Removal 

~~MTS4279
Removal
“He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”       2 Ch. 14:3
 
    It may take only a short while to create a bad habit, six months to be exact, I have heard, but it may take much longer time and far greater effort to remove it. The habits that I built in the military forty some years ago, such as the routine of early to bed and early to rise, still remain with me up to this day. Obviously there is no reason for me to break this habit, but there are still others that should have been removed that continue to be present in my life, and for some odd reason I continue to coexist with them. Indeed, I have accepted them as part of me and it seems very little can be done about them, even though they may have become detrimental to my spiritual growth.
    We may be addicted to something without knowing it; or rather, we have been attempting to legitimize it by making apology or justification. I guess there are only a couple of options that we can take - to get rid of it once and for all, or to accept it as a part of our being.
    There are habits that are generally considered as addictions, over which it is rather difficult to gloss. Drugs, alcohol, and pornography are a few examples. Yet there are some which appear to be rather mild and acceptable, such as food addictions or being a workaholic, which seem to cause people much less concern than the former ones.
    Addictions are addictions no matter what we name them, and they smell equally foul. Unless they are uprooted and removed once and for all, they eventually will cause irreparable damage, and ultimately death.
    We may not consider idolatry a form of deadly addiction, which is a big mistake. We will be bound by the vice after we start the practice and it’s far more difficult to remove than we can ever imagine. Oftentimes, uprooting spiritual bondage demands stronger inner strength and effort from us than physical bondage, and idolatry is clearly spiritual in nature.
    Greed is closely akin to idolatry, according to Apostle Paul. This is rather alarming, doesn’t it? Isn’t this the time to take a spiritual inventory to find out where we really are and to see whether there are addictions and vices that we should forsake or not?
    We may be wondering why our spiritual growth has remained stagnant for so long and would like to do something about it. I think the first thing to do is to examine ourselves to see whether we are trapped by our addictions disguised as harmless habits and do something about them. That was what King Asa did for the entire nation of Judah and, as a result, a national revival ensued.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 31, 2016 7:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Front and Rear 

~~MTS-4278
Front and rear
“Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the Lord.”         2 Ch. 13:14
    Judah could have done something about it had they only been assaulted from the front, yet they were attacked from the rear as well. What could they have done to save themselves?
    We are often attacked both by our exterior and interior enemies. We may easily turn against ourselves when adverse situations arise by succumbing to forces from the dark side. Instead of fighting with all the inner strength we possess, our inner selves may be crying out to surrender to our foes and make peace.
    May our inner selves be strengthened daily by the empowered utilizing of the Holy Spirit.
    We can meet the enemies coming from the front head on by whatever weapons we have to defend ourselves. Obviously, running away from the foe makes things a lot worse, for there are enemies coming from our rear as well and, wherever we turn, we will be confronted by our mortal adversaries.
    We are surrounded by our enemies and there is simply no escape. At least that’s how it feels when things in life turn sour and the cards start to fall, and we are trapped in the midst of great turmoil.
    Perhaps we can escape from our outer foes for a period of time, but there simply is no respite from our inner enemies, which is our inner self. When things are bad, we are easily bound by our apprehension and fear. What’s daunting isn’t what has befallen us; it’s rather the way we react to it that determines its seriousness and its impact on us.
    Clear mindedness and godly thinking are absolutely essential when we are assaulted by our enemies from all sides. When all else fails, faith in God remains alive and viable. “Then they cried out to the Lord,” we read. Clear mindedness causes us to do the most rational things in dealing with difficulties; and godly thinking demands that we hold onto our faith in God who will bring all things to pass according to his good and sovereign will.
    Things are never nearly as bad as they seem to be and our phantom fear is far worse than the real thing. I suppose death could no longer pose any threat against Lazarus, who had just escaped from the grip of death. Faith in God can only become stronger after it’s tested, for it will never be broken if it’s genuine. If it’s not, we are merely wasting our time talking about this. Indeed, “we are of all people most to be pitied” if there is no resurrection.   
  
      
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 28, 2016 5:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fight Against 

~~MTS-4277
Fight Against
“People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.”        2 Ch. 13:12
    The Israelites thought they were fighting against their brothers from the South, the kingdom of Judah, not realizing they were in fact fighting against the Lord, for the Lord was siding with the ones who continued to worship him and honor him as their God. They might have been more equipped to win the war from a human standpoint, yet the battle belonged to God, who alone would decide the outcome at the end, and whatever he had determined to do could never have been altered by human means. The Israelites from the North were bound to fail in the military campaign.
   When we go through turmoil in life, we often forget the ironclad fact that the Lord is still sitting on his throne and he is in control of all things. He isn’t caught by surprise in any way concerning the affairs of the world.
    Surely, anyone with an ounce of theological knowledge should be well aware of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The real issue is that our head knowledge doesn’t usually turn into our heart knowledge, and what we know in our head may not be something we know in our heart. Therefore, we continue to fret and panic in the midst of our difficulties, as if the Lord has lost his control over our situation. We would surely have a sense of doom if the omnipotent God were losing his grip on what’s taking place in the world.
    We would have ample reason to worry if the Lord appeared to be at his wit’s end and didn’t seem to know how to resolve our issues. We would truly the most to be pitied among all people if that were the case.
    We may not be fighting against the Lord in all our struggles; we may be fighting against our unbelief and our lack of faith in him. Faith in God must be tested to know whether it’s genuine or not, and testing is often involved in our suffering. When darkness draws near, we either escape from it by running toward the light; or dwell in it and become utterly desperate.
    I seem to become more and more despondent as I age, as if there were only utter darkness beyond the sunset. Are we indeed journeying into the night in this life and is all we have done in the flesh nothing but vanity? Are we fighting to hold onto our faith in God in the midst of life’s many disappointments and disillusionments?
    Five hundred thousand Israelites perished when the dust finally settled and the tragedy was triggered by one man’s reckless decision. This might be easier for us to accept if it merely had taken place capriciously, yet it would take monumental effort to figure out the meaning if there was actually meaning behind the whole ordeal. Yielding to darkness requires very little fighting, but journeying to the light demands great effort.
  
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 27, 2016 8:01:00 AM

As for Us 

~~MTS-4276
As for Us
“As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him.” 
                  2 Ch. 13:10
    Obviously, King Abijah had the best intentions when he uttered this statement. He was speaking on behalf of the entire nation of Judah. I suppose, contrary to what the Northern Kingdom led by Jeroboam was practicing, Judah at least was still holding onto the Lord in their worship. As far as he himself was concerned, Abijah might not have been all that devout, but that is another topic altogether.
    Of course, church and state are not one and the same thing. Was Judah as a nation more devout and godly than Israel at this time? Not necessarily so, even though Abijah did make the claim.
    “As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him.”
    Abijah had the audacity to speak for the entire nation, for Judah was still practicing an outward form of the Jewish religion and the name of the Lord was still lifted up while the Northern Kingdom had given it all up and taken on the worship of foreign gods. The king must have felt rather secure since he believed the Lord was standing on his side in this particular conflict.
    Indeed, the crisis was averted and Judah was preserved, but that didn’t mean that the Southern Kingdom was home free. Not forsaking the Lord isn’t merely a one-time thing; the journey must continue. Their outer enemies indeed had been defeated, yet their inner adversaries still remained. They might have won a battle, but the war still remained.
    King Abijah appeared to have failed to observe the law of the Lord in his all too brief life, and his victory over his brothers from the North didn’t seem to mean a whole lot considering how his life and his career as a king ended.
    I will not forsake the Lord today, either in my thoughts or practice, my inward or outer self. May this be our daily reminder, lest we forget the fact that our past victories over our foes don’t turn into our triumphs of the present. Spiritual warfare must be engaged and fought here and now.
    May the Lord be praised and his name lifted up, for by his grace I still remain standing to this day, and it has only been through his sustaining power that I can still make this claim. Yes, I have not forsaken the Lord, for he hasn’t forsaken me, and never will.
    Abijah only reigned three short years and the final verdict on him is rather abysmal. He might have started his reign pretty well, but what mattered was how his life ended. He might have openly claimed the Lord to be his God as a king, yet failed miserably in his walk with the Lord as a person.
     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 26, 2016 8:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-appointment 

~~MTS-4275
Self-appointment
“Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.”        2 Ch. 13:9
    How were the men in my village chosen who would be possessed by the so-called gods and would act as their spokespersons, I have often wondered?
    Ming was about my age and was one of my distant relatives whose house was only a block away from ours. He was rather timid and we got along just fine while we were classmates in elementary school. I lost touch with him for a long while after that, but on one of my brief visits home my mother mentioned to me that Ming had become one of the chosen ones. The fact seemed to draw a wedge between our relationship and we never talked about it during our subsequent encounters. I supposed he was handpicked by the gods, but I had no idea how it was done. I guess he might have been possessed once or twice without him knowing it or asking for it, which made it official that he would become the one the villagers turned to when they needed to consult with the gods.
    It does sound rather enigmatic, doesn’t it?
    My mother told me that my grandparents demanded that I be given up for adoption not long after I was born, for through whatever source they had found out that I would bring misfortune to the family. This was hard for me to believe since I was their first grandson, who, according to our custom, was supposed to be treasured. Yet on the other hand, it might have been true since they seemed to fully believe that whatever they heard from fortune tellers or mediums was absolutely valid.
    Well, for some reason the plan didn’t materialize. Mother told me that she would never ever give me up and I remained in my family. Was it for this particular reason that I have often felt unwanted and unloved by my grandparents, particularly my grandmother?
    How in the world did those self-appointed or divinely sanctioned figures possess such strong power and control over the village people? In the process of bringing the supernatural into our control we are often enslaved by it. Isn’t this often the case? Tapping into the power of the supernatural is one of the easiest ways to gain control over people, isn’t it? Any scoundrel or hooligan could merely do the following and they would immediately be empowered. “Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.” Sounds rather simple, doesn’t it?
    Being a minister of the gospel chosen by God before the foundation of the world, shouldn’t I be very cautious when I exercise my authority over God’s people, knowing that I will be judged more severely because of my position and my calling? Unlike the priests of false gods, the Lord called me to be a servant, not a master who rules over people and strikes them with terror and fear by invoking power from down under. 
  
  
 
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 25, 2016 7:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Replacement 

~~MTS-4274
Replacement
“But didn’t you drive out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do?”     2 Ch. 13:9
    The gods had been created, so the next things to be made for the so-called gods were mediums, the mediators between human and divine. Before they did all those things, the old priests had to be forsaken for the new ones to be established. So Jeroboam drove out all the priests of the Lord and the Levites from the land, lest they cause any confusion or cast any doubt on the newly minted gods.
    The mediums were vital parts of the newly invented religion, for the will of the gods had to be communicated to the people, which was the main job of the newly appointed priests. Yet one question arises, though. How in the world would they find out what the will of the gods was?
    It always started like this when the one who was going to be possessed by a god together with his medium was invited to my parents’ house to perform certain Taoist’s rituals: It always started with a slight tremor in the man’s feet, which was the initial sign of possession by a god, or a demon rather, and gradually he entirely lost his consciousness and started to speak in an unknown language, which sounded more like gibberish to me, and the medium began to do his translation. It was indeed a mysterious way of communication between the one worshipped and the worshippers.  It might have appeared to be rather laughable to spectators, yet the ones who were involved in the whole thing seemed to take it quite seriously, as if the gods had in fact ascended in their midst.
       Such was the foolishness performed by a group of unenlightened people and we have certainly moved far away from that nonsense, we may claim. Is it really so? I wonder. We may not be doing exactly the same thing as the people in my fishing village used to do in their god-creating business, but we are in essence doing the same thing if we investigate a little deeper.
    Indeed, atheism is a new form of belief that many enlightened people have managed to create and, surely, along with it, many high priests of the new religion have also been anointed. This is what we Chinese people often say: “The soup has been changed, but the herbal medicine in it remains the same.” The difference between the advanced and the backward forms of idolatry doesn’t really matter to the evil one, as long as the spirit of it stays intact. By the same token, if secular materialism is a new form of religion and the almighty dollar is its god, then most of us are its priests who adhere to its values and advocate its practce.
    What Jeroboam did wasn’t anything new, really. When the priests of the Lord are driven out from our lives, we must find something or someone to take their place. We either worship the Lord or something else, and by this we will ultimately be judged.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 21, 2016 7:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Vast Army 

~~MTS-4273
A Vast Army
“You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods.”          2 Ch. 13:8
    With a powerful army behind him and surrounded by the many gods he had carved for himself, King Jeroboam must have been fully assured that he would achieve victory with ease. How could he felt any other way except the way he was feeling - completely confident at the prospect of an impending victory.
    Of course, nothing is ever for sure until the Lord says it will be so.
    No matter how well the king had schemed and plotted, there would still be something that he missed, causing his eventual downfall. Obviously, no one is omniscient but the Lord, and people who deem to be so are deceiving themselves. The very moment when you start to consider that you have kept all crises at bay, it will strike out of the blue, and you will come face to face with reality.
    Therefore, we often plead for mercy, knowing how fragile we are and how easily we are broken under the crushing weigh of actuality.
    Rehoboam most likely had mapped out what he would do, starting from preparing for the war and ending with victory celebration. He probably had figured out how he would utilize all the spoils and distribute all the slaves. It was all so perfectly planned out and all he had to do was to execute his plan accordingly.
    As far as the gods who were accompanying him was concerned, they were the least of his worry for, unlike the Lord, the God of Judah, the deities he created were just the opposite. They were mere assents, “yes men” to what he was proceeding to do. Surely it was a wise plan for him to get rid of the Lord in a such a timely fashion and to introduce some new gods to take his place. Trusting the Lord, thought Jeroboam, was such an inconvenient thing.
    Don’t we all prefer not to be interrupted either by human or divine, and do whatever and however we desire to do things? Indeed, we can decide whether to accept or to deny when a man offers his advice, yet God’s opinions seem to be so strong and his ideas are often nonnegotiable and his interruptions are always ultimate. Surely the gods we have created according to our own image are far more tamable and manageable than the sovereign Lord himself.
    The beginning might have been rather promising, yet the ending had already been determined concerning King Jeroboam’s entire military operation. The man seemed to have brought all things into careful calculation, yet he failed to bring the Lord into the equation of his decision making and, for his oversight, the disastrous ending almost became a foregone conclusion.
    “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that,” we read in the book of James. Make sure that the Lord is the first One with whom you consult concerning all your present or future endeavors, not the last one to whom you turn merely to seek for a rubber stamped approval.       
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 20, 2016 7:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Reality 

~~MTS-4272
Reality
“Abijah went into battle with an army of four hundred thousand able fighting men, and Jeroboam drew up a battle line against him with eight hundred thousand able troops.”           2 Ch. 13:3
    That was the reality Abijah had to face, wasn’t it? The king couldn’t ignore what was lying ahead of him. He had only managed to gather that many troops among his people, and the war appeared to be lost before the first drop blood was shed.
    Could this war between brothers have been avoided? Of course it could have.  If Abijah and his fellow Israelites from the South had swallowed their pride and raised a white flag, the feud and blood-shed would have been averted.
    Be it justifiable or not, every single war that has taken place in human history has been portrayed as having legitimate causes behind it. How can generals march their people to the frontline to be butchered without giving them a resounding apology for their heroic actions? Indeed, millions of people throughout human history have been mercilessly slaughtered in the name of patriotism, nationalism, and all sorts of other isms.
    Even if Abijah didn’t seek it, the war eventually found him, and fight he must unless he chose to surrender, which was neither a desirable nor honorable choice; therefore he found a perfect apology for fighting - to fight against an apostate state to defend the honor of the Lord.
    Make sure we are on the Lord’s side when we find ourselves in the midst of any conflict. I guess this is the least we can do, for we may not be able to avoid every sticky situation.
    “It is the way it is,” I have often heard people say, shrugging shoulders, when they encounter any difficult issue. We may be tempted to find out the causes of all things that seem to occur randomly, yet there is always a discrepancy between the known and the unknown, and we often get it wrong. What else could Abijah have done at the time of national crisis except do the obvious, which was to prepare for war the best he could?
    Dealing with the known is far easier than with the unknown, and fighting against visible enemies is much better than invisible ones. The reality was Jeroboam had twice as many troops as Abijah and Judah was facing odds that they couldn’t have overcome.  The only thing the king could do was to make sure the Lord was on their side in the mortal struggle.
    Reality is what it is and what it always will be, yet what we consider real may not be all that concrete after all, for the apostle Paul wrote: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” for the unseen may be more tangible than the seen, which is something we label as reality.
  
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 19, 2016 7:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Abijah 

~~MTS-4271
Abijah
“In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam, Abijah became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years.”       2 Ch. 13:1
    Abijah assumed the kingship after his father Rehoboam passed away and he only managed to reign for three years. It was only a short period of time compared to other kings from the South, yet despite of the brevity of his kingship, he managed to do one thing worth remembering:  he fought a great war against Jeroboam with half of the military force, yet he emerged victorious at the end. He appeared to be a man who knew what he was doing by the way he addressed the Israelites in his speech. At least he was convinced the battle belonged to the Lord and God was on his side, and he was proven right eventually. When all was said and done, five hundred thousand people from the North were lost.
    Was Abijah anointed to be a king just to accomplish this particular purpose? Indeed, three years were too short to carry on any building project, which kings of old were very fond of doing. I suppose fighting and winning a great war and enlarging the country’s territory was probably the quickest route to achieving fame. This was exactly what Abijah did and it became his only claim of fame.
    Lest we forget, he also managed to do the usual things most kings did at the time: “He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.” All things considered, he was rather productive, bearing in mind how little time he had.
    Would Abijah have done things differently had he known how little time he had as the ruler of Judah? Probably not, I suppose. We may assume that, being a king over a nation, he must have had sovereign control over a lot of things, not realizing that he was merely a man like everyone else, who was ruled by various circumstances that happened to fall his way. He was primarily doing a lot of reacting, and very little acting.
    Was he the one who initiated the war against the North? I doubt that was the case, since the North was more powerful than Judah, and they must have been the aggressors.
    So the king did just the best he could and, from human point of view, he was well aware of the slim chance of Judah winning the war had the Lord not intervened; therefore he chose to do the right thing by invoking God for help, and the outcome turned out to be far more favorable than what he had hoped or dreamed.
    Be it lengthy or brief, there will be opportunities in our lives that we must seize to bring glory to God and honor to our families. The way we react to adverse situations will determine who we really are and the substance of which we have been created. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 18, 2016 7:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Death 

~~MTS-4270
Death
“Rehoboam rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king.”         2 Ch. 12:16
    The things that used to matter so much to Rehoboam didn’t seem to matter anymore as he was lying sick in bed, waiting for his breath to quit and the ultimate reality to finally unveil. When people are about to enter into eternity, time suddenly loses its meaning and the way they used to relate to the known ceases to matter and how they relate to the unknown becomes vitally important.
    If people lead their lives in such a way as if life after death does not exist, there will be apprehension in their hearts before they breathe their last, wondering how they will handle eternity if there is such a thing. I suppose it’s far better for them if there is absolutely nothing beyond the horizon of time and they turn into dust when they are no more. Life after death is always a sticky issue for all of us.
    Darkness will mean nothing to the ones who have lost all senses, won’t it?
    I was in a state of waking and sleeping and had no idea whether I was dreaming or imagining things last night, and I kept thinking about the strange phenomena that I seemed to be able to see things even with my eyes closed. Indeed, our physical bodies are the instruments by which we come in contact with outside world, and without them the world as we know it ceases to exist. Yet there must be something within us remaining and functioning even if our physical bodies are no more, for we seem to be seeing and sensing even after we shut down all the senses. Isn’t it something we call “spirit”?
    Memory is whatever we store in our brain and it will be gone when our brain dies; yet whatever we save in the “hard drive” of our spirit can never be erased and will accompany us throughout eternity.  It will also serve as evidence by which we will be judged at the final judgment.
    What are the things that we store in our spirit? I suppose whatever things we do in life, be they great or small, physical or spiritual, will automatically be saved. Some things may be buried too deeply within our memories to be dug up again, but it doesn’t mean that they are no longer there; the same principle applies to the things stored within our spirits as well. We may not be able to recall a lot of things we have done in the flesh; but they will never be forgotten when we stand before the judgment throne.
    Rehoboam merely became one of the dead in human history who will stand before the judgment throne, not as king over a nation, but merely as a man with all the memories recorded on the memory chip within his spirit, and from which he will have no escape. In view of this reality, shouldn’t we be extremely cautious in both our thoughts and actions to avoid having undesirable and filthy things forever recorded on our memory chips?
     
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 17, 2016 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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