Worm and Fire

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Isaiah 66; Psalm 34

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Isaiah 66:24 (NKJV)
“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

REFLECT
This is how the book of Isaiah ends – with solemn words of judgment for those who have rejected the grace of God. The picture is that of eternal damnation, where worms and fire devour those who have done evil and promoted wickedness. The Holy One of Israel cannot allow evil to go punished, for that would render Him unholy.

RELATE
Although the world has largely become more advanced and developed, there seems to be an increasing wickedness. All the education and wellbeing has not brought about a better world (cf. Christchurch massacre, Syrian war, Singapore elderly suicide rates). Why is this so? It is because we are dealing with human beings. While the facade can been upgraded, the foundation remains shaky. No wonder the building crumbles to the ground every so often. God wants to deal with the root issue, i.e. our sinful nature. If we would allow Him to save us from the inside out, then we have nothing to fear – neither worm nor fire.

REST
Save me, O Lord, from the lie that I can save myself, and the deception that hell does not exist.

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Necessary Places

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Isaiah 45:11-48:11; Proverbs 21:8-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Isaiah 46:10 (NKJV)
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

REFLECT
It is comforting to know that God sees all things in all time. Nothing that happens to my life is an oversight on God’s part.

That person who bullied me, God knew it would happen. That accident that I got into, God let it happen. That sin I committed, God chose not to intervene. Why? Because He wants us to grow up, and take responsibility. God has given us everything necessary (even His Spirit!) for life in this world. Yes, it is the Father’s pleasure to see His kids fight evil, and win!

RELATE
As I write this, I’m feeling quite tired. This year, I turn 50, and my body is already showing many signs of aging. Aches and pain everywhere. Low energy. Deteriorating vision. I wonder how long more do I have on earth before my journey is up. Like Apostle Peter, I feel like I am constantly being led to places I would rather not go (John 21). Necessary places. Places where I won’t feel comfortable, but challenged to the point of despair. In the light of all that I am feeling and thinking, it sure is comforting to know that God has already gone ahead to prepare the way. All I need to do, is trust.

REST
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Marvel Hero

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Isaiah 28-30; Ps 31

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Isaiah 29:14
Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

REFLECT
Amidst the judgment facing Israel, there is hope. For God is not one who enjoys disciplining others, but one who does marvels and wonders. The leaders of Israel have relied on their own knowledge and intelligence, rather than follow God in obedience. But God will show them that His weakness is stronger than their strength, and His foolishness their wisdom (cf. 1 Cor 1).

RELATE
Recent years have seen the resurgence of Marvel comic heroes, like Spider-Man, Captain America, Ironman and so on. We love such heroes, because they make us marvel and wonder … and fill our deeper longings for a greater and glorious life. Even evolutionists must marvel at the beauty of creation and the creativity of humans. The next time you watch a Marvel movie, remember to praise the Lord during the credits.

REST
Lord, thank you for making such a beautiful and marvelous world. Grant me wisdom and grace to see Your glory in the created.

The sin of Hitler

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Isaiah 8-9; Proverbs 20:24-25

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

REFLECT
These verses have always inspired me. They paint a picture of humans living in misery and darkness, and suddenly a bright light shines upon them. When they see the light, their eyes are opened and their hearts lifted – yes, there is hope in life after all. Yet, for the Israelites, God’s mercy for the Gentiles remained a mystery. They had always thought that Yahweh only loved the Jews.

RELATE
One of the “dangers” of being too long a Christian is to somehow develop the idea that we deserve salvation more than the unsaved. We who were Gentiles now treat others as Gentiles. We make the same mistake as the Jews in Jesus’ days, shunning the unclean and avoiding the unworthy. Would this explain apartheid and racism, even in our enlightened times? Every time we look at someone and think that we deserve more than them, we have committed the sin of Hitler.

REST
O Lord, keep my heart always tender. Remind me that I am dust and my life is but a breath. May I never look down on a fellow human. Instead, let me honor him or her as Your precious handiwork.

Mushy God?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Zephaniah 1-3; Psalm 25

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)
The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

REFLECT
The first part of this verse is easy for most to accept, i.e. that God would save His people. But how about God rejoicing over us, singing over us, and cuddling us to sleep with His love?! Can I imagine the God of the Universe as an intimate Father (or Mother) who delights in His child, and who can’t wait to kiss me? Yes, it sounds mushy and mind boggling, but that’s Gospel truth!!

RELATE
Honestly, it is tough to relate with God like this. Much of the Bible seems to portray a God who is tough on sin and always ready to discipline His son. Maybe the best way for me to understand this is to think about how I treat my daughters. I’m always ready to hug them and show my affection in various ways. But if they start to harm themselves, or others, that’s when I need to do something. And that something would seem harsh and even cruel to an outsider. But only a true parent would understand that when God punishes his child, the pain is felt ultimately in His holy heart.

REST
“Rejoice over me, dear Father, and let Your holy arms surround Your beloved child! Let me hear Your heart sing!!”

Shut up

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Job 39-42; Proverbs 20:11

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Job 42:8 (NKJV)
Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

REFLECT
As I read what the 3 friends of Job said, I really don’t find anything wrong with the content. In fact, most if not all of what was said was theologically sound, and said in support of God Himself. Why then did God say that they have “not spoken of Me what is right”? What was the “folly” they committed? I suspect that they committed at least two errors. One is to say what was right in the wrong context. Second is to speak on God’s behalf when God did not require of it. In both cases, they wronged God by wronging their brother. Rather than speak foolishly, they should have just shut up.

RELATE
As a pastor, I receive many well meaning words from members, and often they claim to speak on God’s behalf. My attitude is to treat all words with respect, and to be open to God’s voice through His people. But there are many times, regretfully, that what was declared were neither true nor edifying. I am especially troubled when such words end up bringing grief and hurt to suffering people, like Job. I pray that those among us who are like Job’s friends will be convicted to practice the discipline of silence.

REST
Lord, may the utterance of my mouth always be acceptable to You, and a blessing to those who receive it.

Life after death?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Job 16-19; Psalm 20

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Job 19:25-26 (NKJV)
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,

REFLECT
For the past few chapters, Job seemed to be wondering if there was indeed life after death (cf. 14:14, 16:22). If this life was all there was, then he would have died without hope of vindication. But if there was life after death, then he would rather die now because of his suffering, and wait for the “next” life to settle scores with God. In today’s passage, Job seemed to have decided that there was indeed an afterlife, and God will redeem him from all his sufferings.

RELATE
How do we know for sure that we shall resurrect after we die? The truth is, we can never know for sure. When Christians say we are “sure”, we say it by faith, not sight. For none of us have seen the resurrected Jesus, or have met someone who was raised to life and never died again. Does this uncertainty make us fearful of the future? Well, it should not. For our faith is not something that we conjure up in our minds – but an assurance worked into us by the Holy Spirit. Feeling afraid of death and the future? Ask the Spirit to fill you with faith, hope, and above all, His divine love.

REST
Lord, this world is not my home. Help me to pray with Paul, that for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain! (Philippians 1:21)