Lost and gain 

MTS-3159

Lost and Gain

“How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are
dead?”    2 Sam 1:5

 

     The father was David’s arch-enemy who had been seeking to take his life; yet the son was
David’s bosom friend whose love and affection for him was beyond compare. What
was David hoping to hear when he asked the question?

     “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” David inquired.

     He was hoping for the best yet expecting the worst concerning his best friend while he was
waiting to hear the news from the frontline. It wasn’t looking good from what
he had heard, but he was still hoping that his friend would survive the war and
together they would rule the nation of Israel like they had planned to do.

     Was the man after God’s heart hoping for Saul’s death? This is a question worth pondering.

     David did have opportunities to put an end to the king, yet out of his fear of the Almighty he
didn’t lay his hand on God’s anointed. If Saul had to die, it would have had to
be through causes other than David’s sword.

     Does this mean that David wanted it to happen sooner rather late, knowing that the throne of
Israel would be his when it took place?

     David was a better man than that. What he would never do was to make any sort of gain on
other people’s losses. It was not essential for David to do anything through
human means to speed up the process of him becoming a king. The Lord would
bring all things to pass according to his timing.

     David was, in fact, hoping that the man who bore the news of Saul’s death was mistaken. Saul
was his enemy, but David wasn’t the kind of person who intended to build his
own success on his enemy’s demise. He was merely waiting on the Lord to see
what the Almighty would do.

     Do we wish our enemies would fail in all their endeavors? Do we secretly hope something bad
will happen to them? We need to pray for forgiveness if this is the case.

     Justice belongs to God and it’s prudent for us to stay out of it. Besides, we may be
the guilty party in our conflicts with our adversaries. We may feel totally
justified, but that doesn’t necessarily make us just. What we ought to do is to
pray for more and more grace for both our enemies and us, and remain hopeful
that reconciliation will eventually take place.

     David’s dream was to reconcile with Saul, so he took every opportunity to show the king that
he was innocent. Deep inside, David was praying that Saul would survive the
battle with the Philistines so that he would get yet another chance to
reconcile with his mortal enemy.     

        

 

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-examination 

MTS-3157

Self-examination

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith;
test yourselves.”

              II Co 13:5

 

     So many unchristian things were happening in the church of Corinth that caused Paul to
ask the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves to see whether they were
truly “in the faith” or not. Paul had reason to raise this question, since some
people were doing that was unheard of even among the unbelievers.

     Good trees cannot bear bad fruit, right?

     Don’t we all have a similar question from time to time concerning our own faith and other
people’s faith in the Lord? We may have done something that has caused us to
wonder whether we are truly born again or not.

     “And you call yourself a Christian?” Kathy often asks me jokingly when she becomes displeased
with some petty thing that I do to her.

     This question has never failed to make me flinch, even though it is a joke. It makes me think
that perhaps I needed to examine my faith from time to time to make sure that I
am on the right path.

     Am I on the right track as a Christian?

     I suppose the mere fact that I am asking this question proves that I am still in the faith,
for the ones who are not in the faith probably don’t care whether they are in
or not. I may not be growing very fast, but there is something within my heart
that urges me to put more effort into growing to be more like Jesus.

     There is a certain degree of self-loathing in all Christians, for they are often annoyed
by the slowness of their spiritual growth and their lack of zeal to conform to
the image of Christ. I have never met a Christian who is entirely pleased with
himself and proudly exudes a strong sense of self-congratulation. Most
Christians are indeed joyful, but their joy is often tainted with a trace of sorrow
caused by their failure to be as good as they can be or should be.

     We should examine ourselves to see where we stand spiritually. We are indeed in the
faith, but how strong and vibrant is our faith?

     As I am quickly approaching old age, I seem to become more and more complacent about my
spiritual state, considering that being what I am is quite enough to get me to
where I want to be. Indeed I need to do a lot of daily maintenance just to
maintain what I have already attained, but remaining in the same place is to
become staid and stagnant. I am certain there are still a lot of spiritual
breakthroughs left to make in the remainder of my earthly journey.

     Yes, we are in the faith; may our faith continue to be strengthened through living by faith
everyday.  

       

Monday, November 21, 2011 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Power 

MTS-3156

Power

“He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful
among you.”

           II Co 13:3

 

     I was annoyed by the jury summons a little bit, for it would cause me inconvenience, but I
had no choice but to show up at the assigned time, otherwise I would be in
trouble, for Uncle Sam has the right to punish me for not fulfilling my duty as
a citizen.

     The government is to be honored and feared, because it possesses power both to reward and to
punish. Do we feel the same way concerning God’s kingdom on earth? Not always.
Our punishment is sure and immediate if we happen to violate the law of the
land, but a violation of God’s law doesn’t seem to have immediate and serious
consequences; therefore we often have a cavalier attitude as far as keeping
God’s law is concerned.

     There is nothing to fear when we sin against God, since the Lord Jesus is all-loving and
all-forgiving and is always on standby to forgive our transgressions. Is this a
sign of the Lord’s strength or weakness, come to think of it? Don’t we often
take advantage of God’s mercy and grace and treat him as if he were just a nice
guy who always turns the other cheek when he is offended?

     By showing unconditional mercy toward sinners, the Lord may oftentimes be reckoned as weak
and lacking power. Some Corinthian Christians appeared to feel that way. They
questioned Paul’s authority to exercise church discipline because they weren’t
so sure that the Lord himself would have been so severe on them had he been in
their midst.

     Not so, actually. Paul wrote in the letter: “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is
powerful among you.”

     My heart is filled with terror if I indulge in sin, even though I believe the Lord’s
forgiveness through Christ Jesus is always available and sufficient, but I am
also aware of the fact that my sin does have serious consequences and I will
suffer one way or another for my ill-advised actions. The Lord is strong in dispensing
grace, but he is also powerful in exacting punishment. People will quickly find
out how powerful God is if they question his might. It’s a fearful thing to
fall into the hand of the almighty God.

     My dad loved me very much and he would never do anything to hurt me when I was under his
roof, even though he had the power and authority to do so, but I remember being
very afraid when I did something wrong, for he could have exercised his
authority by exacting severe punishment on me. Because my love for him and my
reverence for his power I tried to avoid doing anything to offend him or to
cause him to become angry. By the same token, we should never take advantage of
God’s kindness and grace toward us his children by doing anything to provoke
his anger. To love God is to obey his commends.     

           

    

Friday, November 18, 2011 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Discord 

MTS-3155

Discord

“I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of
rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”         II Co 12:20

 

     “Dear Lord, please bring the ones who are truly seeking you to the church and keep the
people who cause discord or seek something other than you from coming.” I have
been praying this prayer since the day I came to our church.

     The previous pastor left partly because there was conflict within the church and I feared
that the same thing might happen again. Being a man with great sensitivity and
thin skin, I felt I would not last very long if the same thing occurred under
my watch.

     The Lord has been very gracious to us over the years. Negative things did take place, but
they weren’t anything we couldn’t handle as a church. By and large, we are
pretty unified as a body of Christ.

     Are there slander, gossip, and fits of rage behind the scene? Possibly. We are sinners
saved by grace and are still in the slow process of becoming more mature
spiritually and there are hiccups along the way. But God has been merciful to
us by keeping things in check for the most part and we are able to maintain
peace and harmony within our church.

     We come to church to seek the Lord, not to seek ourselves or to look for our personal
fulfillment. We will be disappointed if we come to God’s house with a personal
agenda. Unity within the church can never be achieved if individual Christians
are not united with Christ and seek to glorify him in all they do.

     “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander,
gossip, arrogance and disorder.” This was Paul greatest fear before he embarked
on the long journey to visit the church in Corinth for the third time and was
trying to make sure that this would not be the case. His desire was to have a
happy reunion with the church he had helped plant and there wouldn’t be any
need of church discipline. 

     In order for us to grow more mature spiritually, we may have to suppress or mortify our
personality. Clashes that occur within church doors are not always over
important spiritual or Biblical issues; they are caused mostly by personality
differences.

     Humility is the foundation of church unity.

     If Christ truly is the center of our being, then we can’t be anything but humble and
lowly. If we submit our life to Christ, there will be no problem for us to submit
to people as well. Church unity can easily be achieved if all the people within
the church practice mutual submission. Surrendering to Christ and surrendering
to our fellow Christians are not mutually exclusive. We can’t have one without
the other.      

      

Thursday, November 17, 2011 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Marks 

MTS-3154

The marks

“I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a
true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.”        II Co 12:12

 

     Why did the apostle Paul feel that he still had something to prove? Wasn’t it enough that
he had labored among the Corinthians for years and had shown himself to be a
faithful servant of God? Evidently people were still questioning his authority
as an apostle when he tried to exercise his power in church discipline.

     Nobody would have questioned Paul’s authority had he decided not to use it. Paul could have remained silent and not breathed a word about the sexual impurity and debauchery that were running rampant within the church and things would have been fine. At least there would have been outward harmony among the Christians.

     Paul’s main concern was to maintain church purity and, even if it meant that he had to tear
the church apart to achieve that end, he would have done the same thing. A
church that was polluted by sin and smeared by filth wouldn’t have remained a
church anymore. A lampstand becomes absolutely useless unless there is light on
it and salt that loses its saltiness should be thrown away.

     What the church thought about him was of very little concern to Paul; what he desired
more than anything was for God’s people to lift the name of the Lord up and be
glorified and magnified. As far as his reputation was concerned, the apostle
couldn’t have cared less. If this was really the case, why did he even bother
defending himself in the letter?

     Paul was merely stating the truth, wasn’t he?

     The apostle had never been one who shied away
from a battle when it was worth fighting for. The issue was that the
Corinthians were seriously questioning his divine calling as an apostle, and
therefore disqualifying him from exercising church discipline. He pointed out
to them the signs and wonders, the marks of apostleship, that he had performed
in their midst, clearly proving that he was a genuine apostle, appointed by Christ
himself, therefore removing all doubt once and for all concerning his divine
appointment.

     In essence, Paul was not defending himself; he was defending God. It vexed his heart to no
end that his heavenly calling was discredited as if it hadn’t really taken
place. Could the apostle perform all the miraculous signs through his own
power? If he could not, who then did all those signs? When Paul’s power and
authority were questioned, God’s name and credibility were put to test as well.

     Our names are not worth defending, but God’s name surely is.

     It may appear to us that Paul in this context that was getting a little personal and was
trying to defend his own name, but this is far from the truth. The apostle was
protecting God’s name from being smeared and discredited.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Strong 

MTS-3153

Being Strong

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

             II Co 12:10

 

     We must become weak in order to become strong. This is quite paradoxical. Humanly speaking, we
must be strong in order to be strong and to be weak is being weak.

     Why do men like to watch the NFL? The reason is simple. They may not be as strong as they
desire to be, so they identify with the strong and live their lives
vicariously.

     It usually takes me a while to recover from my team’s loss, for my team’s weakness is my weakness;
my team’s loss is my loss.

     No wonder there are so many fair-weather fans around. No one likes to lose. A team will
quickly loss all its fans if it keeps losing. The strong can build a following
rapidly, but the weak are often left behind in the darkness to lick their
wounds.

     Christianity is for the weak and the frail. Jesus was friend to sinners and publicans, the
down-trodden ones who were scorned and distained by all.

     When was the time when I was the strongest?

     The moments were so few that I can hardly recall, but I am sure there were times when I
felt very self-sufficient and competent.

     I have struggled quite a bit in math throughout my academic career, but language has
always been pretty easy for me. Therefore I was often surrounded by people who
needed help during examination time. Did I ever feel strong and superior during
those moments?

     Not really. I have never felt entitled or privileged my entire life, but remember being baffling
over my fellow classmates’ inability to handle some literature questions, which
seemed rather easy for me.

     I was indeed the weakest at the moment when I felt so self sufficient and strong, for my
strength in a certain area somehow gave a false self-perception and a false
sense of superiority. Being good at one thing caused me to think that I was
good at all things; and being better in one subject than most people made me
think that I was better than all in all subjects.

     The ones who are superior academically are not necessarily superior people. The strong and
fast men who play in the NFL are superb athletes on the field, but they are not
strong and fleet in other areas in life. They are the weakest and most to be
pitied if they deem it so.

     Arrogant people rely on their own strength and intelligence in time of need, but humble
people depend on God. Which of the two are stronger? I think the answer is
obvious, unless you don’t believe there is a God on whom weak people can depend
in time of trouble.

     What would I have become as a person had I depended on my own intelligence and strength in
mapping out and cultivating my life? A question such as this has never failed
to drive me to my knees.        

        

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Weakness 

MTS-3152

Weakness

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.”        II Co 12:10

 

     Instead of fighting against our weaknesses, I think it’s better to accept them as part of
our being. We don’t have to like them or embrace them, but we can at least
consider them as part of us. Obviously we should not let our weaknesses define
us, but it’s possible that we can turn negatives into the positives by turning
our weaknesses to Christ.

     Being human is being frail and imperfect.

     Don’t perfect people make us a little nervous and uneasy? We might have met people who seemed
to be so heavenly that there was not an earthly stain on them. How do we deal
with them except to keep a safe distance from them? Being in their presence
makes us feel inferior and unworthy.

     Perfect people are not always that forgiving and understanding. They demand a lot from
themselves; therefore they require a lot from others, not knowing that others
may not be as endowed or driven as they are.

     It was indeed quite an unpleasant experience. I might have forgiven the man who did it to me,
but it’s not easy to forget.

     I was replaced as a translator midstream by a speaker we invited to speak at our church years
ago, for I was doing a poor job and the speaker, being a successful pastor from
a big church, became in impatient with me and called on someone sitting in the
pews that he knew to finish the job for me in the midst of his talk. It was
truly an embarrassing experience. I suppose being a person who demanded
perfection from himself, he simply could not tolerate imperfection in others. I
can still envision up to this day him dancing behind the pulpit like a
butterfly and performing his job flawlessly. I doubt that it ever entered his
mind that someone’s feeling might have gotten hurt by his action.

     I was more shocked than hurt, though. I guess being an imperfect person, I would never
have done such a thing to anyone, for I knew how it felt to be weak and frail.

     Do I take any delight in my infirmities and inability to do things well? Not at all. I envy
the ones who are intelligent and capable and would very much like to be like
them. Yet the Lord wouldn’t have done so much for me had I been more capable
and my life would have turned out to be entirely different from what it is now.
Do I want to be someone else? Absolutely not. If so, I can certainly “take
delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in
difficulties.” I don’t have to embrace them or welcome them, but I can surely
accept them, for the Lord can turn all my weaknesses into his strength, my
failures into his successes.

     I have never dreamt about taking vengeance against the Christians who have insulted me or
have treated me with utter disdain, for I consider them God’s servants who have
been used as instruments to fulfill God’s purpose in me and to make me become
more mature spiritually.

Monday, November 14, 2011 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sufficient Grace 

MTS-3151

Sufficient Grace

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made
perfect in weakness.”            II Co 12:9

 

     We need to be constantly reminded of who we really are by our weaknesses, lest we
overestimate our strength and consider ourselves higher than we actually are.
Paul was greatly endowed as a person and, humanly speaking, he was a head
higher than all his peers. Therefore there was a thorn in his flesh, telling
him that he was mere flesh and blood, and subject to all sorts of weaknesses.

     When does the Lord demonstrate his power and strength in his children? When they come to the
end of their rope and recognize their need for Christ’s help. It’s when we let
go of our best effort and let God do his work in us.

     We won’t let go unless we have exhausted all our options. As long as we have some strength
left, we will not turn to the Lord for help.

     God becomes the strongest in our lives when we are the weakest.

     The Lord chose to start working in my life when I had no one to turn to but him. He was
conspicuously absent when I was surrounded by my drinking friends and he
mysteriously appeared when I was isolated and totally alone. He was there for
me even before I learned how to cry out to him for help.

     He was there to pull me out of a river when I was drowning and I could have died a thousand
deaths had he not sustained my life every day. He engulfed me in his blessed
presence and enveloped me with his abundant grace, even before I learned to
call his name and to call him for help during my hours of desperation.

     Grace is what we need and all we will ever need.

     We are the weakest when we deem ourselves the strongest, for God will not demonstrate, let
alone make perfect, his power within us when we are full of natural strength.
He will take all or nothing of the glory for all our achievements and he is not
in a position to share the credit with anyone for their successes.

     God was working through Paul and he alone received all the praise for whatever was
accomplished. The apostle was a faithful servant of God and his reward was to
rejoice with his Master, not to receive any credit for the things achieved.

     This was the point when I let out a big sigh and quit writing yesterday, for I thought I was
repeating myself and had nothing new to say in my devotional writing. O Lord, I
need more revelation from you, I prayed.

     New revelation isn’t what I need; I just need more grace so that I can continue to obey. If
the Lord calls me to do nothing from now on and just to wait on him patiently,
that’s exactly what I will do. Even John Milton lost his eyesight in the midst
of composing his great epic poem, “justifying the ways of God to men.” Who am
I?

     O Lord, make your power perfect in my weakness.       

    

Friday, November 11, 2011 6:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Three Times 

MTS-3150

Three Times

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”

              II Co 12:8

 

     I have been praying the same prayer thousands of times, and will continue to do it, for I
continue to need God’s help in this particular area. I pray that the Lord will
help me to love him more.

     I will never love him enough; therefore I need God’s strengthening so that I can love him with all my heart and my
strength. This is the kind of petition that we can continue to make until we
meet the Lord.

     Paul only asked the Lord three times to take the thorn away from him and he quit praying
the same prayer after he received a response from above.

     Didn’t the Lord do the same thing in the Garden of Gethsemane? It was not the Lord Jesus’
intention to impose his will on God in his prayer; his desire was for God’s
will to be done in him. There was no need to keep on asking for the same thing
after he had received a reply from God.

     The answer was no. It was God’s will for his only Son to drink the cup of bitterness for the
entire world.

     We sometimes use delay tactics by pleading for the same thing in our prayer, hoping that God
will change his mind so that we won’t have to submit to him and be obedient to
his bidding.

     How often do we find ourselves praying for the same thing repeatedly, even though we have
already received God’s response?  

     It’s a good thing that we pray persistently, but it’s not necessarily a good idea that we
persistently ask for the same thing, as if by continual petition we will
eventually get what we yearn to have. We sometimes just don’t want to take a no
for an answer.

     Paul found out the response from the Lord after he had prayed three times and then he quit
praying for the same thing. What he needed to do from then on was to learn to
live with his infirmity.

     “Not my will, but your will be done,” the Lord Jesus uttered in his final prayer before he
was betrayed and was crucified. I guess we won’t be praying for the same thing
repeatedly if we are determined to submit to God’s will no matter how much
obedience will cost us. In Christ’s case, it was a painful death that God was
demanding from him.

     If only we could pray according to God’s will at all times, all our prayers would be
answered accordingly. Oftentimes we only pray for the sake of praying, not
expecting any answer from the Lord, and we continue to do all things possible
to solve our own problems. We only turn to God for a brief consulting, which
may or may not affect the way we do things. This wasn’t the case with Paul,
however. The verdict he had received from the Lord was definite and absolute and
what was left for him to do was to submit and nothing more. He didn’t prayed
for the same thing the fourth time, which is something we often do to put off
our obedience to God.  

                                        

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011 6:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Thorn 

MTS-3149

A Thorn

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited,
I was given a thorn in my flesh…”              II Co 12:7

 

     Some Christians are too strong to know that they do have some weaknesses. Their
lives seem to be so golden that they forget that they have feet of clay. They
are so richly endowed that they fail to see that most people are frail and in
need of mercy and compassion.

     Was there a danger for Paul to become conceited because of his exceedingly great revelation
from the Lord? It is unlikely, but it is possible.

     People with type A personalities may have great difficulty appreciating the ones who are low-key and are not driven to
achieve something great, or to become spiritually more mature. Being a driven
person, Paul often became impatient with the ones who were complacent in their
service in the church and their daily walk with the Lord.

     Being a man with an opposite temperament to the apostle Paul, I have often felt that I have
been watched and condemned by the spiritual leaders I happened to come across
for not being aggressive enough in doing God’s work. They are pretty stingy in
dispensing mercy, which is something that I need the most.

     Do we really have to put people last if we put the Lord first in our lives? Do we really
have to consider people nothing if we reckon the Lord to be everything? Do we
have to treat people like dirt if we regard the Lord with the greatest esteem?
The Lord does call us to forsake all things and follow him, but does that mean
we ought to view all things and all people as if they have been entirely
forsaken?

     Christ was loving, gentle, respectful, and non-judgmental in his dealings with sinners. He never acted
demeaning, belittling, or degrading in his interaction with the ones who were
disdained and rejected by all. Christ’s thorn in the flesh was the cross he was
going the bear and the death he was about to suffer and through the lens of his
death he was able to see life and hope in sinful people.

     I understand when non-Christians treat me with indifference and view me with suspicion,
which happens often; but I have great trouble figuring out why Christians
perceive me with disregard and disdain, which take place more frequently than
we think.

     The danger of becoming conceited is always there. If there was a danger for Paul, the
spiritual giant, there is surely a danger for me, a spiritual midget. If Paul
needed a painful reminder in his flesh, alerting him to the peril of becoming
arrogant, surely I need one as well.

     The thorn will remind me who I really am, a sinner saved by grace, and will keep me from
perceiving myself as a person I am not, as someone who sees reality from a
perspective of strength, not of weakness.  
          

    

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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