Knowing God

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Hosea 6-9; Psalm 16 

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Hosea 6:6 (NKJV)
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

REFLECT
It’s easier to be religious than to know God. Being religious is safe, for one only has to complete a list of dos and don’ts. But to know God is to risk losing what is most precious to us – our freedom. We no longer set the agenda, but submit to the Almightly. Ironically, it is when we give up our rights that we are truly free to live.

RELATE
Chinese New Year has always been a challenge for me. I dread having to visit people that I don’t really know or want to. All year round we don’t relate, but once a year we are obliged to gather for the sake of tradition. Still, I would do it, because I realize that these relationships are more important than my reluctance. My hope is that somehow, there would be meaning in the mundane, and somebody would be blessed by my minute presence.

REST
Lord, help me to know You more this year, that I might increase in mercy, and deepen in grace.

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Moving God

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Ephesians 6; Psalm 9

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Ephesians 6:18-19 (NIV)
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

REFLECT
One would think that the great apostle Paul would be quite self sufficient, given the amount of authority and power he has received from God. Yet here, as in many parts of his letters, he asked for prayers. Prayers not for his own safety or welfare, but for boldness and “words” to spread the gospel. In the context of this chapter, the “prayer” that Paul speaks about has to do with being in a state of war. Yes, we must pray, because we need God to win the War.

RELATE
Why must I pray? Because God respects us too much to do everything for us. When I pray, I am recognizing that I cannot do it on my own. I need heavenly resources, made readily available through Christ. Yes, God had already given us much earthly wisdom, abilities and talents. And He expects us to use them. But as we get into the heart of the battle, we realise that it is a battle of the heart. Only God can move hearts. Only prayer can move God.

REST
Lord, I pray that I will always remember to pray.

Real Good News

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30; Proverbs 18:22

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Kings 25:27-28 (NKJV)
Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah … that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He spoke kindly to him, and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon.

REFLECT
Just when the reader begins to conclude that Israel has been totally forsaken by their God, the book of Kings ends with a twist. For some inexplicable reason, the Babylon king known as Evil sets free the last surviving king of Judah. Was God being kind to Jehoiachin? Perhaps … but the latter was known to be evil and there is no record that he repented. One can only conclude that Jehoiachin‘s release and kingly treatment by the enemy was a pure act of grace by the God of Israel.

RELATE
It must be tough being God. As a father, He must be loving. But as a father, He must discipline his child too. Christians who fall into sin repeatedly can’t help but wonder – when would be my last chance? When would I be kicked out of the Promise Land, never to return? I would then ask – when would a true father give up on his son or daughter? Never! Can we sin so much that there would not be grace sufficient to cover us? That would be an insult to the Cross of Christ. While this understanding is not an excuse to keep sinning, it is the main reason that Christianity is good news.

REST
Lord, show me the extent of Your love, that I will have no desire to sin anymore.

A warning to all heroes?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Kings 10:32-12:21; Psalm 3:1-8

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Kings 11:1-2 (NKJV)
1 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered; and they hid him and his nurse in the bedroom, from Athaliah, so that he was not killed.

REFLECT
This really looks like some Korean imperial court drama! (oops, how would I know?!) Hungry for power, or perhaps, fearful for her own life, the queen guards herself by destroying all potential threats – even her grandchildren! Who would stop the extinction of David’s royal line? Not an army general, nor a wealthy tycoon, but a brave woman named Jehosheba, and her husband Jehoiada the priest (see 2 Chronicles 22:11). While their timely intervention helped to preserve Judah’s royal line for now, it would be a matter of time before David’s human kingdom came to an end.
(Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davidic_line)

RELATE
Throughout history, brave men and women have intervened at just the right moment, saving nations, institutions, and businesses from collapse and demise. Even in the church, brave souls fought the establishment to save the Gospel – like Martin Luther and John Wesley, to name just two. Today, bold leaders and members speak up against their pastors to “save” the church from dying. This is all well and proper. Hopefully, these courageous souls are not mistaken. Yet it might help everyone to remember that (as the sad ending of Joash warns, cf. 2 Chronicles 24:21) all human efforts are subject ultimately to the sovereignty of God.

REST
Lord, may I always remember that there is only one Saviour of the World (and it’s not me).

Hard truths and the leader

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 22; Proverbs 18:9-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 22:15-17 (NKJV)
Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against
15 Ramoth Gilead, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king!”
16 So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
17 Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’ ”

REFLECT
Do I only want to hear what I like to hear? Yes, it’s tough to hear the hard truth. That’s why the king never invited the real prophet, but depended on false ones to guide his decisions. It might seem laughable for a king to bluff himself in this way. But if we are aware, we might find ourselves doing the same thing e.g. listening only to preachers who agree with us, reading stuff that stroke our egos, and mixing with company that tells us sweet nothings.

RELATE
It’s tough for a leader to hear criticisms, especially when he has put in so much heart and soul into his work. Most leaders have fragile souls, and understandably, because we are but human. Yet, one of the greatest need for leaders is to hear the hard truth about who we are and what we have done. Or we will be deluded and lead people into the ditch. Yes, leadership is a painful task … and the capacity to embrace and transform pain is what keeps the leader sane and sound.

REST
Lord, remind me constantly that I am Your cherished son, before I am Your faithful servant.

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!

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.