I am More 

MTS-3142

I am More

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to
talk like this.) I am more.”           II Co 11:23

 

     I have a tendency to be just the opposite of what Paul mentioned in this verse. What the
apostle said was undoubtedly true. What he did as God’s servant was indeed
unparalleled in his generation and in the generations to come. Paul was
unquestionably the greatest missionary in church history and his contributions
toward building the church are beyond compare. Yes, he was indeed more
everything than all others in his time.

     I am less. No, I am indeed the least.

     I wish I could boast like the apostle, for the Lord chose to use him as a mighty vessel to
accomplish great things. It was God’s success when Paul became successful in
his ministry. So Paul was indeed boasting about the Lord, not about himself.

     “I have travelled many continents and preached to thousands of people this year. I am
seventy one years old,” Pastor Tong, the most well-known Chinese evangelist of today,
said in his speech at a big evangelistic conference. The man is greatly admired
among Chinese Christians and he seems to have ample opportunity to speak to the
masses. Not many pastors have the same opportunities as Pastor Tong has.

     Surely many people have been saved through his ministry, but his success isn’t personal
success at all; therefore he could speak about his achievements as a servant of
God without any hesitation. Apart from God’s help, both Paul and Pastor Tong
could have accomplished nothing.

    “Pastors’ ailments are the hardest to cure,” Pastor Tong mentioned in a same talk, in
which he was accusing pastors of being overly sensitive, hyper-self-conscious,
and too lazy to do the work of evangelism. He was actually speaking about me.

      I have often used the excuse of “being less” for not doing more. Pastor Tong built a
mega-church in Jakarta from nothing twenty-two years ago and did not draw any
stipend from the church the first two years of his church planting. I answered
the call to this church eighteen years ago and the church basically remains the
same today, both in quantity and in quality. Shouldn’t I be ashamed of myself?

     I am less and have been content with being less, which might have been something that kept
the Lord from giving me more opportunities to do greater things for his
kingdom. “For to those who have, he will give more,” said the Lord Jesus.

     “I seek all things for the Lord, but will seek nothing for myself,” said a well-known
pastor. It’s not unspiritual to ask the Lord to enlarge our territory of
spiritual impact, for the Lord’s name is lifted up wherever the gospel is
preached. We can surely ask for more successes if we reckon all our achievements
are his and his only.

     Lord, I don't want to be more; I want to be more.

Monday, October 31, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Fool 

MTS-3141

A Fool

“In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the
Lord would, but as a fool.”          II Co 11:17

 

     Paul was indeed acting like a fool, for he was about to lift himself up by boasting. He
was probably getting tired of hearing people speaking about themselves,
claiming how great they were. People who boast were fools, and the apostle was
joining their ranks by boasting.

     Paul was simply telling the truth when he started speaking about his upbringing as an
Israelite and how much he had suffered for the Lord’s sake, which was a great
deal more than others had experienced. Yet it was utterly unnecessary for him
to mention those things, for the Lord knew what he had gone through and would
reward him accordingly. The temptation, however, to speak about himself was too
great under such circumstances, since everyone seemed to be promoting themselves
by telling one another how much they had sacrificed for God’s kingdom.

     Paul called himself a fool, since he was about to succumb to the temptation of
self-promotion.

     The young Saul was a persecutor of the Christian church and apart from God’s mercy, the man could
easily have gone on to become an important member of the Sanhedrin and turned
into an arch-persecutor of early Christians. Paul did not choose to follow the
Lord out of his own volition; it was the Lord who reached down from heaven and
plucked him up from perdition and hell fire.

     There was absolutely no room for boasting of any kind. It was by God’s grace Paul became
the person that he had become. By the same token, it’s by God mercy and grace
we have become who we are, or rather haven’t become who we aren’t supposed to
be.

     There are far too many fools in this world, for so many of us indulge in self-seeking and
self-promotion, and deem it a natural thing to do. One of our greatest
yearnings in life is to be known, and the more we are known, the more fulfilled
we think we will be. We don’t become rich and famous by being self-effacing and
self-deprecating, do we?

     The wise see themselves as they are; but the foolish perceive themselves as they seem to be.

     Paul seemed to have done a lot for the Lord as a missionary, but he could have accomplished
nothing unless the Lord was empowering him with the Holy Spirit every step of
the way and it would have been foolish for him to think otherwise. In fact, no
one knew this better than Paul, so he was well aware of the foolishness of
boasting about his accomplishments.

     Paul knew himself to be a fool when he was acting like one, and was able to turn his
boasting about himself into praise to God, for he was reminded that it was the
Lord who worked through his weakness. We are actually fools if we consider
ourselves wise.           

         

Friday, October 28, 2011 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Masquerading 

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Masquerading

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel
of light.”

            II Co 11:14

 

     My dad promised that I could move to a little town close to the junior high school
which I was going to attend. I looked forward to the day when I would leave my
village located a couple of miles away from the coastline of the Taiwan Strait.
The day finally came and I moved to the small town of “Da Chung,” literality
meaning “Big City.” Disappointingly, the event wasn’t as thrilling as I had
expected and the “big city” was just as boring as our little village. I must
have been fooled by something out there or rather by my imagination.

     I left home for Taipei as soon as possible after I graduated from junior high, never returning
to the country except for few holidays during the year and never staying over a
week. What did I find in the largest city on the island of Taiwan? What I experienced
over the years when I was there was loneliness, isolation, starvation, and
alienation. The glistening city flooded with neon lights sure wasn’t what I had
dreamt it to be. I was melancholic by nature, and city life didn’t change me
into a cheerful person.

     I was young and life was full of hope then. I owned nothing but the clothes on my back and
I could store all my belongings in a small suitcase, but I did have youth and
endless aspirations and ambitions. Given enough time and opportunity I believed
I could accomplish anything imaginable and, eventually, I would be happy.

     The hardships we have experienced are all in the present and our happiness seems to be in the
future tense. There is always something lacking in our lives and we believe
that we will be happy if the void of our lives is filled and all our needs are
met. Therefore we continue to try to catch the falling stars to brighten our
days and to cast away our nights.

     “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” O, the lights seem
to be burning so brightly when we look at from afar, but it turns to utter
darkness when we draw near to the light. Indeed it was merely “darkness
visible.” Even so, we continue to chase the elusive light even though we have
been burned by its dark beam so many times.

     “How is Steven Jobs’ vast estate worth seventy billion going to be divided?”  many people are questioning. One thing we do
know, however: the Apple tycoon himself will get absolutely nothing. The man,
from what I read, was a severe person who was quite unpredictable in his
dealings with his loved ones and he even lost the love of his life because of
his behavior. Was one of the richest man in the world much happier than the
homeless who wonder up and down in inner cities, searching for a warm place to
spend the cold winter night? Perhaps, but the degree of difference may be a lot
narrower than we think.

     I dreamt of becoming a Nobel Laureate in literature when I was a young poet, which was a dream
that I had zero chance to achieve, but I doubt seriously I would turn into a
happy and fulfilled person had I actually won it. The prize isn’t gold, albeit
it glistens like a star in the night sky.

Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Burden 

MTS-3139

A Burden

“I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any
way, and will continue to do so.”         
II Co 11:9

 

     Paul worked as a tentmaker in his spare time to supplement his income while he was in the city
of Corinth. He was a full time missionary and only did tent-making while he was
able. When he was in need financially, the Macedonian Christians were the ones
who supported him. Had he asked, I am sure the Corinthian Christians would have
been more than willing to help Paul with his needs, but the apostle had
determined not to burden them with his personal needs; therefore the
Corinthians would receive the gospel for free. We may find it a little odd that
Paul was willing to accept the donation from the Macedonians, yet refused to
take anything from the Corinthian church. What difference did it make, we
wonder.

     I think the gospel was being preached to people from the lower, if not the lowest, echelon of
society during the first century and most converts to Christianity probably
weren’t very well off. From what we know, Corinth was quite a prosperous city and
the Christians there might have been better off financially than people from
elsewhere, but being new converts, the Corinthians might not have yet learned
the lesson of giving.

     Paul obviously knew the privilege of monetary giving and the blessing that came with it, for
he urged the Corinthian Christians more than one time to give toward the needs
of the church in Jerusalem. He was just having difficulty accepting financial
benefit from the church himself.

     Is it unspiritual for pastor to receive a stipend from the church? I don’t think this
is what Paul meant to say by not accepting an offering from the Corinthian
Christians. For some reason he just felt it was inappropriate to do so at the
time.

     Money wasn’t really an issue in this context; Paul was merely doing what he was called to
do. Paul was called to be a tent-maker in Corinth and it was the right thing for
him to do at the time. The example he set shouldn’t be the norm or the standard
for the following generations. He did quote one Old Testament verse elsewhere,
supporting the idea that a worker was worthy of his wages.

     “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.”

     This particular verse never fails to make me feel a little guilty, for I always tried as hard
as I could to keep our water buffalo from eating the vines from our sweet
potato field when it was tilling next to it. I became so mad when it did and
would lash out on it with a stick in my hand. I did not think the water buffalo
was entitled to eat anything from the field, even though it labored day and
night tilling and turning the land.

     “Are you drawing your salary from the government?” some people occasionally ask when
they visited the church, and they still look a little puzzled after I explain
it to them.

     I am sure some of them might be thinking that I am getting way too much for a man who only
works one day a week. Was this one of the reasons why Paul became a tentmaker
in Corinth? I don’t think this was the case, though. The apostle wasn’t
beholden to men or men’s opinion. He simply did what the Lord told him to do.          

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Speaking 

MTS-3138

Speaking

“I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have
knowledge.”

            II Co 5:6

 

     Paul was a preacher, not an orator. There were many trained orator in his time, but there
was only one apostle Paul.  

     Was Paul insulted when he heard this kind of criticism? He must have been, and it would probably
have taken him some time to process all what this meant to him as a messenger
of Jesus.

     “I may not a good speaker, but I do have an important message to communicate,” he thought.

     In that case, the message was far more important to the audience than the messenger.

     What Paul possessed was the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, which in and of itself was
far more crucial than how the information was being delivered.

     A lie is still a lie, not matter how beautifully it is delivered. No matter how well spoken a
liar is, he is still a liar.

     Paul was by no means an untrained or poor speaker, as he was labeled by some disgruntled
people. He merely considered the saving message to be too beautiful to be
embellished by his learning and too perfect to be perfected by his oratory
skill.

     Paul was indeed a learned man, far more than most, if not all, of his audience, but he
was determining to “empty” himself when he was preaching so that the wisdom and
power of God could be manifested without any hindrance.

     There was no earthly reason for him to dig out his “dung” after it had been buried to
pollute his entire gospel ministry and to contaminate the fragrance of Christ
that was permeating the air.

     Paul had decided to preach nothing but Jesus and him crucified, apart from which not a
single soul would have been saved. This is something that has been neglected
repeatedly by many speakers.

     As messengers of God, shall we continue to tickle people’s ears with our worldly learning and
flowery language? Absolutely not. We dare not step behind a pulpit if we are
not ready to exercise the necessary self restrain which keeps us from spewing
out nauseating self-expression in our preaching. Nothing is more repugnant than
a preacher who strides around the stage like a peacock showing off its
multi-colored feathers. 

     We will never be effective as communicators of the truth until we become the message we try
to convey. It’s laughable if we are full of ourselves when we try to deliver a
message of humility.      

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Pure Devotion 

MTS-3137

Pure Devotion

“…your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere
and pure devotion to Christ.”            II Co 11:3

 

     After we have grown up both physically and intellectually, can we maintain the innocence we
used to have as children?

     “I used to go to children’s Sunday School as a child, but that was years ago. I haven’t been
to any church since then,” a seeker said to me when I was trying to invite him
to the church.

     “Did you believe in Jesus as a little boy?”

     “I might have, but I don’t remember,” he answered.

     Little children never question when we tell them there is a God in heaven who loves
and cares for them. Their faces seem to beam with the light of purity when they
pray.

     How and when do we lose our innocence?

     “Do you mean our ignorance?” some people may reply sarcastically.  They seem to imply that children believe in
God merely because they are yet to be enlightened by scientific knowledge.

     I don’t know whether we have been taught or been lied to in the process of acquiring an
education. Becoming more educated may mean that we have become more ignorant.

     Ignorant of something beautiful, pure, and true.

     What kind of knowledge can we take with us when we leave the world behind? When our brain
dies, all the knowledge that we have stored within it perishes as well.

     The knowledge that we have stored up within our spirits is something we can take with us, for
our spirits depart from our physical bodies at death. My father-in-law could still
utter a beautiful prayer toward the end of his earthly life, even after
dementia had robbed him of most of his memories.

     Nothing is more important for us Christians to do than to store up more spiritual knowledge
within our spirits through which our heavenly Father communicates with us, lest
we become utterly speechless when we meet him someday.

     “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

     Isaac Newton might have discovered the law of gravity, but such knowledge of the physical
world wouldn’t have done him any good when he met his Creator unless he knew
the simple spiritual language he learned to utter when he was a little boy.

     “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…”  This was the song I taught my Sunday School
children to sing when I was a baby Christian, and I have since acquired my
seminary training and served as a pastor for almost twenty years, but I
consider the year I taught children’s Sunday School at a small church in the
suburbs of Taipei the purest of all my service to God. I suppose I might have spoken more
spiritual language during that year than I have ever done in the past twenty years
I have served as a pastor.     

Monday, October 24, 2011 6:52:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Godly jealousy 

MTS-3136

Godly Jealousy

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.”

            II Co 11:2

 

     Since he was away from Corinth, Paul couldn’t have done anything for the Corinthian
Christians who seemed to have straying from following Christ and were lagging
behind a little in their observance of the pure doctrines that they had received
from the instruction of Paul and were easily beguiled by false teachings. The
apostle was very anxious over the situation of the Corinthian church and was
determined to correct them through personal letters and was also planning on
visiting them when he had the opportunity. He was the one who led many of the
Corinthians to Christ and he somehow felt he was responsible for their
spiritual state. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy,” he wrote in the
letter.

     The apostle might have been offended by the Corinthians who had wandered away from the pure
gospel, but it wasn’t really Paul’s fault when it happened. There was no
problem with the message Paul had delivered in the city, but people might have
twisted the message out of their selfishness or perverted mind and used the
pure message for their own gain. Paul was jealous not for his own sake, for he
wasn’t injured when people turned away from God, but for the sake of the Lord
who might have been offended by Christians’ unfaithfulness.

     Do we take it personally when people in the church fall away? Are we jealous with a godly
jealousy when our brothers and sisters turn away from God and start to conform
to the image of this world?

     What could I have done differently? This is the question that I often ask myself when I see
people I have baptized quit coming to the church to worship. What went wrong? I
suppose we as a church could have spent more time teaching them and praying for
them after they came to the Lord, but ultimately, the decision to love and to
follow the Lord is theirs and no one can bring them back to the fellowship
unless they themselves are willing.

     People seem to fall in and out of love rather frequently these days and we have ceased to
become amazed by it anymore. It only goes to show that people mostly feel to
love rather than will to love and romantic relationships fall apart when the warm
fuzzy feeling of love is no longer present. Is it the same way with some people
coming to the Lord? I am afraid so. Some Christians seem to just quit following
Jesus when they no longer have a feeling of affection for Jesus. We bring
people to Christ by appealing to their emotion, but the same emotion that moves
them to come to Christ may also cause them to stray away from the fold.

         

Friday, October 21, 2011 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Approval 

MTS-3135

Approval

“For it is not the one who commends himself who is
approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”      

                                                    II Co 10:18

 

     Is the Lord a severe master who demands perfection from us, his disciples? If this is the
case, we are to be pitied, for none of us can measure up to his standard of
perfection.

     I quit trying to do math a long time ago. I guess I lost it when I was a fourth grader and
haven’t been able to pick it back up. I have given up on myself and have since
considered myself to have dyscalculia.

     How did I manage to graduate from high school, college, and miraculously get my terminal
degree? I can only sum this up in one word: grace.

     Math was required throughout most of my academic career and, if all my math teachers decided
to measure me according to the standard stipulated by our government, I
wouldn’t have graduated from elementary school. I should have been the child
who was left far behind.

     All my math teachers had a tough decision to make: to flunk me out, which would have been totally
justified, or to pass me, which was entirely unwarranted. One teacher after
another, year after year, let me slip through the cracks, and through their
mercy I was able to become somewhat of a success academically.

     I would have been doomed academically had one of my math teachers decided to exercise his
authority justly. It came pretty close one time, however. I failed to pass
calculus, which was a core requirement of my college, and my math teacher, who
happened to be the dean of studies at the college, had a tough decision to
make. He might have struggled over the decision for a while, but he let me pass
with a D at the end and I was able to graduate and to move on to my next
challenge as a student.

     My math teachers’ approval of me had absolutely nothing to do with my math ability,
which almost amounted to nothing; it had everything to do with their kindness
of heart on my teachers’ part. Grace and mercy was all I needed from them. 

     I haven’t advanced too far in my pursuit to become more spiritually mature. In reality, I
might not have advanced past fourth grade yet. But the Lord has continued to
shower his mercy on me and let me stay in the game. He should have kicked me off
the team a long time ago. I continue to fail, yet the Lord continues to give me
a passing grade. I guess I will be saved at the end, albeit as if going through
fire.

     I probably gave up on math and considered myself to have dyscalculia way too early. Instead
of earning a passing grade by my ability, I had to rely on my teachers’ mercy.
In truth, I simply didn’t try hard enough. Am I applying this kind of
philosophy to my pursuit of spiritual growth as well? This is indeed a serious
mistake if I continue to believe that I can get by with minimum effort like I
used to do and expect to come out unscathed. The Lord is truly merciful, but we
should not take advantage of his mercy.    
  

    

Thursday, October 20, 2011 7:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Boast 

MTS-3134

Boast

“Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  II Co 10:17

 

     Was Paul ever tempted to boast? It could have happened, for the apostle was flesh and blood
like all of us. We like to boast by nature and it takes great effort to keep
ourselves from doing it.

     I have to bite my tongue all the time. Does that mean I have a lot to boast about? Not really,
but it doesn’t really matter. I do have a lot of things of which I am very
proud and I am quite anxious to let people know about them. There are hidden
gems that are hard to detect in me unless I shout from the mountain top, telling
the whole world how great I am.

     Some people become atheists because that’s the only way they can continue to boast about
themselves. It’s hard for me to actually believe that Ali, the world renowned
boxer, had any faith in a supreme God because more than one time he proclaimed:
“I am the greatest!”

     Our perception of the Almighty determines our self-perception. I don’t think anybody can deny
this. We view ourselves as the lowest of the low if we perceive God as the
highest of the high. The more we elevate God’s position in our lives, the less
we elevate ourselves; by the same token, the more we boast about God, the less
we boast about ourselves.

     Is there anything in me that is truly “boast-worthy?”

     There was a guy on our college campus who seemed to be quite proud of his height, since
most of the other guys were fairly short. Did he have anything to do with his
being taller than average? Absolutely nothing.

     My language ability was better than average when I was a student, but I didn’t think much
about it, for I hadn’t done anything particular to make myself better than any ordinary
student. The ability was given to me by God and the glory should have gone to
him.

     Some women may become stuck up because of their good looks, yet they have done nothing to earn
their beauty and it’s foolish of them to take credit for their unique attributes.

     Boasting is an infamous act of robbing God of his glory and honor and stealing what rightly
belongs to him. “Will a man rob God?” asked the prophet Malachi. He was
obviously speaking about tithing, but there are other forms of robbing the
Lord, which might be more offensive to God than our failure to put our ten
percent into his treasure house.

     If we have an urge to boast, let us boast in the Lord. How do we do that? I think it’s akin
to counting God’s blessings in our lives. Counting God’s blessings is really a
form of boasting, in which we give credit to the Lord for all the good things
that have taken place in our lives.       

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-assessment 

MTS-3133

Self-assessment  

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.”             
II Co 10:12

 

     It’s not a good thing to do, but we do it anyway, either consciously or unconsciously. The
way we know ourselves is through comparing with other people, and by doing so,
we either develop a sense of superiority or inferiority. We don’t perceive
ourselves as ourselves only; we see ourselves as better or worse than other
people.

     “Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Look at other people, they suffer so much more than you
do.”

     Does this bring any consolation to us when we are feeling blue? Not at all. What does
other people’s suffering have to do with how I feel about myself? The feeling
of catharsis is only a temporary fix that does nothing to improve our psyche. It
only serves to remind us of our humanness and the inevitability of suffering
and death. Other people’s tragedy and death does not release us from our fear
of the same.

     “Look at your cousin next door. He does so well at school and is on his way to a prestigious
college.”

     Aren’t we all greatly annoyed when our parents perceive us through comparing and contrasting us
with our friends and neighbors? Does my cousin being so smart or doing so well
at school have anything to do with me as a person and a student? Our parents
and teachers seem to think so, and it makes us feel lousy when they verbalize
their opinion, trying to urge us to study harder.

     It only makes us feel bitter, for by doing that our teachers and parents don’t seem to view
us as who we are; they instead perceive us through the spectrum of other
people. We are utterly misconceived, misunderstood, and underappreciated as a
person.

     God sees us as who we are, not who we are not. We tend to see what people are lacking when we
perceive them through comparison, which is obviously a negative way of seeing.
Similar things happen if we view ourselves by comparing ourselves with others.
We become discontented with ourselves because we see ourselves as lagging
behind in so many ways.

     I suppose God sees us just like a perfect parent sees his children. He views us as unique
individuals with unique attributes. I guess if we become dissatisfied with who
we are, we, in fact, accuse God of making a mistake, or doing less than a
perfect job in creating and molding us. He is indeed to blame.

     “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” wrote the psalmist. The poet burst
into praise to God when he looked at himself and how majestically he was
created. Shouldn’t we do the same thing as David did every day? There must be
something seriously wrong if you are not constantly amazed by yourself and by
so many beautiful things you can do as a creature of the Almighty. 

 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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