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!

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Right or wrong way to pray?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 21:1-22:31; Psalm 58:1-11

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 58:6: “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!”

REFLECT
If we are to read the whole of Psalm 58, we might come away with the feeling that the Psalmist was as “bloodthirsty” as those who persecuted him. I mean, he prayed for his enemies to be swept away. He prayed that their teeth be broken and even be like snails that dissolved into slime. How can a godly person pray like this? Shouldn’t he pray like how Jesus said to love our enemies?

Yes, Jesus did say to love our enemies. He also said to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43). Yet, what Psalm 58 was saying was not whether the Psalmist’s prayer is right or wrong. Rather, it expressed the depth of relationship between the Psalmist and God. The Psalmist was so intimate with God that he told God his heartfelt emotions. He was having such a hard time from his enemies that he asked of God to take them away. Psalm 58 did not end with whether God will act upon the prayers. It was left as a prayer from one who had experienced extreme suffering and begging God to enact His justice. Of course, whether God will do as the Psalmist prayed, it is entirely up to Him.

RELATE
While in Nepal, we heard news that there were several bomb blast in the capital. These bomb blasts were fuelled by political interests within the Nepali government. Many people in Nepal expressed that they wish the government can be more stable; as they are suffering under such instability. They are praying that those with evil in their hearts be taken away. When we saw and spoke with some who suffered for a long time under such an unstable government; we joined in their prayer. We pray that indeed God will “break the teeth” of those who meant to do evil, so that they can no longer do any harm to anyone.
As I pray in this way, it occurs to me that if I am not careful, I could end up being a presumptuous believer. I presume based on my head knowledge of God’s word to judge what is right or wrong. Yet life is much more complex than that. What is right or wrong in life cannot merely be judged by a theoretical understanding of the Bible. I need to constantly seek to apply God’s truth in the real world. I need to constantly listen rather than speak. In that way, I can better empathize with those who are suffering and pray and minister in a godly way.

REST
Lord, help me to draw close to you and better understand what people around me are going through. This is so I can be of better use for Your kingdom. Amen.

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.

Patience of the Lord

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 7:1-9:11; Proverbs 23:4-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 9:4 “And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

REFLECT
Even at the very end, God showed patience and grace to Israel. Even when Israel was committing abominations to the Lord in all ways and at all times, the Lord sought to spare those who repent. We have the tendency to focus our eyes on how God, commanded His executioners (Ezekiel 9:1-6) to kill the young and old. We complain in our hearts that God was so merciless. We suspected that God seemed to be more concerned with His reputation than with the lives of children. If we do so, we are missing the point.

The point is that God had shown much grace to the people of Israel (If you don’t believe me, just read how He had done so right from Genesis to the Kings). The point is that God had gone out of His way seeking the repentant. The point is that there was actually no need for Him to do so. He is God, why does He need to show grace to our persistent sinful behaviour? Yet He chose to. Even in the book of Ezekiel, even in the Gospels, even right now when we read the word and is thrown into remembrance of how we sinned against the Holy One of Israel. Why? Because as the word says, His steadfast love endures forever.

RELATE
His steadfast love endures forever.

I reflected on the day God blessed us with our first child. I cried on that day because the good news of my wife’s pregnancy came after I told the Lord in secret that I am going to obey His call to ministry. However, the rejoicing of having our first child did not endure the human sinfulness in me. I am in many ways a father in much learning of how I can better disciple my son. I remember the time when I was so angry with him over but a small matter. I used words I never should. Yet God was ever so full of grace. Not only did He forgive when I repented; he created many opportunities for spiritual heart surgeries in me.

REST
Oh God, how patient You are! Otherwise, I would have perished a thousand deaths! Yet in Jesus, You have given me salvation, a beautiful family and a wonderful family of faith. How then can I but sing praises to You for these debts I can never repay! Help me to ever grow in pleasing You and You alone. Amen.

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.

Do not enter into temptation

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 22:35-53; Psalm 51:1-19

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 22:45-46 “And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

REFLECT
Twice our Lord Jesus said to the disciples to pray and not enter into temptation. What did Jesus mean by that?

Firstly, what “temptation” was Jesus talking about? For Jesus, it was the temptation of giving in to his mortal will of rejecting the will of God for him to be crucified. For the disciples, it had to do with how they might lose faith as we are told that they were “sleeping for sorrow”. So “temptation” in this context does not mean God’s testing for the believer, but of situations that might render the believer to stumble.

Secondly, what does prayer have to do with not entering into temptation? Why didn’t Jesus ask the disciples to pray when they are tempted? The Greek grammar for “pray” in Luke 22 suggest that we must take it upon ourselves (for our own benefit) to pray constantly that we do not enter into temptation. The assumption seems to be that for the Christian, being watchful that we can enter into temptation is part and parcel of the new life. Furthermore, for the sake of holiness, it might be better not having to enter into temptation than having to struggle when we do enter into temptation. Indeed may the Lord grant that we do not enter into temptations, if He is willing. For the Lord knows that when we do enter into temptation, there is always the possibility for us (due to our own will) to stumble in the faith.

RELATE
Today’s passage is a powerful reminder that my daily prayers ought to consist of “not entering into temptation”. Quite often, I only pray that God will help me to resist temptations or not sin due to temptations. Today, Jesus reminded that I should (by His command) constantly pray that I do not enter into temptation; for the temptations of this world can be powerful and dangerous such as social media, food and sex. Such a prayer comes from a heart of humility and reliance on the grace of God. For a heart that thinks that I can resist or overcome temptation anytime of the day is prideful. A heart that thinks I will certainly rely on the Holy Spirit when I am tempted, looks too much on my own strength; but not on the work of the Spirit.

REST
God, by your sovereign grace, let me enter not into temptation. However, if it must be so, give me grace to stay in the Spirit to avoid stumbling in the faith. Amen.

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.