Love or Labour?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Revelation 1; Psalm 69:19-36

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Psalm 69:30-31 (NIV)
30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves.

REFLECT
I sometimes wonder, isn’t it so easy to praise God and thank Him, as compared to sacrificing ox and bull? The former are acts of the mouth, the latter requires considerable financial resources. Then why does the Psalmist says that songs and praises please God more? Don’t we sometimes see people who are worshipful on Sundays, but who don’t seem to live out their faith practically after that? Well, I think that the Lord is seeking for our love, rather than our labour.

RELATE
I must admit that for me, it’s easier to labour than to love. I would rather spend time working for God (like Martha), than having a chat with Him (like Mary). Sometimes, I wonder if my songs-singing in church is really praising and glorying God. Or is it just enjoying the songs for its music and meaningful words. The difference is subtle, but it’s real. The test comes when I have to sing a song that I don’t really like, or if the worship leader leads badly. Can I still give thanks and praise, if I don’t enjoy the singing?

REST
Lord, help me to keep learning what it means to worship You in spirit and in truth. Help me to love You with my whole being, as You love me with Yours. Stop me, when I confuse my love for labour, with my labour of love.

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Excellent Emissaries

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Daniel 6:1-28; Proverbs 24:1-2

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Daniel 6:18-19 (NKJV)
18 Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions.

REFLECT
The first thing I asked when I read this was – did Darius believe in Daniel’s God? I concluded that he didn’t, or he would not have allowed the royal edict in the first place. The next question is – then why did he seek to help Daniel? I believe it was because he treasured and respected his servant. While he wasn’t very interested in Daniel’s spiritual life, the latter’s physical well-being mattered to the king. So much so that he tried all means and ways (v14), fasted (to his gods?] and lost sleep, for the sake of his servant. Even if king Darius did not believe in God at first, he believed at last.

RELATE
This is a good time to ask how our non-Christian bosses at work will respond when we are in trouble. Will they be happy, or sad? How far will they go to save us? Crucially, will they “pray” for us, asking that our God deliver us (v16)? Well, I think it depends on at least 2 things. Firstly, if we are considered a valuable employee. Secondly, if we have made known to our colleagues that we worship Jesus Christ (despite likely persecutions). May Daniel’s life be an inspiration for us to be both excellent employees and emissaries for Christ!

REST
Lord, grant me wisdom to live as Your light, and courage to be Your words to my family and friends.

Transmitting holiness?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ezekiel 44:1-45:12; Psalm 64:1-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 44:19 (ESV)
And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments.

REFLECT
This is an interesting instruction for the priests. Or rather, an interesting reason for the instruction to change out of their holy robes, lest the holiness gets transmitted somehow to the common people. Commentators have varying views on this. One thinks that many people would want to touch the priests, which could become very chaotic. Another commented that if the holiness of the priests’ garments were transmitted onto the people’s garments, then the latter’s clothes would have to be confiscated for holy use! While we don’t know the exact reasons for this command, what is clear is that there is a distinction between what is holy, and what is not.

RELATE
Today, pastors don’t have one set of clothes for conducting the worship service, and another for meeting the people afterwards (phew!). In fact, all Christians are now the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9). What we wear today are “holy” not because they were sprinkled with holy water, but because we who wear them are vessels of the Holy Spirit. Holiness was never meant to be skin deep, but a transformation of our hearts. Today, we don’t transmit holiness by passing around holy items. Rather, we do so through pure words, and blameless lives. Yes, by all means, infect the world with your holiness!!

REST
Lord, make me holy, as You are Holy!!

Enjoy like hell?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ezekiel 31:1-32:32; Proverbs 23:17-18

READ
Proverbs 23:17-18 (NKJV)
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day; For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.

REFLECT
How often do we envy others! Nice car, big house, good looks … etc. And they are not even Christians! We wonder if our faith in God is worth it after all. Why can’t we live freely like unrepentant sinners, having the cake and eating it? What’s the point of obeying God and being holy? Well, says the Psalmist, it’s about the future. Do we want a future with hope, or one that is cut off from God? In other words, do we want heaven, or hell?

RELATE
Yes, in my flesh, I can identify with the struggles above. I want to enjoy like hell, and still go to heaven. Everyone around me seems to be having a good time doing (and watching) whatever they like, but I’m constrained by God’s Word. Why? Because I fear God. Yet my human desires are strong, shouting to be fulfilled. Where do I direct all my energies? To being zealous for God, for His kingdom and glory – says the Psalmist. Earthly satisfaction is only skin deep. Heavenly pursuits are what makes us truly human.

REST
As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You … Lord, help me to find joy in You and You alone!

Faith misplaced?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ezekiel 18:1-19:14, Psalms 57:1-11

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 18:22-23 (NKJV)
None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

REFLECT
The Israelites were accusing God of being unfair. Those who were wicked, when they repent, were forgiven. Those who were righteous, when they sin, were punished. Apparently, the Israelites thought that all their previous sacrifices and good works had chalked up for them enough merits. When they sinned, they had expected God to take into account their past credits, and pardon them. No, says the Lord. If the Israelites had truly been righteous, they would not have fallen into such idolatry. God wants to save everyone, even the wicked. But He will look for the fruits of His grace, to determine if we are truly saved.

RELATE
Am I saved by works, or by grace? Why does God required righteous living, as proof of our faith? Are we not saved purely by the merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross? Saved by grace we are … but what is grace? As someone once said, grace does not come cheap. Grace is costly, and grace demands that we respond in a worthy manner. Every time I sin willfully, I despise the grace of God. If my repentance does not bear lasting righteousness, I need to ask if my faith has been misplaced.

REST
Lord, show me the true state of my heart, and save me from delusions in my mind. Help me to receive your grace gratefully, and worthily.

Loving enough to tell

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ezekiel 1:1-3:15, Proverbs 23:1-3

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 3:14-15 (NKJV)
14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me. 15 Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

REFLECT
Ezekiel was given one of the most amazing visions ever recorded in history. In fact, he saw the living God, and survived. But instead of being on cloud nine. the prophet’s heart was rooted to the ground. He felt for his fellowmen, and wept for their plight. The Lord has given him a hard message for the exiles, and he wasn’t sure how he could tell it to them.

RELATE
I’ve been in somewhat similar situations, when I know I have to speak the truth in love. But it’s hard, and awkward. I don’t like seeing people offended, or angry with what I have to say. I would rather keep quiet. But alas! If I keep quiet, I would be responsible for their continued folly. If I stay silent, they might go the way of no return. Do I love them enough to risk the hostility? Do I care enough to turn them from sin, and death?

REST
Lord, it is so difficult to love. But love I must. Help me to care enough to declare the truth, and to pay the price.

The dissipated life

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Luke 21:29-22:13; Psalm 50

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Luke 21:34 (NASB)
“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;

REFLECT
How apt a reminder for Singaporeans! How prone for us to be dissipated! Yes, dissipated – by work, by pursuits, by entertainment, by pleasures both “harmless” and sinful. What drives our incessant striving for more and better and newer? Why do we worry so much about the future, thereby generating a billion-dollar industry just to ensure worry-less retirement? Oh Lord, forgive our lack of faith in your goodness, and unpreparedness for the day of Your coming!

RELATE
I find myself checking my phone more than I should. Why? Maybe I’m OCD – I just don’t like to see those little round numbers beside my WhatsApp and email icons. I like them cleared. But they keep coming back! But perhaps the real reason I keep checking is because it keeps me occupied. Occupied so that I don’t have to face the weightier things in life. Like my inner struggles … and God. It’s much easier to clear messages than to face my own messiness. It’s less risky to read emails than to meet God. But meet God I must, if I am to experience the truly blessed life.

REST
Lord, save me from dissipation and distractions. Grant me the wisdom and courage to leave behind the urgent, so as to encounter the eternal.