Boundaries of Mercy

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Deuteronomy 18-20; Psalm 81

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 19:14
“You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

REFLECT
This was a simple but important command – don’t try to gain a little bit more land by shifting your neighbor’s boundary fence. Given the large areas that agricultural families might own, the adjustment would not even be noticeable. But the principle remained. What belonged to another was not for one to take freely. Personal ownership was respected. But generosity was also expected. (See e.g. Deuteronomy 15:7)

RELATE
Today, my thoughts turned towards the millions of desperate people leaving their own country in search of safety and survival. At present, many countries in Europe have decided to close the door to migrants. They have sealed their borders and erected soldiers to guard them. Even when these migrants were dying at sea, they have not been allowed to land on European soil. How did personal ownership become the reason for cruelty? If someone dying knocks at our door, do we have a right to chase him away? What would Singapore do if one day a boat full of Rohingyas is discovered just 100m off East Coast Park?

REST
Lord, help me to never shut the door at anyone who needs a place of refuge.

Advertisements

Bowing Down

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Deuteronomy 4; Proverbs 12:25

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 4:15-16
“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female …”

REFLECT
Why was God so concerned that men would make idols and worship them? What were the consequences of humans bowing down to wood, stone, animals, and planets? Someone has said that we become what we worship. We who are made in God’s image would lose our identity when we start identifying with lifeless objects and wild beasts. The natural outcome would be suicide and genocide.

RELATE
Most of us don’t worship wood, stone, animals and planets anymore. We know that is ridiculous. Modern science has rid us of superstition and primitive idolatry. We no longer bow down to idols. Or so we think. Jesus reminded us candidly that murder and adultery are committed even before one makes the first move. They have already begun in the heart. We might think we are standing, but inside we have bowed to hate, lust, and other invisible deities. Thankfully, God prescribes the same cure for dealing with idols without and within – death to self, and life in the Spirit. In other words, loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

REST
Lord, deepen my love for You. Show me who You really are, that I may become who I truly am.

Anger, Empathy and Love

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13; Psalm 77

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 13:5
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

REFLECT
While I don’t usually subscribe to the NIV, its translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the most helpful for me. Most challenging to me is the part on not being easily angered and not keeping record of wrongs. How difficult that is! I often ask myself, what makes a person lose their temper so quickly? Genetics? Physical and emotional tiredness? Perhaps. But I suspect the culprit is often the inability to empathize. We get angry with someone because we cannot understand why they behave so differently from what we expect. Be it with an inconsiderate driver, incompetent colleague, imperfect spouse, or uncooperative child – our quickness to anger reflects our own inability to love.

RELATE
How easy it is to point the finger. When I lack love, I quickly put the blame on the other. It’s her fault. He made me so angry. Yet an honest look into my heart would reveal the root of the problem – my own pride, and my inability to embrace the weak and imperfect. No one can make me angry. I need to be reminded that anger need not be my only response to another person’s actions. Try mercy. Try sorrow. Try love.

REST
Lord, the next time I am tempted to react angrily – show me a better way to live.

No more meat?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Corinthians 8; Proverbs 12:11

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

REFLECT
What a radical statement! Then again, Paul was very radical – for he had followed a radical Master. For Paul, food was food, whether offered to idols or not. Food is God’s gift to us, and we should not think that it can poison us just because it was offered to idols. Evil has no power against the saints of God. But some saints are still trapped in their troubled past, and those who are “freed” must be patient with them. For if our freedom stumbles another, then we are not truly free.

RELATE
How often do we ask if our actions affect those around us? While we should not be overly self-conscious, we must learn to be aware of the influence we have on others – be it in the office, at home, or online. Life is not about who knows more, but who loves more. This week, ask God to show you one area where you might have inadvertently stumbled someone. And if you need to, take action to address it!

REST
Lord, help me to live my life in such a way that it draws others nearer to You. Grant me the grace to surrender my freedom for the sake of another person’s salvation.

Prepared

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4; Psalm 70

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

REFLECT
As Paul elaborates on the “hidden wisdom of God” (v7), he refers to the prophet Isaiah’s message in Isa 64:4. What caught my attention was the word “love”, which I don’t remember reading in Isaiah. Interestingly, I found out that Isaiah wrote “those who wait for Him”, instead of “those who love Him”. It seems that for Paul, to be willing to wait on God is to love Him. To wait is to trust. To trust is to obey, even when we don’t understand. That’s what loving God truly means. (See John 14:21)

RELATE
It brings me great comfort to know that God has unimaginable things in store for those who trust and love Him. Often, in my troubles and trials, I lose sight of God’s promises. I begin to feel weak, helpless, and even despairing. But I am reminded today that God has prepared wonderful stuff for me that can only be received through waiting, and walking by faith. My task is not to worry, but to love. Yes, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. His deliverance will come!!

REST
“It is well, it is well, with my soul!”

Daily Sacrifices

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Numbers 26:52-28:15; Proverbs 11:23

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Numbers 28:9-10
On the Sabbath day, sacrifice two one-year-old male lambs with no defects. They must be accompanied by a grain offering of four quarts of choice flour moistened with olive oil, and a liquid offering. This is the burnt offering to be presented each Sabbath day, in addition to the regular burnt offering and its accompanying liquid offering.

REFLECT
God instructed Moses to offer daily sacrifices as part of Israel’s worship life. This would include the people’s staple of meat, bread, and wine. But once a week, on the Sabbath, the sacrifices are doubled. We are not told why this is so, but it was likely that the weekly Sabbath would be a special day of focus and increased emphasis on worship.

RELATE
We can easily identify with the special emphasis of worship once a week. What we often forget is that God has required of us a daily sacrifice. Not because God is a needy deity, but because we need to be reminded of the meaning of our lives. We have been created to worship God, and this is expressed through our work, play, and relationships. Yes, when I realize that my every moment is to be worship unto God — what I say and do at work, at home, and in my privacy cannot be mediocre or meaningless again.

REST
Lord, show me how to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Remind me constantly that my life of worship does make a difference to You – whether You smile, or You sorrow.

Fire and Forgiveness

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Numbers 15:17-16:40; Psalm 65:1-13

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Numbers 16:34-35
Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.

REFLECT
Not too longer ago, we read from Hebrews that our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). Today, we see what that meant. For their rebellion against Moses, the Lord killed Korah and all who colluded with him. Why so serious? Why death and not just a stern warning? We could only assume that the Lord knew the condition of these men’s hearts. Although God is patient and compassionate, it was likely that those who were killed would have spurned His offer of mercy and love anyway.

RELATE
It is natural for us to get worried when we read an account of God’s judgement like this. We wonder when our sins would bring upon the Lord’s fire upon us, or cause the earth to split. No, I do not believe that God’s children should respond in such fear. God knows that we are weak, and He has already forgiven us in Christ. While we do not want to take God’s grace for granted, neither should we live as though Jesus did not die for us. For the sake of sinners, the fire had consumed the Savior. The next time we sin – do some reflection, say sorry, ask God to help you not to do it again, and move on in peace.

REST
Lord, I know I am weak. Sometimes I feel so helpless against the temptations of this world. Thank you for your promise of help, and of forgiveness when help fails.