True Wisdom

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 11:1-12:19; Psalm 146

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 11:1-2
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites … Solomon clung to these in love.

REFLECT
How could this be? The wisest man on planet earth falls prey to his love for women! He loved the women so much that he built them altars to worship their own gods. Understandable. Imagine your 1000 wives plus concubines pestering you each day for permission to fulfil their religious duties. One unhappy wife is sufficient to cause headache – imagine 1000! But did he really “love” them? Or was he merely trying to keep peace in his mini United Nations? The wisest thing he could have done was to keep to one wife. Well, too late. Heart before head, flesh before spirit, pragmatism before wisdom.

RELATE
Wisdom is not sufficient for a blessed life. Wisdom can show me want to do, but it cannot do it for me. In fact, wisdom can make me feel like I am better than the rest. Yet such wisdom is not true wisdom – as it leaves God out of the picture. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) – Solomon knew, but again had ignored. So what is more important than wisdom? Faith in God leading to obedience to His will. That’s true wisdom.

REST
Lord, thank you for such a vivid reminder that we can have everything (even wisdom!) and yet lose our soul. Help us to overcome our weakness and unbelief – by Your amazing grace, power and love!

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The precious gift of discernment

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Kings 3:3-4:34; Proverbs 17:27-28

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 3:10-12 “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

REFLECT
It pleased God that Solomon asked for the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. It pleased God that Solomon had not asked for wealth, long life and the life of our enemies. It pleased God so much that apart from blessing Solomon with such a gift of discernment, He gave the king what he did not ask for i.e. both riches and honour so that no king can be compared to the glory of his reign (ref: 1 Kings 3:13).

Why was God so pleased with Solomon when he asked for the wisdom to discern between right and wrong? I believe it has to do with God’s character of holiness as well as Solomon’s humility in wanting such a gift. At the heart of God’s character of holiness is the “separateness” of what is right and wrong. When we struggle with being holy as God is holy, we struggle in making choices between doing what is pleasing to God and what is not. Therefore, God was well pleased because Solomon had humbly asked for something that is close to God’s heart. It was a gift that could be of great service to the people as well as to Solomon’s spiritual growth as a king.

RELATE
In this day and age, it seems that such an understanding of what is right and wrong is less valued. For example, many parents in Singapore would rather spend much resources in training their children for academic pursuits rather than the building up of their character. Some of us Christian parents might even pray much more for our children to do well academically; than to acquire wisdom to discern what is right or wrong in a sinful world. Even for the church, I often wonder if we placed much higher value on many other things than the ability to discern what is right and wrong? Or have we even rebuked people who placed an emphasis on the importance of discernment?

In a time when false teachings are getting more prevalent and difficult to detect, I believe the church needs to pay more attention to this aspect of church life. This is so that we can be a people who are behaving and doing things close to the Father’s heart. As the Word of God warned us, Satan can masquerade himself as like the light and deceive us. Hence, we need to have wisdom to discern, be humble to learn and be ready to discard anything that is leading us onto the wrong path. So in the light of how Solomon had asked God for wisdom to discern what is right and wrong, may we as a church also start to pray more fervently, that the Lord will grant us such a wisdom. This is so we can be well pleasing to the Lord on how we are behaving as His followers as well as the stewardship of His church.

REST
Lord our God, forgive us when we bypass such an important understanding (of right and wrong) for less important wants in our lives. Help us as families and churches to grow in our discernment of what is right and wrong, so that we are pleasing in Your sight. Amen.

Who anoints the king?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 1; Proverbs 17:26

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 1:39 (NIV)
Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”

REFLECT
The anointing was a sacred act. Note that the oil was taken from the tent, where the Ark of God was housed. The significance of this was that God has made Solomon the new king. But as we read this chapter, it seems that the choice of Solomon was David’s, facilitated by Bathsheba, Zadok and Nathan. So was Solomon the choice of God, or man? The answer has to be … both. Perhaps this best explains Solomon’s eventual success, and ultimate failure.

RELATE
I have always wondered how God chose the kings of Israel. God asked Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king. Saul failed miserably. God then made David king. David did well, but there was the sad episode of Bathsheba. Next came Solomon, whom God loved so much that he was named Jedidiah. Solomon would become the most powerful and glorious king of all time. Then he was felled by women that he loved more than God. Centuries later the Bible tells us that God raised Cyrus the Persian as king. Then, fast forward a few thousand years, we now have Donald Trump as the most powerful man on earth. Was it a mistake, or did God also make him king? The answer has to be yes. But let us remember that while it is God’s business to employ fallen men for His purpose, it is ultimately the choice of human kings to worship God and live, or to ignore Him and die.

REST
Lord, whenever we are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to – remind us of the kings of this world – few of which are remembered today.

Nobody is perfect

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 139

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 22:21-22 (NKJV)
“The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

REFLECT
This was David’s prayer near the end of his life. The careful reader would immediately notice something surprising. Why was David boasting about his own righteousness, cleanness, and obedience? Hadn’t he in fact committed adultery, murder, and other “wicked” things? Yet here he appealed to a life that was worthy of God’s reward. How could this be?
From Ps 51 and Ps 139, it is clear that David was aware of his fallen nature, and the grave sins he has committed. Yet, he was also certain that throughout his life, he sought to live a life pleasing to the Lord. Nobody is perfect.

RELATE
Yes, I would be the first to admit that I am not perfect. I have sinned, and would continue to sin until the day I die. Nobody is perfect. While I work and strive towards holiness, the flesh is weak and the mind is not completely renewed. Do I try my best to live a righteous life? Yes. Have I kept my hands clean as much as I can? Yes. Do I enjoy the ways of the wicked? Absolutely not! But stumble and fall I do from time to time, despite all efforts. Will I lose my reward? Will my Heavenly Father give up on me? By faith, I trust – that by grace, I am saved. In time or in eternity, He will perfect me.

REST
Just as I am, Lord, I come;
In Your mercy, bring me Home.

What seems good to the Lord

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Samuel 15:23-16:23; Proverbs 17:16

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 15:25-27 “Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.”

REFLECT
As David suffered the greatest grieve of his life (being persecuted by his own son); the tragedy revealed the kind of person he had grown to be. Throughout the chapter, it was told to us that David faithfully surrendered himself to the hands of the living God. Not just by what he told Zadok in chapter 15, but by how he dealt with servants who wanted to follow him in the run from his own son. He knew that God can do whatever He wanted with him and he would have no escape. God can bring him back to the throne; He can also dethrone him as He pleases.

RELATE
Many of us who had been in the faith long enough know this truth in our hearts: That God, being God can do whatever He pleases with us. Yet, how many of us can be like David, who surrendered himself to the Lord even in times of great suffering? David was ready to be permanently dethroned if the Lord was so willing.

Quite often, we rather pray that we can be out of trouble instead and might have even demanded that God do what we want. These days, I even hear of Christians saying to one another not to pray “negative” prayers such as those ending with “in the will of the Lord”; for it shows our unbelief. Yet, what is really more of “unbelief”? A prayer that goes with who God truly is; or a prayer that only echoes what we truly desire?

My family and I are currently praying about an important decision. The impression I get from the Lord is to go to my knees and seek Him until I get the answer. During such a period of time, it was tempting to pray that God do what I will; and not what He wills. Yet, I know that such a prayer is just futile. It is futile because everything past, present and in the future is in the hands of the living God.

REST
Indeed O God, do what seems pleasing with You and even in times when I cannot understand Your will; please let my heart be at peace with what is given. For You are the Alpha and the Omega. Amen.

Straight Talk – Sex b4 Marriage

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Samuel 13:1-39; Proverbs 17:14-15

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 13:13 (ESV)
As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”

REFLECT
This is perhaps the clearest guidance from the Bible on whether premarital sex is permitted, or not. The logic seems clear. Although Amnon and Tamar were siblings, they were from different mothers and so incest was not the issue. The “shame” that the virgin Tamar referred to was not that of rape, but of sex before marriage. For she was not objecting to sex with Amnon, but to the need for marital consent from the king. If premarital sex was okay, she could simply have conceded and the issue would have been settled. But no, to lose her virginity before marriage, was a disgrace.

RELATE
As a pastor, I am concerned as to how young (and not so young) Christians today readily practise premarital sex. Many consider the teachings of the Bible as outdated and therefore do not apply to them. Yet they would not consider laws against stealing and killing as outdated. So the real reason, I believe, is that we have become accustomed to getting what we want. If both parties want it, then let’s do it. To deny ourselves would be uncool, and too uncomfortable. The idea that 99% of our friends do it, makes it legitimate for us to do it too. God is no longer the reference, but humans, and self. No wonder people are never really happy, even with all the sex they get.

REST
Lord, renew our minds, and strengthen our hearts. Help us not to fall prey to foolish actions that rob us of the joy of a holy life.

At what price: “unity”?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Samuel 2:12-3:39; Psalm 133:1-3

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 3:1 “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.”

REFLECT
Originally, it was one house. Yet because of the sins of Saul or rather the sins of Israel to demand for a king; the houses of Saul and David fought bitterly. If David did not rise to unite the various tribes of Israel and assume leadership, Israel will continue to crumble after the death of Saul. Yet, at what price was unity gained? It was gained at the price of much blood, death and destruction when David began to finally reign Israel (2 Samuel 5).

RELATE
There will be times when true unity can only be achieved through confrontation and even the parting of ways. This is not because God is unfaithful; but because we human beings are simply too wilful and sinful. We like to ally ourselves with the Sauls of this world, rather than submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Christ.

We like to cling on to things that are not of God and His Word. We like to practice such things even in the church. We like to go for shortcuts even in the way we do ministry and live our lives. We like to read the Word of God based on our own assumptions and experiences; rather than staying true to determine what the biblical authors are really saying. We like to think that the word “love” can solve all problems; when in fact we do not even understand the biblical meaning of love. We make a big fuss out of what is not essential; and we trample on the efforts of those who voice out on what the church is doing wrong on what is truly essential. We pride ourselves with knowing the Word; and yet our lives display nothing of the Word.

While we read about the willfulness of Israel to prefer a king than Yahweh; I believe that without Jesus, the church will not do any better. Without Jesus, we will always prefer the Sauls of this world. Now that we have Jesus, let us therefore be faithful because He has enabled us to do so. Let us be courageous and choose what is true; and be prepared to part ways with what is not. Only then, can we as a Body of Christ, be truly united with one another and with the Lord.

REST
Lord, help us not to give in to the pressures of this world to conform to what might be popular, appealing to the eye and yet untrue. Help us as a church to be courageous and be faithful. Amen.