Remember 

~~MTS-4081
Remember
“…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ… without hope and without God in the world.”       Eph 2:12

Can there be any hope in the world if there is no God and no life after death? What kind of hopes do we have if they are all confined to this world, and they will be no more after we are gone?
“Grow up and become a useful man,” mother used to tell me. I guess what she meant was that I should become a man of means who made a decent living for my family. Her hope for me wasn’t all that lofty at all; she merely wanted me to live well in this world and, as far as eternity was concerned, that was beyond her pay grade. Being a devout Buddhist, she probably believed in reincarnation, which is an issue I will leave for another day.
One shouldn’t be that ambitious about such things, really. “How can I know death if am yet to know life,” Confucius replied when one of his disciples inquired about death. I guess that was the best answer the old sage could come up with. He was just too honest to venture into any sort of philosophical discussion concerning life or nonlife beyond this world. The greatest teacher and philosopher in Chinese history was pretty much earth-bound when it came to a discourse on the supernatural or the spiritual for lack of creditable information.
Therefore most of us probably spend about one third of our life when we are young studying and making preparation for the last one third of our life when we are weak and frail and, quite unfortunately, we seem to exhaust the middle third of our life laboring at our jobs trying to accumulate enough funds for our old age. If all things are vanities, why don’t we enjoy our life in our youth when we are still able? It seems rather foolish to accumulate money in our youth for our retirement, which may or may not be necessary any way.
Of course I was looking at all these things from a worldly point of view. Things become entirely different if there is a God who holds us accountable for all we have ever done and there is an eternity for which we have to be prepared after our time on earth ends. Indeed, looking at my life from this perspective, I seemed to have squandered my entire youth doing superfluous things, for what I did at the time was totally disconnected from God and unconnected with eternity. What a waste it was!
I have never been a forward-looking and thinking person; therefore I rarely looked into my future when I was young. I guess I was merely too preoccupied by my immediate needs to develop any concern for my distant future and, as far as eternity was concerned, it had never come into my mind. Such was the portrait of my youth as a pagan and, apart from God’s great mercy, I would have perished eternally long ago.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 30, 2015 7:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Remember 

~~MTS-4080
Remember
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth…”
            Eph 2:11

We may only look at our lives in retrospect with a sigh, mourning the rapid passage of time and the prospect of facing the end of our earthly journey in the not very distant future. As I age, I often find myself counting down the years I may still have remaining on earth and ponder how much I can still accomplish in my flesh. Not all that much, really. I guess it’s not prudent at my age to think too much about the future, for the future for the elderly is rather uncertain.
Who am I then? “A tattered coat upon a stick” as Yeats put it in his poem. At my age, how can my “soul clap its hand and sing?” I can either remember what’s behind or anticipate what’s ahead. I may become more thankful for what the Lord has done for me by doing the former, and by looking ahead I may become depressed, for what lies ahead is filled with uncertainties and challenges.
No wonder elderly people tend to incessantly talk about their past to whoever is willing to lend them their listening ears. It was the first breath of winter when I found out even my children were getting tired of listening to the stories of my youth, for they have heard them hundreds of times.
What we choose to remember about our past may determine who we really are as persons. We are arrogant people if all we care to remember is what we have accomplished and the accolades we have managed to collect with our physical and intellectual prowess. On the other hand, we are grateful people if we choose to recollect what the Lord has done for us in the course of our lives. Of course I often choose to do the latter, since there is practically nothing to boast about concerning my past if I decide to do so. To remember my bygone days is to count God’s blessings, and the more I remember, the more thankful to God I become.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth…” Paul exhorted the Ephesians.
Who was I formerly? I ask myself. Who are you formerly? You should ask yourself the same question. I was brought up a Buddhist and a Taoist, and I participated in worshipping idols by praying to them and burning paper money in their honor, albeit I did all those things without thinking and out of ignorance. Yet among all my siblings and relatives with a similar background I am the only one who was rescued from superstition. Indeed I had done nothing to earn God’s grace and I can only offer to him the sacrifice of my thankfulness.
Of course Paul’s audience were first generation Christians with very few exceptions and they all had a story to tell pertaining their past. It’s not that difficult to imagine in what manner the stories would have been told had they had the opportunity to do it.      

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 29, 2015 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Good Works 

~~MTS-4079
Good Works
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”       Eph 2:10

Of course we all have dreams and aspirations for our children even before they are born, yet we know that they may never come true in the end and we find ourselves continuing to lower our hopes for them as they grow up. Children rarely turn out to be what their parents expect them to be for the most part and being parents we do need to learn to accept our children as who they are, not what we expect them to be. What we may have prepared for them to do is primarily in accordance with what we consider ideal for them, and what we deem ideal may turn out to be not so ideal after all.
The omniscient God knows what’s best for our children, who are also God’s handiwork, and he has already prepared lots of good works for them to do before the foundation of the world. Our responsibility as parents is to help them discover what God’s good works for them are, and encourage them to fulfill them to the best of their ability.
I dealt mostly with our beings as God’s children in the previous essay when I was discussing the subject of the good works God has given us to do, delineating that we should reflect God’s glorious image as Christians. Besides being something, the Lord also calls us to do something as well. Of course, our doing must always be the direct result of the operation our inner beings which are unified with Christ.
We surely waste a lot of time if what we do daily in the market place isn’t the good works the Lord has prepared for us to do. Work is void of meaning and eternal significance unless it’s God’s work. What makes something God’s works then? Be they blue collar or white collar jobs, it appears what we do for a living doesn’t seem to be all that relevant as far as advancing God’s kingdom on earth is concerned.
Who we are determines whether we accomplish God’s good works at our jobs or not. Some of the things we do to earn a living may be rather mundane unless we make them holy by erecting an altar at our job site and laying ourselves on the altar to be burned as living sacrifices, producing a sweet aroma, pleasing both to God and to men. No matter what we do, what’s done unto the Lord and in his name should always be considered good works.
Should being a slave to an earthly master be considered a part of good works? Paul seemed to think so since he encouraged slaves to do the best they could to serve as if they were serving God, not serving men. I believe this too ought to be our work ethic as well. What we do for a living does not identify us in any way, but the way we work and our attitude toward what we do may actually sanctify our works and turn them into God’s good works.                                     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Good Work 

~~MTS-4078
Good Work
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…”
         Eph 2:10

I am really not a maker of anything, but if I were, I would be rather disappointed if something I had made failed to perform what I designed it to do, for that would only indicate that I am a failure. I do occasionally write poetry and if it doesn’t communicate what I am trying to convey, I will be dismayed, for it signifies that I am deficient in my composing and ways of expression. In another words, only poor writers fail to communicate their ideas, even though “poetry makes nothing happen,” really.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” What did the Lord create all of us to do? Aren’t we all a little bit curious about this? Have we been created merely to make a living in this life and then die, or are there other things besides making a decent living that we must do?
Unfortunately, we seem to make the means as an end itself and devote our entire life to make a better living and to improve our lifestyle. When are we going to come to our senses and become awakened to the fact that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works?”
Evidently Adam was made to do “good works,” yet he failed miserably and the Lord again created a holy nation in Christ Jesus to take up the work that Adam had failed to achieve, which is to reveal God’s glorious image in them.
"What must we do to do the works God requires?" the disciples asked the Lord Jesus. What was his reply, then? The response was indeed quite poignant. “"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." To believe in Him is to reveal what he has placed in us - the glorious image of God. The ones who don’t believe in him are the ones who mostly intend to reveal the animal nature in themselves and lead a lifestyle according to what they believe to be iron-clad truth - Darwinian evolution. I just don’t believe there are other alternatives. We are either God’s children who bear his image or products of billions of years of evolutionary process, bearing the marks of beasts to whom we are closely related.
Therefore what we must strive to do, well, to be more exact, strive to be, is to be more like Christ, which encompasses the “good works” that we must do. Doing something outwardly is merely reflection of our inner selves. We can’t reveal Christ if there is no indwelling of God’s only Son. As simple as that. What the Lord requires from us is according to what we have, not what we don’t have.
What should we then do?
We may be getting rather tired of hearing the same thing repeatedly, yet what’s truly worthwhile is worth repeating. We need to abide in Christ through prayer, reading and meditating on the Scriptures, and worshipping and fellowshipping with fellow Christians. These are all instruments of grace by which God can work through us, making us more like Christ, thus becoming better in revealing God’s image in us.
  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 27, 2015 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Boasting 

~~MTS-4077
Boasting
“…it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
         Eph 2:9

He was God’s faithful servant and devoted his entire life to Chinese people and I have absolutely no doubt his intention was good, yet the way he dealt with us was not as desirable as it should have been. The elderly missionary was a little condescending in the way he related to people to whom he was ministering on the island of Taiwan. I am extremely grateful for what he was trying to do as missionary, yet everyone has blind spots and he was no exception. I wish I were mistaken in my observation, but he seemed to exude an air of superiority in the way he did things. Was it by design? By no means. I think it was a habit that he had formed through years of dealing with people who were a lot less educated than he and, unfortunately, they might have been “heathens” to be saved in his perception, not people to be loved.
Of course I am writing this with fear and trembling, for I am not entitled to pass such judgment, for I only know in part and see the man with a rather limited perspective. I am merely trying to draw an analogy this particular person brought to my mind. He is now with the Lord and I believe he has received his reward for the work he did among the Chinese people.
Don’t we all have a sense of superiority when we try to witness? Just by the sheer fact that we are Christians, we seem to stand on a higher spiritual and moral ground than non-believers and, instead of loving them as they are, as ones who bear God image, we seem to pity them for their ignorance and despise their pagan lifestyle. Isn’t such an attitude a kind of boasting and condescending, borderline arrogance?
Didn’t our Lord Jesus give us a perfect example of how to love and respect sinners? Our issue is that we don’t consider showing respect to non-believers all that important as long as we love them from our hearts. Are we so dumb to even realize that love is invisible for the most part but respect is rather conspicuous and easily detected? How did the Lord Jesus interact with the Samaritan woman who had such a bad reputation that everyone in town seemed to want to avoid her? The Lord appeared to treat her as if she was a normal human being with aspiration and dreams. Surely the Lord didn’t have a superior attitude even though he had every right to. In yet another incident, the Lord seemed to have more sympathy and love for the disreputable woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery than all the people in the crowd put together. Don’t we all have some sort of boastful attitude when we encounter those whom we deem morally inferior to us? I am afraid so.
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” wrote the apostle Paul. Being converted to Christianity does not place us on a higher moral ground; it merely gives us the privilege to share the good news with the profoundest humility, knowing that we are saved by grace.

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 26, 2015 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Gift 

~~MTS-4076
A Gift
“…and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”          Eph 2:8-9

“It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” said the Lord Jesus. In some ways, it’s more difficult to receive than to give. Giving to others gives us a sense of pride and well-being; it’s extremely humbling to be on the receiving end of other people’s charity, for it only indicates that we are weak and not able to make it on our own. We may have to swallow our pride when we accept something from others for free, and we will always want to pay for it if we can afford to.
There were quite a few homeless people who came knocking at our door when we first moved into the neighborhood near our church and the number seemed to increase by the day since we rarely turned them down. I remember feeling awfully sorry for them, for it must have been quite a humbling thing to come up with a sob story every time they asked for help. I guess they wouldn’t have done so had they been able to support themselves. It does take some courage to beg for food or anything else, and most of us would rather starve to even stoop so low. We simply have too much pride to receive charity, either from a human or the divine.
Pride may also keep us from receiving God’s free grace. No wonder salvation by works has always been more welcomed and better received by the masses than the doctrine of justification by faith alone. We want to earn what we receive, either from God or men.
Indeed, there is nothing wrong to feel that way, for we do want to earn our keep and accepting handouts may cause us to become lazy and unproductive. Didn’t the apostle Paul once comment: “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat?” God does provide for all of our daily needs, yet we ourselves should also become an instruments and means by which we earn our living.
How about the thing that we truly need yet can’t possibly afford, for the price is so steep that not a single soul can afford it? Take the redemption of our souls for an example.
We must know who we really are and who God is to receive such an expensive gift. We will never receive God’s gift of salvation if we continue to ponder on ways to earn it by our own merit. It may take bankruptcy for us to apply for government assistance, and we may have to become morally bankrupt to realize that we have nothing of value to give to God in exchange for his favor.  If our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags, what kind of currency can we use to purchase such a costly gift of salvation, which was purchased by the precious blood of God’s only Son?       

   

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 23, 2015 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

By Grace 

~~ MTS-4075
By Grace
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves…”          Eph 2:8

I don’t know about other people, but I sure know quite well what I am capable of doing through my own natural ability, which isn’t all that much. I am always rather reluctant do tackle anything labeled “assembly required,” for I seem to have great difficulty reading or following directions. I bought a weed-eater the other day and, even though there were only a few separate parts, it took me quite a while to figure the whole thing out and it still didn’t work properly after I put it together for some odd reason.
Of course there are tons of other things great and small that I am not able to do. I have driven to my son’s home in Dallas dozens of times, yet I don’t think I can get to the destination without my wife’s help. If I have trouble doing such minute things, how can I figure out the great enterprise of my salvation and find my way to God?
I came to know how slow I am when my wife tried to teach me the very simple concept of fractions, which I simply could not comprehend. Up to this point, I am still trying to figure out what “x” is in basic algebra. How can a dumb person like me find my way to heaven through my own intelligence?
For a man with such limited natural resources, being humble should be the natural outcome, yet it’s not the case at all. I have a tendency of relying on my instinct in doing certain things and sticking to it no matter how irrational it is. I am, to be very precise, foolishly stubborn and it would have been absolutely impossible for me to humble myself before the Lord and receive him as my Savior through my own volition.
 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves.” I don’t have to be told that this was the case when I was saved. It had to be since I had neither motivation nor courage to turn to the Lord who I was yet to know and come to love. Without divine intervention, I would have plunged headlong into the abyss of perdition just like most of my friends at the time and remained there eternally.
Indeed, the Lord did the job and continues to do his miraculous work in me. Not only did he rescue me from the depths of my sin, he has also sustained me throughout the years, so it’s by his grace that I haven’t strayed away from him. O how God’s grace permeates every cranny and corner of my being and fills every void in my life and I am no longer who and what I was apart from his grace.
How can we not be totally overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy and our hearts filled with thankfulness and praise to him, knowing how much the Lord has done for us and how gracious he is. 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 22, 2015 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Raise Up 

~~MTS-4074
Raise Up
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”        Eph 2:6

We are supposed to be seated with Christ in the “heavenly realms” at the present time, yet we are hardly aware of the fact, and we lead our lives in such a way as if we are absolutely earth-bound. Most of us are incapable of breaking free entirely from the bondage of the material world and living with Christ above and enjoying his abiding fellowship every moment of the day. We are just too much of earthlings to be heavenly conscious all the times. 
In fact, we seem to have some difficulty comprehending this particular verse and what it implies. What does it mean that we have been raised up with Christ and we are now seated with him in heaven? This sounds so abstract and other-worldly that we can hardly see the essence of it and we may take it as just spiritual jargon - something we believe is true, yet continue to remain puzzled in our minds. We have been programmed to think that heavenly things are reserved for the long distant future when we depart from this earthly tent; therefore we are rather reluctant to ponder on this particular issue, for it also means our death when it finally, ultimately takes place.
Paul was obviously speaking about what had occurred among the Christians, meaning that all of them had been raised up and were seated with Jesus above. How could this be, we wonder. Aren’t we all still living in the flesh and are very much trapped in our bodies in all ways? Well, perhaps some people are more trapped than others. We may be bound in the prison of our bodies, but our spirits can break free and be with Christ whenever we desire to do so and put an effort into making it happen. Our salvation involves three timeframes - past, present, and future. In fact, we are now seated with Christ in his glory even though we are yet to be glorified. By God’s grace through our faith we may be able to catch a glimpse of what’s going to come after we “break camp” and to have a foretaste of our heavenly banquet.
Don’t we all have a sense of bliss and euphoria when we get together with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship in God’s house? There must be something quite wrong if we don’t have such a blessed feeling when we sing praises to God. Why do some people drag their feet when it’s time to go to church to worship? It dawned on me the other day when I was praying that I could easily sit through a long three- hour college football game, which is superfluous at best, without feeling any sort of boredom or restlessness, yet an hour of prayer time may become rather laborious to me. Why? I asked myself. Why do I enjoy earthly affairs more than I appreciate heavenly ventures?
I guess what makes the difference is the way we see things. To see is to enjoy, and we will never get to enjoy something if we fail to see the essence of it. Instead of doing things purely by sight, we should operate by faith. Faith in God is what opens our eyes and enables us to see the glory and beauty of heavenly things. This, it appears to me, is the first step we should take in starting to sit with Christ in the “heavenly realms” and to enjoy what is yet to come. It takes daily reminding and practice to get our minds and hearts in tune with heavenly melodies. 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

By Grace 

~~ MTS-4073
By Grace
“…it is by grace you have been saved.”
          Eph 2:5

Do we have anything to do with our salvation through Christ Jesus? Of course we do. We made a decision to accept God’s redemption through the merit of Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross, didn’t we? Yes, that’s all we know and all we need to know.
How can we give ourselves any credit at all by merely accepting the greatest gift of all, the redemption of our soul? It’s ludicrous to even consider such an act is anything to boast about. Isn’t it natural for people to do just that? How can we turn down a wonderful gift such as that?
Indeed, we are all very desirous to receive good gifts; well, to be more exact, something we deem precious and good. Of course, if someone approaches us and offers to give us a million dollars out of the blue, the first thought that comes into our mind is the offer is bogus and we merely brush it aside. If we, by some chance, are persuaded that the offer is genuine, we may still turn it down because we may think that we haven’t earned it. Our pride may be in the way of our accepting something total free.
These are two simple reasons why people refuse to embrace the good news and accept God’s grace through Jesus. So the ones who believe are those who believe the salvation offer to be true and who are humble enough to accept it. Can we assume that they have earned their salvation by doing these two things? Far from it.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”
It was by Christ’s merit on the cross that salvation became a reality; and it’s also through the assistance of the Holy Spirit that Christ’s redemption became real to us. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to follow Christ and the so-called “sinner’s prayer” was rather foreign to me; salvation through Jesus merely happened without me making it happen in the slightest. In fact, as far as I can recall, I didn’t want it to happen at all. The Lord simply did his thing without my consent. I guess the sovereign One did not find it necessary to seek my council or to secure my permission concerning what he intended to do in my life. It was as natural and spontaneous as wind blowing and flowers blooming. It happened and it seemed foolish to ask him why. What choice did I have at the time except to go along for the joy ride? I don’t remember as a child that I ever turned my dad down when he was trying to do something nice to me, like taking me to the zoo. It would have been rather foolish and ridiculous for me to even ask father why he wanted to do such things. There was probably no particular reason behind it except he was just trying to be loving and kind to his son. Surely I didn’t earn it. It’s laughable to even think that might have been the case.        
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 20, 2015 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

alive 

~~MTS-4072
Alive
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…”       Eph 2:4

I am not merely alive, I am alive spiritually and, more importantly, I am alive with Christ. Christ Jesus came back to life after he was crucified, and the same will happen to me if I am identified with him in his death. Christ and I are unified both in death and in life.
Will I be willing to die to myself and to live with him daily? That’s the question. If I am not willing to die to my flesh with all its tyrannical demands, I will never be able to reflect the life of Christ in me. I will just be a strange creature of in-between, an unholy union of carnality and spirituality.
Are we all like that? Something still in the process of being constructed and will never be finished?
There was a mansion being built on the hill by highway 6 near Waco and for the period of several years there didn’t seem to be any progress made from our vantage point at a distance when we were driving by on our way to visit our sons at College Station. I wonder whether the building was finally finished or not since it was still being worked on the last time we drove by. It might have become an object to be scorned and mocked, since someone launched the grand project, yet was unable to finish.
Are we all using the same pretext, apologizing for our lack of progress in our pursuit of Christian maturity? “I am sorry, you know, I am still being constructed.” I hope we will never say this again either to others or to ourselves, for it sounds so trite and sheepish. There is beauty in any stage of spirituality and we shouldn’t have to apologize for anything.
“I don’t want to become a Christian since Christians are a bunch of hypocrites and they are no better than others.” It annoys me to no end when I hear this kind of statement made by non-believers. I guess what they mean to say is they have achieved the end of being good through their own strength, which Christians are incapable of achieving even through God’s help. In fact, hypocrites are the ones who hold a holier than thou attitude, and most Christians at the least are aware of their inadequacy and incompleteness.
There is indeed great beauty in humility and the ugliness of arrogance is beyond words. Christians may have fallen way short in their search for holiness both in thought and action, but the reality of their deficiency itself causes them to become humble and contrite, which has a beauty of its own.
It’s not even a debate that most of us are yet to mortify our carnality completely and the life of Christ is yet to be displayed in our lives fully, but we should put in full display whatever godly attributes we possess and make absolutely no apology for them.       
  

   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 19, 2015 7:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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