What do we want to see?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Cor 4:13-5:10; Ps 113-114

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

REFLECT
What does Paul mean when he says he walked by faith, and not by sight? Does he mean that he closes his eyes when he walks, trusting God to lead him and keep him from danger? I don’t think so! It is clear that he is repeating an idea he introduced at the end of chapter 4, that what is seen is temporal while what is unseen is eternal – therefore we should focus on what cannot be seen! Don’t focus on your ailing body, Paul says. Instead, look to the One who will give you a new one! Don’t find fulfilment from food, drink and worldly pleasures. Rather, find joy and rest in God’s presence though the Holy Spirit.

RELATE
Some years back, I learnt a precious lesson, i.e. you can only see what you expect to see. I was on the island of Komodo, learning how to spot Komodo dragons. At first, it was impossible to see them even if they were right in front of you, for they blended into the environment perfectly. But after some time, my eyes were trained to see the “unseen”. Yes, just because we cannot see something doesn’t prove that it is not there. Those who don’t believe in God cannot see Him because they don’t expect to. But for those who walk by faith, we can discern the invisible and discover the eternal. The question is – are we so satisfied with the seeable that we no longer search for the Seekable?

REST
Psalm 113:4-5
The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high!

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Common Superstition

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Judges 17:1-18:31; Proverbs 15:8-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Judges 17:13
Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!”

REFLECT
How is this possible? A man who made for himself idols, who arbitrarily appointed his own son as priest, and then hijacked a Levite – considers himself to be blessed by “the Lord”! This passage teaches us that not every reference of “the Lord” in the Bible is legit (short for legitimate – youth lingo). Because he recruited a Levite, Micah assumed that God would bless him. For some reason, he didn’t realize that he has broken the first three of the 10 commandments (worshipping idols, making idols, taking God’s name in vain). The only mitigating factor was that Micah (and his mother) was probably never taught Moses’ laws, and therefore depended on common superstition.

RELATE
Just because a pastor has blessed our home does not mean that God will bless it too. Just because we said grace does not mean that our food will be rid of cholesterol and carcinogen. Just because we are members of PMC does not mean that we are going to Heaven. The fact is that many Christians today depend on common superstition more than the Word of God for faith and life. That’s why we continue to make idols and bow down to them – and still think that God is blessing us. Just because life is comfortable doesn’t mean that God is on our side. Conversely, just because life is tough doesn’t prove that God is being bad to us. In fact, your suffering right now might likely be the consequence of carrying your cross on the road to Blessedness.

REST
Bless me, O Lord – with joy in suffering, peace in pain, and hope against hell.

The Paradox of the Fleece

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Judges 6; Psalm 106:32-48

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Judges 6:39
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.”

REFLECT
Different commentators have a different take on what Gideon did. Like Rev Timothy said in his sermon yesterday, most scholars agree that Gideon shouldn’t have tested God. I am not so sure. For one, the text does not comment on whether Gideon did right or wrong. But we do know that God granted his request, twice. Secondly, I feel that many scholars have injected their own biases into the interpretation. At best, the text is neutral on the issue. If I am allowed to share my own view, I think Gideon was being very human – like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses before him. Being human, he needed two more assurances from God (the first being the fire on the rock) before he was ready to go into battle.

RELATE
Do I put out a fleece before I act upon something that God has called me to. Well, no. I don’t see the need to. But would I judge someone who does that, because their faith is weak? Again, no. Paradoxically, it actually takes some faith to put out a fleece. Faith to believe that God hears our prayers. Faith that there is in fact a God who will wet the fleece. Now the only problem is, what if the test fails and the fleece remains dry? Does that mean that God will not be with us? Or is it God’s turn to test us now?

REST
Lord, teach me to hear Your still small Voice. Help me to recognize You so well, that I wouldn’t need to lay down any fleece – but simply obey.

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Dilemmas

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Joshua 19-20; Proverbs 14:28-29

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Joshua 20:9
These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.

REFLECT
The Bible provides for accidents, and mistakes. God looks at our intentions. He knows when we mean it, and when we don’t. This ancient rule shows how practical God’s commands were. Provisions were made where accidental murderers could flee to, until a proper trial was conducted. The avenger of blood here probably refers to a close relative of the murdered victim, who was obliged to mete out justice on behalf of the clan. Yes, there must be justice. But mercy prevails.

RELATE
In recent days the 377A debate has ignited again. One reason given for scrapping the law is that it is ancient and therefore outdated. The question is, are all things ancient outdated? C.S. Lewis refers to those who think like this as committing “chronological snobbery”. No one would say that the ancients were wrong about the problem with stealing, murder, or disobeying parents. Yet some today argue for the repealing of the sodomy law because our forefathers were wrong about love and sex. So, is homosexuality a perversion today as it was during Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, yes. But should we consider all practicing gays and lesbians today as criminals of the State? Then how about those who commit adultery and abortion? Surely, these too have practiced perversion, as far as God’s design is concerned.

REST
Lord, grant us wisdom for our times. In our zeal for justice and purity, may we not lose sight of mercy and the power of grace.

Neither

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Joshua 5-7; Psalm 104

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Joshua 5:13
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

REFLECT
It was indeed strange that Joshua did not recognize the One who stood before him. Had he not by now gotten acquainted with the Presence of God? Maybe not. Or maybe it was intentionally kept from his perception. Nevertheless, Joshua recognized that this was a man of authority, or he would not have bowed down immediately upon the man’s declaration as “Commander”. But why the question – “are you for us, or our enemies”? Would one more person with a drawn sword matter? I think so, especially if that person was about to bring you the Word of God.

RELATE
Lord, are you for me, or my enemies? This question seems dumb, and the answer obvious. Why would God not be for me, His beloved child? Maybe we sometimes look at our enemies and see them more blessed than ourselves. Perhaps the difficult situation we are in right now make it seem like God has stopped fighting for us. Lord, are you for me, or against me? You sent Your Son to die for me … how can You be against me? Perhaps I should focus less on my own troubles, and more on Your goodness and glory. Like Joshua, I should listen carefully to the Commander’s reply regarding who he was for. “Neither”. (Jos 5:14)

REST
Lord, help me to realize that Your purposes are greater than all my pain.

Peaceful Offence

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Romans 12; Proverbs 14:13-14

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

REFLECT
Some things don’t depend on us. We can’t stop a nasty neighbour who insists on being inconsiderate and quarrelsome. We cannot prevent a colleague who looks for every opportunity to attack or provoke us. Some things don’t depend on us. But many things do. We can choose not to retaliate. We can choose to keep quiet. We can even choose to return evil with good.

RELATE
How does one live peaceably with others? One way is to not take offense easily. I have to constantly remind myself of this when I’m driving. Singapore roads are merciless, and Singaporean drivers are aggressive. When someone does something unkind or ungracious, my instinct is to react in kind (not kindness), or to “teach him a lesson”. I must now choose if I should respond in wrath, or in peace. If I take offense, then my anger needs to be satisfied. But if I opt for peace, then I can remind myself that the other party is probably not ready for a driving lesson, and the most loving response is to say a prayer for him. “Lord, bless him, and teach him how to drive!” 😉

REST
Lord, the next time I say to myself that “I have no choice” – help me to realize that it’s probably just an excuse, and then to choose wisely. Amen.

Who am I singing to?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Romans 7:14-8:8; Psalm 95:1-96:13

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Psalms 96:1-3
Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.

REFLECT
Singing, that’s what we do in church every Sunday. Many prefer to sing old and familiar songs, some want to sing new songs. But who are we singing to? I wonder if sometimes we are singing to ourselves. We enjoy hearing our own voices. We sing to console ourselves. We sing because it’s what people do in church. But three times the Psalmist calls us to sing “to the Lord”. He is the “target” of our singing. We sing for Him, to Him, and in His Presence. To whom have we been singing?

RELATE
Singing to the Lord need not be done in church. In fact, it is to be done wherever we are – in the bedroom, in the living room, in the office, in the classroom, in the park, and in the MRT. Sing loudly, sing softly, sing silently – the volume does not really matter; but the heart does. If our heart sings, our mouth will proclaim, and our actions will declare. Yes, our lives will declare the good news of God’s salvation and glory and wonders. To whom have we sung the Gospel’s song?

REST
Lord, make my life a song of praise, and a hymn of salvation!