Faith 

~~MTS-4292
Faith
“Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand?”          2 Ch. 16:8
    Things don’t just happen; they happen for a particular reason; they take place by design, not by accident.
    The purposes of those random happenings become crystal clear when you look back at the event years later. Surely, “things can only be understood by looking backward.”
    The problem is we haven’t learned to connect our past with our present very well, as if every event were a single incident, unconnected with all the others. We seem to lose sight that life is a unity, not merely disjointed bits and pieces.
    Looking at life as a whole is an act of faith, believing that God is by no means a capricious deity who does things randomly; he is a God of meticulous planning who has designed a blueprint for everyone’s life. Therefore, we need to cultivate an ability to see the whole from the parts, and the more we do it, the greater our faith will be strengthened.
    Many things I did in my distant past I thought I merely did them by impulse, yet they were in fact completed by divine proposal. The Lord simply employed my compulsion to fulfill his eternal purpose.
    Experience is the best teacher, isn’t it? That is, of course, if we are teachable. Moreover, we have to see the teaching behind every experience, be it great or small. Oftentimes life’s greatest lessons are wrapped in small packages.
    Defeating the Cushites and Libyans with their horses and chariots wasn’t a small feat at all and clearly the hand of the Lord was in it; yet, unfortunately, Asa seemed to have failed to make the connection between the past and the present, even though the gap between the two was over thirty years. What had the king been doing concerning the cultivation of his faith in the Lord during the years between the two wars? Not a whole lot. The man’s faith didn’t seem to age all that well.
    Aren’t we all in the same boat? Didn’t all the Israelites witness the parting of the Red Sea as the sea water stood up like a wall before their very eyes? Yet their faith quickly melted in the desert heat when they were not able to find a drop of water to quench their thirst. Even though they had just crossed the sea, the memory seemed to have become a distant memory, a thing of the past, absolutely not relevant to their current situation.
    “But by the grace of God I am what I am,” Paul wrote. What made Asa the man he was as an old man might have been caused by his failure to see God’s grace manifested in every detail of his life.
       
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 18, 2016 7:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Trust 

~~MTS-4291
Trust
Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram…”        2 Ch. 16:2
    Asa was now an old man and, naturally, we would assume that he had become more mature spiritually. But this didn’t seem to be the case at all. The king seemed to have digressed as the years went by and his trust in the Lord appeared to be weakening. What had happened to the king between the two wars in the span of thirty some years? He pleaded to the Lord for help when Judah was under assault by the Cushites and the Lord delivered him from his foes; yet years later when the nation was in crisis, he turned to the Arameans for help by paying tribute. “Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram…” we read.
    Was his faith greatly strengthened after he had witnessed how the Lord rescued Judah from the formidable foes years before? Isn’t the Lord the same yesterday, today, and forever more and wouldn’t he have done the same thing for Asa had he maintained his faith in him?
    Trusting the Lord remains a daily challenge for us and our faith in him must be kept fresh by practicing every day. Trusting is a habit of the heart and it tends to become stale if it’s not exercised constantly. The saving faith we possess remains constant, but our trust in the Lord can be rather fleeting. Indeed, our justification needs no daily renewal, but our sanctification does.
    Asa’s faith in the Lord might still have remained, but his trusting in the Lord appeared to have waned. After years of ruling the nation and experiencing all kinds of worldly affairs, Asa’s heart might have become a little jaded and lacked his former childlike innocence and reliance on the Lord.
    “Yeah, the Lord did rescue us once, but it happened over thirty years ago, and things have since changed,” the king might have said to himself while he was debating what to do in dealing with the present danger. He decided to turn to King Ban-Hadad for help.
    Are faith and trust one and the same thing? Can people hold onto their faith in God yet lose their trust in the Lord? Am I merely splitting hairs at this point?
    Aging might have done its job on old Asa, and his youthful passion and innocence had pretty much vanished and what remained was his cynicism and a strong sense of practicality. Idealism might be fine and dandy, but it got to the point that one had to learn to be more pragmatic.
    Turning to men for help in time of danger was a pragmatic thing to do, the elderly king decided.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 17, 2016 7:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

High Places 

~~MTS-4290
High Places
“Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.”           2 Ch. 15:17
    Asa was fully committed to the Lord, yet there was one sticky issue that he was rather reluctant to touch, which was the problem concerning the high places which people used to visit to worship either the Lord or pagan gods. Things probably weren’t so black and white and Asa, as well as many other kings, seemed to find this issue difficult to handle. It appears to have been that way both before and after his reign. Many kings also had trouble removing the high places even if they wanted very much to do so. It was almost ingrained in the people’s hearts to pay their homage to the gods there.
    The issue that concerned the king wasn’t so much about getting rid of idolatry; it was rather the purification of worship. The worship in the high places was probably a mixture of paganism and the worship of the true God. Asa probably could have found perfectly good reasons to get rid of them, yet he was also able to find justification not to do so.
    If we look into it more closely, this gray area might not be all that gray after all. We need to worship the Lord in holiness and purity, for without holiness no one can please God. If the high places have been contaminated by idolatry, without a question they must be removed.
    “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” Isn’t this our case as well? We may be fully committed to the Lord, yet there are “high places” remaining in lives and we somehow manage to coexist with them. We make compromises in life when they become absolutely necessary.
    Sins are sins no matter by what names they are called. We should not make an apology for high places merely because they exist or because we are unable to remove them for lack of will power or spiritual strength.
    Instead of upholding the perfect standard of God because that we are not able to reach it, we lower it so that we can all meet it. Consequently, the standard becomes lower and lower and we feel better and better about ourselves. In the meantime, “high places” are popping up everywhere in our midst. Isn’t the color gray the new white and we have no earthly idea what true whiteness is? I suppose that in the place called Limbo by Dante the primary color must be gray, and people residing there wallow in the mist of grayness, which is the grayness of relativism. Indeed, nothing is fully sacred if nothing is absolute; therefore no determination of what it is is ever really needed.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 16, 2016 7:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Burn it 

~~MTS-4289
Burn it
“…because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.”        2 Ch. 15:16
     The image of Asherah was erected by Asa’s grandmother, Maakah the queen mother. The king nonetheless torn it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. He did the right thing even though it might have been offensive to some and hurtful to his loved ones. Evidently the queen’s feelings were damaged and the relationship between the two probably became irreparable.
    What could Asa have done except what he considered godly and right? Could be merely ignore what his grandmother was doing and continue to carry on the business at hand, which was to bring the country back to the true worship of the Lord.
    Indeed, housecleaning must start from one’s own household, and holiness must be initiated from within and extended out. The image of Asherah made by the commission of the queen mother had to come down.
    Was the grandson in any way responsible for what his grandmother did? Probably not. I felt rather uncomfortable every time I went home for the holidays, for I was required to take part in what my grandparents were doing in their idolatry. It never failed to create an undercurrent of ill-feeling between us since I refused to oblige. What would have happened had I chopped down the altar and burned up the idols they deemed as gods? I can’t imagine what the consequences would have been?
    Wasn’t this what Gideon the judge did to his father’s idols? I always admired what Gideon did whenever I came across this particular historical narrative, for I knew what a daunting task that was. The idols and ancestral tablets in my grandfather’s household were superfluous and repulsive to me, yet I didn’t find the necessary courage to challenge their presence.
    Asa was a king over a nation, which made the difference. He had the power and authority, and he exercises it for a good cause.
    Being the head of a household, I do have the responsibility to make sure that there are no images of false gods existing in the house. Surely that’s the least I can do to make sure that my children grow up in a family where the name of the Lord is lifted and the image of false gods, in whatever form they may take, are torn down and abolished.
    It was also the very thing that demonstrated Asa was totally consistent in his preaching and action. People would have started questioning his faith had King Asa let the image of a false goddess remain within his household. Paganism and true worship should never co-exist, period.  
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 15, 2016 7:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Rest 

~~MTS-4288
Rest
“They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”         2 Ch. 15:15
    The Israelites in Judah found the Lord, for they sought him wholeheartedly. To be more exact, really, they were found by God, because he was seeking them at the same time.
    There was no problem for the Lord to find his people; the issue was he must find them submitting to him in order for them to be found. There is no reconciliation between God and men unless there is submission from our end. We must surrender to him in order to be embraced by him as beloved children.
    “They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.” What did the Lord give the Israelites for eagerly searching for him? “The Lord gave them rest on every side.”
    Why don’t we have rest inside? Why are we in constant turmoil within our hearts? Perhaps a simple answer to this is that we are not seeking the Lord with all our heart and mind; we may be pursuing something else, something rather than God himself.
    Whatever we are seeking other than God, whatever it is, will never bring us lasting peace and rest. It may tease us with brief euphoria and excitement; it will also vex and disappoint us with its brevity and fleetness, and we find ourselves asking for stronger dosage to bring forth a similar result. Isn’t this something we call addiction?
    We are all addicted to happiness, and the lack of it easily robs us of our peace and rest. The constant need for diversion and stimulation is not a sign of life; it’s rather an indication of death. We turn into puppets that don’t have lives of their own and are pulled every which way by threads of carnal entertainment. 
    We become scattered and anxious. Indeed, the original meaning of the word worry is “being scattered.” We can’t help but be extremely anxious if we lose our focus on the Lord. To focus our attention on seeking the Lord is to have undivided peace and rest.
    Does the result of this presidential election depress you? If so, why not seek the Lord? Does the ebb and flow of the stock market concern you? If so, why not seek the Lord? Does your health condition bother you? If so, why not seek the Lord?
    Perhaps the verse I referred to was dealing with physical rest, meaning the Israelites were free from their enemies’ disturbance as long as they kept on seeking the Lord. But in dealing with our internal rest the same principle applies as well.        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 14, 2016 7:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Not Seek the Lord 

~~MTS-4287
Not Seek the Lord
“All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”           2 Ch. 15:13
    I suppose it was an external kind of thing, for there was no way they could determine who was truly seeking the Lord unless there were some external aspect by which they could make the judgment, such as wearing a certain kind of clothing or observing specific holidays. As long as they exemplified some form of godliness, they would have been home free. Godliness could only be determined by how people appeared outwardly, not by the true condition of their internal lives. 
    It’s impossible for the government to mandate people’s spirituality, for it’s a thing of the heart. What people appear to be isn’t what and who they really are. Obviously people would make an effort to maintain a facade of godliness if the punishment of not doing so was death.
    Spirituality is never collective and communal godliness is always rather questionable. Spirituality is individualistic for the most part, determined by how we relate to God and to our fellow human beings as an individual, not as a group or a nation.
    There was no question that Asa had great intentions and merely wanted to do his part as a king to forge an environment where people would be encouraged to seek the Lord and to walk with him. At the least, the Israelites as a whole would consider seeking and following the Lord as something honorable and praiseworthy.
    One of the greatest difficulties that I have found about seeking the Lord in a pagan country is people tend to deem it something to be frowned upon, which makes God’s servant feel unwanted and unworthy. I suppose that’s the cost of being a disciple of Christ. Indeed, “the world was not worthy of them,” as we read in the book of Hebrews.
    There must have been a drawback under such circumstances, however, for it would have been hard to tell the ones who were truly seeking the Lord apart from the people who only did it nominally. Seeking the Lord within the church is a lot easier than doing it in the market place where we rub shoulders with the profane and the ungodly.
    Seeking the Lord, nonetheless, has been and will always be a thing of the heart, hidden from the watching eyes of the world. It’s an all consummate passion that governs our every thought and action. We are heading toward destruction unless we seek the Author of life, so it’s a death sentence just the same if we fail to do it.  It’s not the mandate of kings and rulers; it’s the decree of God and, more importantly, there is absolutely no pretending about this. It’s an either-or kind of thing. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 11, 2016 7:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Seek the Lord 

~~MTS-4286
Seek the Lord
“They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul.”         2 Ch. 15:12
    Seeking the Lord is a clear focus and a preoccupation of the mind, paying one’s whole attention on things of the Lord, not affairs of the world. It’s a kind of other-worldliness that sets us apart from the rest of the people.
    What the evil one is attempting to do to us is to divert our attention from things above and focus on things below. We are easily blinded by the visible and become blind to the invisible.
    “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians.
    The people had all made a promise to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul from that time on, which was by no means an easy task to achieve. After the festivities and celebrations were over, each one of them would go back to their homes and trades, and their attention would be divided and drawn to other worldly concerns. Indeed, their vineyard had to be dressed and children had to be fed. After all was said and done, they were totally exhausted. Seeking the Lord could easily have become a second thought.
    Seeking for something is to consciously keep it in mind, knowing it’s there even if doesn’t surface in your consciousness. You are always aware of its presence.
    “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken,” wrote the Psalmist. To seek the Lord isn’t an attempt to find him at moment when we need him. How can we search for the One who is omnipresent? It’s just a deep awareness every moment of the day that we are living in his presence, and are enveloped by his loving and warm countenance.
    I am omnipresent in my children’s life and my heart reaches out to them wherever they are. I don’t have to seek them; my heart is where my love is. Children have to learn to seek their parents by making an effort to keep in touch, but there is no such issue for parents. Not for me anyway.
    To seek the Lord is to cultivate a deep love for him by remaining in him and by keeping the channel of communication open. Therefore, prayer to him and meditation on his holy words are absolutely essential. If we keep this up for a number of years, seeking the Lord will become part of our being and it will also become vital to our existence.
    To me, to live is to seek the Lord.   
  
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 10, 2016 7:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Courage 

~~MTS-4285
Courage
“When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage.”            2 Ch. 15:8
     I admire people with great courage, for such is the thing that I lack. I wish I had more courage so that I could overcome my fear and take action if actions become necessary.
    I have had some courage that has enabled me to do the unthinkable occasionally, but it was mostly courage generated by sudden passion, and it vanished when passion was no longer there. What I need desperately is the courage that is constant and steady and will always be there whenever I need it.
    Sudden courage is easy to obtain if one is stirred inside, but lasting boldness has to be based on something far more solid than that for it to become a constant thing that lasts.
    Courage isn’t something that we feel within our heart; it is more of a determination than anything else, generated from a strong will to do the right thing in every given situation.
    We need the grace of God to become courageous when we are called upon to do godly things, or to do appropriate things at the appropriate time. To understand is a matter of the mind, but to act mostly involves the will; therefore, turning thinking into action does demand courage.
    After King Asa came to understand the words of the prophet Azariah, he became courageous and was determined to put all that he deemed to be wholesome and godly into action. Thinking right and doing right are intertwined and closely connected, but without the latter the former is entirely worthless. 
    Unless it’s applied and implemented, theories forever remain theories. We are called to enter into the marketplace where we get to experiment in order to find out whether what we believe is true or false. Of course, courage is needed in this process.
    We will have no idea how courageous we can be until we act. Because of his courageous action, Peter became the only apostle among the twelve who knew what it was like to walk on stormy water. Obviously risk is always involved when courage is required. Most of us are by nature timid to a degree, and our self-protection mechanism is something that keeps us from reaching our potential and achieving the seemingly unachievable.
   Of course true courage is neither blind nor impulsive; it’s rather actions taken by clear-headed people who know exactly what they are doing and the steep cost of their actions. That was why the Lord Jesus went to such an extent to tell people how much it would cost them to follow him. It does take tremendous courage to follow Jesus, doesn’t it? 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 9, 2016 7:35:00 AM Categories: Devotional

As for You 

~~MTS-4284
As for You
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”        2 Ch. 15:6
    These were the words spoken by Azariah the prophet to King Asa, encouraging him to keep on doing the good work of reviving the true faith in the land of Judah and he assured him that whatever he was doing would not be in vain. “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded,” said the prophet.
    It does take staying power to continue to do the right thing while the rest of the world seems to be going on the wrong track and people don’t seem to care anymore. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about anything while the world is permeated with torpid apathy.
    I have decided not to vote in this presidential election, for I don’t believe in choosing the lesser of two evils, particularly when the less doesn’t seem to be all that much less.
    “It’s your duty as a citizen,” said my wife. She had already voted since she has always been duty-bound and chooses to do the right thing.
    Voting isn’t really the thing to do to change the nation if the choices are so limited and the ones who are elected may not do the country any good. Even worse, they may even cause much harm to the entire land. If this is so, by choosing the wrong ones for offices we become enhancers of evil.
    All I can do is to ask myself as an individual what I can do to make our country a better place and what difference can I make in my small community and within the small circle of loved ones and friends.
    “I rise up and go to work in the morning and rest from my labor in the evening; what does the power of emperor have to do with me?” This is pretty well-said isn’t it? Indeed, if every one of us simply does our duty by working hard to provide for our families and fulfilling our duty as a citizen, our nation will become strengthened, as will our families. The “do nothing” philosophy of Laozi simply means that the best thing that government should do for common folks is not to disturb them or burden them with heavy taxation and constant military campaigns. I suppose the greatest desire that people have had in common throughout human history is to be left alone by their kings and rulers.
   The “do nothing” philosophy primarily refers to governments and concerning each individual, we ought to occupy ourselves with actions that are constructive and beneficial to our communities and, most importantly, pleasing in God’s sight.
    I am not thinking so much about getting a reward from above for what I have been doing, since being able to do things daily is itself the greatest reward. In my case, writing itself is rather rewarding, and anything that comes from it is a bonus, a pleasant surprise.  
  
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 8, 2016 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Distress 

~~MTS-4283
In Distress
“But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.”         2 Ch. 15:4
    Would the Israelites in Judah have turned to the Lord had they not been in great distress? Probably not. “Men tend to cry out to the heavens when they are in distress,” goes an old Chinese saying. Indeed, “there are no atheists in fox holes.” There was obviously a good reason behind the thinking of the criminal who was crucified next to Jesus uttering his prayer in sheer desperation. Of course, it was a petition of faith as well.
    Why wait until we are in distress to seek the Lord? Doesn’t joy in life cause us to turn to the Lord as well as sorrow? In fact, the urge to turn to the Lord in thanksgiving is far stronger for me than to make an urgent petition to him when I am in trouble. Joy seems to do a much better job reminding me of the Lord than sorrow does. I am entirely numb in suffering, yet every nerve of my body is wide awake when I am overcome by joy and I am more than ready to give God thanks for all his goodness.
    If joy in life does the trick, why is it even necessary for him to bring sorrow my way to remind me of his presence? I often wonder.
    I have often considered that joy in life is far more constant than sorrow; therefore we can easily see the face of the Lord through its spectrum. We are doomed if suffering becomes a necessary condition by which we see the appearance of the Lord. If so, what we see is merely an angry face, from which we only encounter God’s wrath, not love.
   Our Abba Father in heaven does often smile on us, doesn’t he?
   “But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.”
    May the Lord be our first option, not our last resort; the first one we turn to in gratitude, not the last one we seek in utter desperation.
    If we fail to cultivate a habit of turning to the Lord in thanksgiving for all the good things in life, we may not have the desire to seek him when we really need him. Faith in God takes practice and so does the habit of trusting him. We turn to the ones we trust the most for help when we are in distress; and the thought of asking a stranger for assistance makes us cringe, doesn’t it.
    Is the Lord merely a God of emergency whom we seek during the rare occasions when we are desperate? Or is he a God of all occasions, both in joy and in sorrow, and he is nearer to us than our own every heartbeat and closer to us than every breath that we take.
    How often are we in serious distress, really? If we only seek the Lord when we are in grave trouble, we may never seek him at all. Besides, does God exist merely for urgent occasions and to meet our critical needs?
    
     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 4, 2016 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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