASAP, so that everyone can be happy and move on with life. But no. That’s not the way to love, and live.

REST
Lord, teach me to love in a way that makes sense to the one loved.

Gospel and War

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Mark 12:38-13:13; Proverbs 16:19-2

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Mark 13:12-13 (NKJV)
Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

REFLECT
How can a gospel of peace and love bring death and hate? Why is there so much at stake, that family members would betray one another unto death? Why can’t we just compromise, tolerate, and allow everyone to live as they desire? The only reasonable explanation is that evil is real, and good will be mercilessly attacked.

RELATE
Nobody likes to be hated. Surely not me. I don’t even like to be disliked! By nature, I’m peace-loving, and people-pleasing. I avoid conflict, and shun confrontation. But there are times when war is necessary. When false teaching threatens the church. When wolves prowl amongst the congregation. When human agendas seek to supplant kingdom priorities. Yes, evil is real and good can be hated. May I endure to the end, and be saved.

REST
Lord, help me never to choose popularity over honesty, and ego over eternity.

Why Pray?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Mark 9; Psalm 119:129-152

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Mark 9:28-29
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

REFLECT
Another tough saying from the Lord. The disciples’ question indicated that thus far, they have been able to cast out all other demons by the authority that Jesus had given them. Yet, this was different. But why? In Matthew’s account of this episode, Jesus said the disciples lacked faith, adding that “this kind” could only be cast out by prayer (and fasting). It would be fair to assume that Jesus himself had prayed before He dealt with his particular demon. If Jesus had to pray, may we not be so presumptuous to think that we are exempt.

RELATE
Why pray? This theological question has bugged me since my early days as a Christian. I even have a book with that title! I have come to the conclusion that prayer is a mystery, and the only way to understand it is to pray. To pray is to realize that we have an important part to play in God’s saving work. If we don’t pray, He might allow certain important work to be left undone. We would then miss out on the joy and privilege of being His partners. It is my prayer, that in the coming year, God will help me to pray more, and pray better. This is a prayer that He will certainly answer!

REST
“Lord, teach me how to pray!”

Mercy for demons?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Mark 4:46-5:20; Pro 16:6-7

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Mark 5:11-12
Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
And at once Jesus gave them permission.

REFLECT
I have always been intrigued by the demons’ request. Why would they even bother to beg Jesus, unless they expect some form of mercy? On the part of Jesus, why would he even bother with the pleas of unclean spirits? Shouldn’t he have spoken the word and rid the world of their foul influence? Yet, the Son of God answered the prayer of undeserving demons at the price of 2000 precious pigs.

RELATE
We can never fathom the depths of God’s mercy. Yet, we are often too quick to judge the sins of others and declare their condemnation. We call people hopeless, and beyond redemption. Such attitudes only betray our lack of self-understanding, and poor awareness of our own depravity. We forget that we have been pardoned from hell only by the grace of God. Instead of lamenting for wasted pigs, we should be praising Jesus for redeeming the seemingly unredeemable – by His own precious blood.

REST
Lord, may we never be too quick to judge another as beyond help and hope. Teach us to show mercy in the way we have known mercy.

Sovereign

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ruth 1; Psalm 109:17-32

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Ruth 1:20-21
But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

REFLECT
Why do we always blame God for our trials and troubles? Why was Naomi so sure that it was God who took away all that she ever loved? The biblical author did not hint at any wrongdoing by Naomi. Her suffering did not result from any exposed sin, and her lament seemed justified. In fact, as the story unfolded, Naomi ultimately received the blessings of having Israel’s Redeemer as her descendant.

RELATE
For me, to attribute all things to God is not blasphemy, but an acknowledgement of His sovereignty. While God might not have struck Naomi’s loved ones dead, He did not prevent their untimely demise (though He had the power to). So in a strange way, Naomi’s bitter words about God’s bitter actions were a declaration of faith. She did not suppress her disappointment and even anger with God, but spoke of it as one who expected better from Yahweh. Like Job did. Like the lamenting psalmists did. Yes, even in my most difficult trials, I will not pretend that God is absent – but proclaim that He is sovereign.

REST
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us!
(Song by Michael W. Smith)

The Bible Trap?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Proverbs 15:24-26

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Proverbs 15:24-26
The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.

REFLECT
The book of Proverbs answers the cry of one who asks “how shall we live?” For the author, the greatest reward comes from a life of wisdom. Not intelligence, but wisdom. Intelligence is about brains, but wisdom is about life. How shall we live? We live prudently, with our time, our resources, our choices. We are careful not to follow the crowd. Next, wisdom is not proud, because the wise man understand his frailty and his utter dependence on others. He who is proud must contend with his Creator. Lastly, the wise thinks pure and speaks grace. He believes that while we are sinners, we can choose not to sin.

RELATE
Sometimes we can fall into what I call the “Bible trap”. How the trap works is that it encourages the study of the Bible as an end in itself. It is more concerned about correct interpretation than correct living. It argues that it is not possible to live correctly without understanding precisely. It is prudent to the extent of becoming proud. In short, it makes the mistakes of the Pharisees. The Bible trap stifles the Christian life by choosing intelligence over wisdom. For this reason, I believe God has placed the books of Psalms and Proverbs right in the middle of the Bibl–- to remind us that the Word is to be understood only by living it out.

REST
Dear Lord, free me from religion into relationship, from law into love, from legalism into life!