Timing 

MTS-3376

Timing

“But when the set time had fully come,
God sent his Son…”

           Gal 4:4

 

The word became flesh at exactly the right time, not a day early or a day late. It was
precisely what the Lord had planned.

Many saints of old had been waiting for the day to come, yet they died without witnessing
the coming of the Messiah. Didn’t Confucius once say: “I could die in the
evening if I heard about the Way in the morning.” Indeed even the Chinese sage
was waiting for the dawning of the beautiful day.

The time had fully come and Christ was born.

Many Christmas have come and gone, but you have never celebrated the coming of the
God’s Son and you have remained alienated from him. You seem to prefer the
endless winter without Christmas.

Once you have accepted the Savior you can never imagine a life spent without him by your
side.

Were the Dark Ages truly dark? Indeed the thousand years between the years 500 and 1500 were
ravaged by famine, plague, and war. People suffered enormously and their
average lifespan was about forty years. Indeed life was extremely difficult,
but they had the consolation the ages before them didn’t get to enjoy - Christ
had come and God’s redemption was available.

Shall I tell you of the dark age of my life, the dark days when I didn’t know the Lord and
was trying to make it on my own? 

For some twenty three years I was on my own in this world, doing what was necessary to
survive. The Lord could have saved me from myself a lot earlier and kept me
from adding more sins to my account, yet that wasn’t his intention.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son…”

It was indeed the right time and the best time when the Lord revealed himself to me and
caused me to be born again. If this is yet to take place in your life, just
wait patiently and the time will come if you are truly seeking him. And his
timing will be perfect.

Within the span of a year the Lord saved me from all my filth and sin and he also brought
my future wife to the college which I was going to attend. The Lord’s time was
impeccable. 

Even for such a worm as I, the Lord took such great effort to make preparation for my life
and brought everything to pass according to his timing; surely he has made a
perfect arrangement concerning the redemption and sanctification of the entire
world.

Am I a little cosmos and I can envision what the Lord will do to the large cosmos by looking
at what he has already done in my meager life? Think about this: It’s all in
the timing.   

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Underage 

MTS-3375

Underage

“So also, when we were underage, we were
in slavery under the elemental spiritual forcesof the world.”           Gal 4:3

 

Our eternal destiny is determined by the family and culture into which we are born. Is this
assumption true? People who are born and raised in an Islamic family will
inevitably become an Islamist and, by the same token, people who are born into
a Christian family will become Christians. If this is the case, we don’t really
choose to adhere to one religion or another; it’s been chosen for us by our
parents.

This may be true if we look at religion from the viewpoint of culture. Many people may
become cultural Christians by virtue of their family background and upbringing,
but they will never become genuine believers unless they go through a
regeneration experience. Even though people sometimes label America as a
Christian nation, it’s really a misnomer because, from my observation, true
followers of Christ in this country are definitely in the minority. Merely
attending a church worship service does not make one a Christian.

I became a Buddhist and an idolater because I happened to be born into such a heritage.
Being underage, I had no choice but to do what I was told to do during
religious festivals and other occasions. I remember asking my parents the
reasons behind all the ritualistic things we did regularly, and the answer I
received from them was less than satisfactory. “Well, everybody is doing it.”
That was their standard response. I guess that is how traditions are formed.

Religion wasn’t an important part of my youth and I rarely took it seriously when I was
told to bow to the idols or to my ancestors. In fact, I had a certain sense of
animosity toward them all. The idols carved of wood with gold plates hanging from
their necks invoked in me more fear than reverence. I left them all behind
after I left my family for school in Taipei, and avoided the practice of
idolatry as much as I could.

Even though I was underage and was enslaved to a certain extent by superstition, I could
still exercise my free will and chose to do what I deemed rational and good. I
could have become an idolater like my siblings, yet I didn’t. Certainly the
probability of me becoming a Buddhist was indeed much greater than me turning
into a Christian because of my background, but God was able to override all
things and caused me to become what he wanted me to be.

“God does not have grandchildren.” This is indeed true. No matter where they are born, all
believers are, in essence, first generation Christians. We have been praying
for our children that they would become “strong men of God,” but it’s not up to
us whether this will actually come to pass or not. It was beyond my parents’
wildest dream that I have turned out to be what I am.    

  

 

   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ownership 

MTS-3374

Ownership

“…as long as an heir is underage, he is
no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.”        Gal 4:1

 

We may be earning a sizable fortune in this world, but deep inside we are aware of a
cruel fact - we won’t be able take a dime away with us when we depart from this
world. Does this reality blunt anyone’s passion for accumulating more wealth? I
am afraid not.

“Did you fly first class?” a radio host asked an older couple who was returning from a
two-week hiking trip in the Himalaya.

“We certainly did. If we don’t, our heirs will,” the lady responded. The issue was, I
remember thinking, pretty soon they will become too old to fly or to hike.

“Light, light, the visible reminder of an invisible light,” wrote Eliot. Does the
visible world serve as a reminder of an invisible world, which is just as real
and concrete as the visible one?

“What’s seen is temporal; what’s unseen is eternal,” wrote the apostle Paul. That’s why the
Lord Jesus urged us to store up treasure in heaven and deemed the ones who
chased after earthly possession foolish.

We are indeed enslaved by our passion to become rich and famous, not realizing that we do
have an invisible estate which we will inherit someday. We are heirs of an
enormous fortune, yet we are not aware of the fact because we are still under-aged
and therefore are leading a life as if we were paupers.

Some people may never inherit their father’s estate because of their ignorance, and spend
their entire lifetime laboring to earn a living, or to enhance their lifestyle
by earning more.

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” proclaimed the late Carl Sagan, a
well-known atheist. I guess he is in a better position to tell right now, but
unfortunately we will never hear from him again except through what he has left
behind, continuing to spread the message of hopelessness. Lazarus was in a
position to tell us what was beyond the portal of death, but he remained
strangely silent.

I am what I believe my Father is.

I became an entirely different person after I became awakened to the important truth that
my Heavenly Father is the owner of the universe and I am the heir of an
enormous estate. Therefore I started to lead my life as if I were the richest
person in the world by claiming the ownership of all things that belong to my Father.
Surely I haven’t turned my Father’s estate into cash and would never do such a
foolish thing, for the enjoyment of my Father’s fortune lies solely in my deep
appreciation of it.

  

  

 

Monday, October 29, 2012 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Clothing 

MTS-3373

Clothing

“…for all of you who were baptized into
Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”            Gal 3:27

 

Fashion design is obviously a big industry and the market for it is enormous,
for our passion to look good is unlimited. We dress to impress, to attract
people’s attention, to cover up our flaws, and to become the kind of people we
desire to be.

“What am I going to get for Christmas,” I asked myself the other day.

“Perhaps some Polo stuff, I suppose.” In fact, that was the thing I got from my wife and sons last year.

“Do I want to look good?”

No so. I probably just want to look rich. I want to create a false impression by the clothes I wear, trying to
fool people into believing that I am well-off.

In essence, no matter how gloriously we clothe ourselves, it’s still the emperor’s new clothes that we
wear if we fail to cultivate our inner selves. We may look fancy before men; we
are all naked before God. Surely we can never impress the Omniscient by the
clothes with which we adorn ourselves, since his main concern is our inner
being.

A Tech coed came out of her car as I was driving by on my way to work this morning and strangely the young
blond struck me as old and pale, even though she might be considered gorgeous
by most. The student might have been young, but her appearance seemed to
indicate that she had done a lot of living already.

Our outward selves wear out rather quickly and, if we fail to cultivate our inner selves by adorning
ourselves with Christ’s blood-stained robe, we will all end up old and ugly.
It’s the blood of Christ that purifies us and causes us to be holy, which is
true beauty before God.

“A gentleman’s language will become tasteless and his appearance repulsive if he fails to study for three
days,” goes a Chinese saying. I guess this simply means that our outer selves
reflect what we have stored inside. This may not be the case however, since we
know quite a few learned people who appear to be bitter, antagonistic, and
unattractive. Indeed we need to dress our inner selves with the right clothes,
just like we do for our outer selves. The garbage we take in will come out
eventually.

Some women may spend hours in front of a mirror every morning doing all kinds of things to make themselves
look good, yet take absolutely no time to beautify their inner selves and to
cleanse their souls by meditating and praying before their Creator. Yeats was
right when he wrote: “We must labour to be beautiful,” but I would like to
think that he was referring to our inner beauty, which outlasts our physical
attractiveness.          

It’s quite possible that one may still feel ugly even though her appearance may look perfect in every way.
We cannot be truly beautiful unless our inner selves are cleansed and purified
by the blood of the Lamb.

 

 

Friday, October 26, 2012 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Children of God 

MTS-3372

Children of God

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children
of God through faith…”

         
Gal 3:26

 

By virtue of our new birth in Christ, we have become children of God. The problem is: we
don’t always feel or act like his children.

We may be working very hard as a Christian to earn our Father’s approval, or are in
constant dread that the rod of God will fall on us because of our occasional
missteps.

My dad had a quick temper, but I never had any fear that he might harm me in any way when he
lost his cool. I never doubted his love for me, which was a comforting thing.
He was pleased when I did something good, but his affection for me wasn’t based
on my goodness, and nothing I could have ever done would change the fact that I
was his son.

The analogy is quite clear, isn’t it? Except our Heavenly Father’s love for us far
surpasses that of our earthly father.

 “Perfect love cast out all fear.” Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. The perfect love of our Father should erase any
residue of fear from our hearts and encompass us with peace that passes all
understanding.

That’s why we call him “Abba, Father.”

Does it create in our heart a sense of peace, comfort, and a profound sense of
well-being when we utter this, akin to the feeling when we call our earthly
father? There is something wrong in our relationship with the Lord if it does not.

Our love for the Lord is reawakened when we become born again and the love for the divine
needs to be cultivated by practice. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters and
may we always act like ones.

My dad was a poor farmer, but he did his best to provide for me. He even bought me a new car
when I returned home from the States after three years of study. That was the
only new car I have ever driven up to this day. We do have a father who owns
the cattle on a thousand hills, yet we often become anxious about our daily
provision. We don’t seem to act like children of God in this aspect.

Nothing I could have done to hurt my father more than running away from home and staying
away for an entire week, but my punishment was quite meager compared to my
offense. My father was overjoyed when I returned safely and seemed to have
forgotten to dish out any punishment. Indeed we are prodigal sons, but we are
sons nonetheless. We don’t act like children of God if we are dreading God’s
punishment for our sins of commission or omission.

After years of alienation from our Heavenly Father, we seem to have forgotten how to be his
beloved sons and daughters. The crux of our spiritual growth lies solely in
learning to love our Heavenly Father and be loved by him.

 

 

 

 

   

Thursday, October 25, 2012 6:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Guardian 

MTS-3371

Guardian

“So the law was our guardian until
Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”           Gal 3:24

 

Observing the law does make us feel better about ourselves and give us a false sense of
security.

I don’t drink, smoke, or gamble, therefore I am fine. Besides, I fare much better when
I compare myself with my neighbors.

What the law does is to guard us from falling too deeply into sin. It brings us back when we
wander away from the right path, but it does nothing to keep us there. It does
not give us new life; it merely keeps us alive, for utter lawlessness makes
survival impossible.

Kathy and I were guardians to someone for a few years, and our main concern during that
time was that the boy stayed on the right path and did not get himself into any
sort of trouble. There was no life-connection between the guardian and the
guarded.

The law tells us what not to do, yet it does not impart us with the strength and power to do
good and to shun evil. It creates within us a sense of guilt, since knowing
does not equal doing. Didn’t the apostle Paul once lament: “Woe is me!”

For us Gentiles, we may not have the law, but we do have a conscience, which has a similar
function as the law. Don’t we often hear a nagging voice within our heart
telling us we have gone astray, after we do something against the mandate of
our conscience?

It’s the voice of our guardian, doing the admonishing and correcting.

I am indeed very grateful to the guardian within my heart who kept me from falling too
deeply into sin and lawlessness during the days of my youth. I didn’t become as
corrupted as I could have become, solely because of its guardianship.

I tried to be a good man, yet apart from the cross, my righteousness was only “filthy rags.”
What I needed as a pagan wasn’t constant admonition from my guardian, but a
thorough transformation by the Holy Spirit. I became a new man, not a better
man when that took place.

Have I left my guardian behind? Not completely. We may sometimes find ourselves seeking
justification through keeping the law.

The life of following Christ and following the law are entirely different. Indeed I still
falter and stagger in my walk, but my performance as a Christian has nothing to
do with my deliverance, and my imperfection as a person does not rob me of my
inner serenity, since I am under the authority of a loving Father who
always forgives, not a cold-hearted guardian who often seeks to condemn and to
punish.

May we constantly be reminded that Christ has come and we no longer live under the tyranny of the guardian.

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Life 

MTS-3370

Life

“For if a law had been given that could
impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”       Gal 3:21

 

Paul was a strong-willed person with great determination, and if any human being could
accomplish the feat of observing the law completely, he would have been the
one. Even though he thought he was doing exactly that, he eventually came to
realize that he had fallen far, far short as far as keeping the spirit of the
law was concerned. He might have done quite well observing the outward forms of
the law; he failed miserably in keeping step with the inner essence of the law;
therefore, he was still found guilty before the Lord and the righteousness he
was seeking became more and more elusive.

What have we been doing in order to achieve the righteousness required by God?

Paul was indeed a highly unusual person and he was doing all he could to please the Lord
even before he knew who the Lord truly was. For most of us, pleasing the Lord was
never our primary concern before we were converted. For us Chinese people, the
virtue of filial piety is the paramount of all virtues and pleasing our parents
becomes the top priority in all our earthly pursuits. We seem to believe we
will be accepted by Heaven if we practice the virtue of filial piety.

Such is the main teaching of Confucianism.

There are indeed some similarities between the Jewish law and Confucius’ teaching, but
the difference between the two is literarily heaven and earth, for the former
is centered on heaven but the latter is earthbound. Neither of them, however,
can impart life nor engender true righteousness.

How disappointed are you with your inability to do what you consider God-pleasing
and your propensity to do what you deem distasteful and god-dishonoring? The
degrees vary, I am sure, but some may be more disappointed with themselves than
others. In fact, I have met some Christians who appear to be very pleased with
their performance as God’s children and are fully assured that they are
accepted by God on the basis of their accomplishments. They are indeed to be
congratulated!

Such has never been my experience, though, and I continue to feel disappointed about my
walk with the Lord, for after thirty some years of following the Lord, I
continue to stagger on the way and repentance of my sins has become my daily
routine.

Praise the Lord that we are justified by faith, not by works.

The more we are disappointed with ourselves, the greater we will trust the Lord. This is
not my usual morbid thought or empty venting. The secret of our spiritual
growth lies in our escaping from ourselves and running toward Jesus, from whom
we obtain our righteousness and life.     
   

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Seed 

MTS-3369

The Seed

“It was added because of transgressions
until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”          Gal 3:19

 

Without the law a transgression wouldn’t have been a transgression and it would have been
left to the Israelites to determine what was permissible and what wasn’t. Consequently,
everyone would have been doing what was right in their own eyes, for there would
have been no standard of behavior given and they themselves would have become
the standard.

The law was added because it was needed before the Seed of promise came to the world to
make true justification before God possible. Thousands of years would elapse and
millions of souls would perish before the promise became a reality.

Not a single soul among the Jews was able to be saved by observing the law; by the same
token, not a single person among the Gentiles was justified by doing all things
according to their inner conscience.

Why did the Lord wait for thousands of years before Christ came to die on the cross so men
could be reconciled with God through him? This is a legitimate question to ask,
isn’t it? The longer God waited, the more people perished without hope of
salvation.

God’s timing should not be disputed. Our timing is always convenient, for we often do things
by impulse, without bringing all things into calculation. Not so with the Lord,
however. It would take him several thousand years to make preparation for his Son
to descend to the world.  

Both the inner paths of the human heart and the outer paths of the Roman roads had to be
straightened so that the Seed could be planted and be brought to the ends of
the earth. Obviously Roman peace was necessary for the spreading of the gospel
and a common channel of communication, the Greek language, had to be available
at the time. All these conditions were made possible by the reign of the Roman
Empire. The Lord Jesus came to the world not a day too early, or a moment too
late. 

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the
law,” wrote Paul in the following chapter.

We may spend too much time worrying about things over which we have absolutely no control
and neglect doing the things we are capable of doing for the time being. We may
also waste a lot of time and energy trying to interfere with God’s business and
forgetting to do what God requires us to do. We cannot save the dead in years
past or the ones who are yet to be born; we can only save the living during our
time by bringing them the gospel.

Whether Confucius or Plato were saved or not might have concerned the Lord, but it
shouldn’t be our concern. Whether they are in Dante’s Limbo or elsewhere, there
is no way for us to know. God alone determines how he is going to deal with the
ones who have perished without the gospel and, I do believe, he is merciful and
just.

        

 

   

Monday, October 22, 2012 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Spirit 

MTS-3368

The Spirit

“…so that by faith we might receive the
promise of the Spirit.”

         
Gal 3:14

 

We make a profession of faith by inviting Jesus into our hearts, which makes it possible
for the Spirit to enter into our bodies to dwell. We may not be conscious of
what’s going on, yet mysterious things do take place when we put our trust in
the Lord.

When this happens, it will become the most important event in your life and from that
moment on, everything that will ever happen in your entire life will be defined
by that monumental occurrence. It can be mysterious, yet it becomes more and
more obvious as time goes on, just as happily married couple becomes more and
more aware of their love for each other as they age.

Nothing is as obvious and significant as the truth of “the Spirit in me.”

Paul didn’t mention in this context about our being saved by faith in Christ; he talked
about our receiving the Holy Spirit, which was far more crucial to him than our
being saved from damnation.

It’s easier for us to tell than anything else whether a person is redeemed or not by
observing whether the Spirit is present or not in his or her life, for the
Spirit is the seal of our salvation.

Are you aware of the inner work of the Holy Spirit every moment of the day?

We can be working throughout the entire day or doing all our chores, but his unseen
presence is always there, reminding us to return back to the inner chamber of
our heart to fellowship with him. Unless we do that a few time during the day, we
will have a sense of loss or a feeling of homesickness that is hard to explain,
a sense that is akin to not communicating with the ones we love for a period of
time.

Something must be seriously wrong with our Christian walk if we go through day after day,
month after month even, without thinking about the Spirit or listening to what
he has to say to us. How can we not think about him if the Spirit is truly
residing within our heart? The Spirit simply cannot be ignored if he is truly
present in our life.  

By faith we receive the Spirit into our heart; and by the presence of the Spirit we know for sure
that we do have faith. This may be a good time to do some soul-searching to see
whether we have the indwelling Spirit or not.

What do we find when we dare to enter into our hearts and to examine what’s really in
there? Is there greed for wealth and longing for fame? Perhaps. Is there
remorse for love lost and anticipation for love yet to occur? Maybe. Is there a
place in the center of your heart where the Spirit is enthroned? Whenever you
visit your heart, is he the One you see first and foremost?

 May we never cease to mediate on the truth of
“the Spirit in me,” and to seek spiritual nurture from the meditation.

 

Friday, October 19, 2012 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Curse 

MTS-3367

Curse

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of
the law by becoming a curse for us…”

            Gal 3:13

 

“You can do it as long as you try a little harder.” How many times do we hear this sort of
well-meaning exhortation? This does not make us feel better about our inability
to accomplish some things or to overcome certain insurmountable obstacles.

My wife is the best encourager I know, but there were times her words of affirmation fell a
little short, especially during the time I was struggling with my doctorial
study at Ole Miss. I was on a verge of giving up several times, for I simply
couldn’t get the required score in my GRE to meet the standard of the graduate
school. Kathy did everything possible to help me, including encouraging me by
quoting Bible verses and tutoring me in basic math, starting from long division
to fractions.

Math was a curse throughout my entire career as a student. It kept me from getting into
better schools and it cast a dark shadow over me, even when I was well into my
thirties. Surely this curse wasn’t removed through my own efforts; it was done
through my teachers’ mercy and generosity. I continued to fail math throughout
secondary school and college, and my math teachers continued to show mercy by
passing me. Had justice been served, I would have had gotten stuck in the
fourth grade.

What I have deemed a curse turned out not to be a curse at all; it has turned out to be the
greatest blessing in my life.

Had I done well in math, I would have gotten to a decent university, yet the 25 points I scored
in math simply wasn’t good enough and I ended up going to a small Christian
liberal arts college where I heard the gospel for the very first time. It was
indeed a blessing. The domino effort of my failure at school finally led me to
my future wife, which turned out to be another great blessing.    

Had I been better in math, my life’s path would have been entirely different. I would have
become either a college professor, like many of my friends, or an arrogant
writer who would never have stepped into the door of a church. Mercy wouldn’t
have been necessary had I been strong and self-sufficient.

Is salvation for the weak?

I guess the strong will keep on trying to save themselves from damnation and they may
achieve a certain amount of success, not knowing the curse will never be lifted
unless they become completely unblemished both in their thoughts and actions,
which is humanly impossible to achieve. If salvation through observing the law
was achievable, it wouldn’t have been necessary for the Word to become flesh
and to be crucified on the cross.

Isn’t this the time to assess what blessings and curses are in our life and know the
differences between the two?

 

Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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