Daily Archives: March 20, 2019

21 March, Thursday – Self-examination

21 March 2019

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.
‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:

‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart

Medical examinations are quite helpful in determining the state of health that you are in. With such advancements in medical science, technology and research, understanding your own body and fixing it has never been easier or more accessible to the masses. I find though that the older we get, the more we tend to shy away from getting a health examination. We fear what the results might uncover, so we would rather not know. And what if we do know? Then the cost of fixing the problem could be a great inconvenience. Therefore, ignorance is bliss!

But while there is a ‘black & white’ process for physical examinations, what about the examination of our own hearts? Not the physical well-being of it, but the emotional and spiritual well-being. The Lenten period is a good time for self-examination of our emotional and spiritual state, and of our relationship with God. True, there is no straightforward answer of how we are doing (unlike a medical examination), and we mostly lie in a sort of gray area where we’re not quite sure where we stand. How do we justify our actions, and should we? If we lay bare our hearts before God, what would our results show? Perhaps we would rather not know and remain in a state of denial – all is good with us, all is good with God.

But God has given each of us a conscience, and that serves as our heart health barometer, our moral compass. The closer we are to God, the stronger the conscience, and even if you didn’t feel that you had that strong bond with God, we nevertheless know if we have done something right or wrong. Does it nag at you, do you lie awake at night mulling over what you did or didn’t do? Do you regret saying things that you did or didn’t? Could you have done something better that you would be proud of? Did you show congruence between what you say you are and what you do? If these are questions that keep you up, perhaps that is God’s way of probing our minds and hearts. He has given us free will, and with that comes accountability for our actions. Because we have free will, we will undoubtedly encounter many occasions where our hearts will indeed be tested, to determine what route we will take. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing that we can ever do.

Lent isn’t just about abstinence from pleasurable activities. Lent is also about self-examination. Lent is about what we are going to do, once we uncover something from that examination. Lent is about preparing ourselves, fixing ourselves and facing the truth that maybe something within us could be better. Lent is about having a purpose in our fasting and abstinence, not so much to meet a 40-day goal, but that in that 40 days, we change what our conscience tells us needs changing, and in doing so, we come just that little closer to God. Lent isn’t just about God coming to us, but that we – as sinners – are going back to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, harden not our hearts that we remain in a state of denial, but awaken in each of us sinners, a renewed sense of longing to change for the better, to change for You.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the strength during this Lenten period, and for courage to face our demons, be they bad habits that we need to banish or negative thoughts that we need to lay to rest. May they never return to haunt us.

20 March, Wednesday – Fairness in God’s Kingdom

20 March 2019

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Jeremiah 18:18-20

‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’

Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.

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Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

  Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

  When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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Should evil be returned for good?

Last Friday, the world was shaken yet again by the news of another senseless shooting at a place of worship. This time it was at two mosques (Linwood Mosque and Al Noor Mosque) in Christchurch, New Zealand. The death toll is a number that will never truly reflect the sheer number of lives thus forever altered by this act of violence and terrorism.

In the midst of this great pain and suffering, loss and grieving, we cannot help but ask – where is the sense and fairness in all of this? Why do the innocent suffer or die while the wicked live or get away scot-free? We expect a certain logic and universal law to life but we are often met with unfairness in our daily dealings and news like these.

It is in these times that Jesus’ words in the gospel give us a sliver of hope: “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, an anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” It recalls the verse in Mark 9:35 “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

We know that the Muslim worshippers had set apart their Friday to honor and praise God. They had taken time to slow down to pray. Time away from work, away from other obligations to make an offering of attention to God. Yet, in this, they ended up victims to a very deluded killer. Their martyred souls are certainly closer to their Maker for the very fact that they lost their lives in the very house of God. I believe that God receives the souls of these victims – of which a child as young as three is amongst them.

While we are tempted to hate and anger and revenge, I am humbled and moved by the outpouring of compassion, forgiveness, and tenderness that is shown between people of all stripes and faiths in the aftermath of this tragedy. People from various backgrounds offering to keep vigil and guard the mosques while their Muslim brethren pray. Muslims reaching out to people of other faiths and offering their hospitality in return. We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond.

God sent Jesus to overturn our expectations of what we can expect in our lives. We can expect loss, sorrow, pain, unimaginable suffering. But Jesus reminds us that when we drink our cups with faithfulness to God and love for our fellow men – we are living by the topsy-turvy law of God who will repay us not in this life, but with Eternity and communion with Him in His Kingdom. 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for eternal rest for the souls of all who have perished in this tragedy and for their loved ones who must now live with sorrow and fight to choose forgiveness still.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for bringing good out of this very terrible times. Thank you for always sending your Spirit of hope to us who walk in the dark.