To Build up 

~~MTS-4114
To build up
“…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”               Eph 4:12
     We are being built up so that we can participate in the work of building up the church. We must be built before we become builders, and the process of being built isn’t always pleasant. We must have a humble attitude and a willingness to be taught. No matter how educated or intelligent worldly wise we may be, we still need to learn the fundamentals of our faith. Unless we go through a complete conversion in all aspects of our lives, we will be useless in God’s kingdom and whatever we do within the church will be profitless and may even be damaging.
    I felt rather ill at ease attending a church committee headed by someone I considered ill-suited for the job, yet I went along for lack of courage to speak out. I didn’t have my priorities straight because I valued church harmony more than church purity at the time. Looking back in retrospect, I know what should have been done concerning the issue, yet because of my lack of courage the thing wasn’t done properly, and consequently, the church became weakened.
    I don’t think the builder of our old house made any compromises when he constructed this house some ninety years ago, for the architect was on sight daily, carefully examining the tasks being performed. In fact, the architect was constructing the house for himself and his bride; therefore extra care must have been put into the construction. Years have passed, and the house stands firm still.
    We may not be aware of the fact that we are building God’s house, the body of our Lord, since we merely do all the routine things that need to be done, such as cleaning and lining up the chairs and making sure the sound system work properly, and it seems hard to connect all these minute things with the great enterprise of building the glorious body of Christ Jesus.
    “Double-vision” is needed when we serve the Lord in any capacity be it great or small, within or without the church. We need to cast our eyes upon the visible as well as the invisible, for everything we do has both temporary and eternal consequences and significance. We are awfully foolish if we fail to realize whatever we eat contributes to our overall health and determines whether we are weak or strong.
    So if the body of Christ is weak, I am totally responsible, for I am a part of the body and whatever I do in caring or failing to care for the body contributes to her current state of sound or ill health. The body of Christ isn’t out there somewhere; it’s right where we are. Indeed, we are the church, the body of Christ Jesus, and the Lord will hold each one of us responsible for her wellbeing.
   
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 23, 2015 7:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Equip 

~~MTS-4113
To equip
“…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”           Eph 4:12
     Did the Lord make a mistake by calling me to be a minister of the gospel? I often wonder about this, for I have always felt ill-prepared to do pastoral work. I am not an organized person or even much of a planner. A go-with-the-flow person isn’t well-suited to do leadership work in the church.
     I would have made a very poor teacher, come to think of it, even though that used to be my career choice. A good teacher must know his or her subject very well and be able to communicate the material in a simple fashion. In order to achieve that, teachers must first digest the given subject matter and then present it in such a way that students can grasp it without much difficulty. I possess none of the abilities mentioned and I often became self-absorbed and self-intoxicated when I lectured to my students.
    I did such a pitiful job handling secular matters as a college teacher both at home and abroad. I have no earthly idea why the Lord called me to manage the sacred subject which I have been doing for the last twenty-two years. The Lord only knows how many people I might have misled and mis-taught. No wonder I often blame myself when people quit coming to the church. Indeed they haven’t been taught well.
    The axe could have been fallen in the past and it may still fall any time, for I have seen no progress in the way I conduct church affairs. I need to become more methodical in my preaching and teaching and cultivate my gift as a church administrator. Of course this isn’t my usual practice of self-condemnation; it’s my sincere desire to become a better pastor and teacher who fulfils God’s call to equip all the saints under my care to be more prepared to serve the Lord.
    It’s not too late to make some changes, is it? My wife is a good Latin teacher whose constant concern is to become a better teacher. It puts me to great shame, for I am not at all like her, even though what I am dealing with does carry a much more significant eternal consequence.
    I am called to be a pastor and teacher, am I not? I am quite subpar doing the job of pastoral care and rather deficient as a teacher. If this is so, I ask, why has the Lord kept me in the church for the last twenty-two years? Does he even care that I have been doing such a poor job?
    There is only one answer to my puzzling question. The Lord has been gracious and his patience with me knows no bounds. Instead of taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy by remaining who and what I am, I do need to double my efforts in improving myself to be a better equipper of the saints to do good work. I am extremely thankful that the Lord called me to be a minister of the gospel despite all my deficiencies as a person and flaws in my character, which only goes to show how merciful and forgiving he is. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 22, 2015 7:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Descending and Ascending 

~~MTS-4112
Descending and Ascending
“What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions.”           Eph 4:9
     By descending to the earthly regions, the Lord’s intention was to take some of us into God’s glory. The purpose of his descending was his ascension, for the purpose of his coming down to the earth was to lift us up to the heavenly realms and to transform each one of us into God’s children. There wouldn’t have been any ascending if there was no descending first.
    Of course there wouldn’t have been any spoils had the Lord not been victorious in his titanic battle against his adversary, the king of this world. By his death on the cross Christ had defeated Satan and he was able to rescue us from the power of death. Eternal life is the greatest gift we receive from the Lord, and eternal life wouldn’t have been offered to us had Christ not won the battle. To the victor goes all the spoils, and eternal life is part of the spoils.
    Up to this day we are still harvesting the benefits of Christ’s victory over the evil one, for we can keep on claiming the spoils the Lord left behind for all of us who love him.
    The talents we once possessed and had used as instruments for us to earn a living before our conversion have all been transformed into something that can be used by God and for his own glory. Aren’t these the spoils that we have received from above? Aren’t we all part of the spoils the Lord has reclaimed from Satan? Instead of bowing down to the evil one, we have become servants of God.
    The more we are victorious in our daily walk with the Lord, the greater our spoils will be.
    The Lord is still trying to reclaim what he is entitled to have among his children, what’s supposed to be his yet still remains under the control of his enemy. We are yet to dedicate to the Lord all we have unto his service and unto his glory, so there are still spoils yet to be claimed. We have been claimed by the Lord, yet continue to hold onto some things as if they were our own, the area we keep the Lord from ever reaching or touching. We try to keep the spoils to ourselves.
    Indeed, the purpose of the Lord’s descent was to take back his people who were under the tyranny of Satan and to bring them to his glorious heaven. He succeeded in doing just that by his death on the cross, yet in some ways he is still doing the work of conquering because, although the war has been won, the battle is still raging, for the spoils of the victory haven’t all been claimed, and in many cases, we are the ones who keep the spoils from him.
    Unless we completely submit to the Lord, we will never become truly ourselves and the spoils we have kept for ourselves will indeed spoil.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 21, 2015 8:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

One Hope 

~~MTS-4111
One Hope
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called…”       Eph 4:4
     There isn’t any other hope but the hope in Christ Jesus who is the head of the body to which we are called. We are bound to be disappointed if we try to look for any other thing except Christ himself when we come to the church. There isn’t any other thing for the church to offer except Christ and his atoning death on the cross and by believing in him we will have eternal life.
    Yet there are people who seem to be looking for things other than Christ himself; therefore their stay within the church isn’t long-lasting for they find out rather quickly the Lord isn’t going to provide for them what they desire the most.
    I have no earthly idea what I wanted when I visited the church, to be very honest. I had to be told what I was searching for, for I had no idea what I was looking for at the time. I might have gone to church out of curiosity or other reasons that had nothing to do with my salvation. I had no idea that I was lost, therefore had no need to be found. I went to the church to be informed that I was a sinner in need of redemption, and it would take years for the truth to sink in, causing me to come to my senses that I indeed needed a savior.
     The very first time I stepped inside a Christian church was on a Christmas Eve when I was in high school and throughout the service I was thinking about perhaps getting a gift before the end of the meeting. It didn’t happen and I was a bit disappointed. I failed to get the greatest gift the church had to offer that night, for I was focusing on something else. I didn’t return to church until I was in college, and even then I still had no idea what I should look for in the church. I wasn’t told, at least clearly, what I truly needed the few times I attended the church services, which was quite unfortunate indeed. It would have been such a great blessing had I been saved a few years earlier than I was, for it would have kept me from committing so many sins and wasting a lot of my days doing superfluous things.
    Do we do our job faithfully as a church by informing people what their real needs are and pointing out a way to meet those needs?
    Of course we have been trying to drive the message home to all the seekers that we are sinners in dire need of redemption, yet this information doesn’t mean anything to them unless they are convicted by the Spirit. Most people appear to be very much aware of their “felt needs” and yet pay absolutely no attention to their “real need,” which is the salvation of their souls and resurrection of their bodies.
    Even though the process is painfully slow, still we must continue to tell people what they need in order to have a truly abundant life. People must be told that they are ill so that they will seek treatment, for spiritual illness is relatively painless and it doesn’t drive people to physicians like physical sickness does. We need to bring the “silent killer” to bear so that people may start looking for treatment by turning to Christ who is the only hope of our healing and restoration.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, December 18, 2015 7:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Unity 

~~MTS-4110
Unity
 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”   Eph 4:2
     My siblings and I aren’t that close since I left home when I was just a youngster and didn’t spent a lot of time with my sisters and brother. Therefore the bonding really wasn’t there and after years of separation what is keeping us together is the fact that we are our parents’ children; that’s all, which is quite enough, since this bond can never be broken. I will always be a member of my family, and my siblings and I will forever be united in love.
    As long as I remain my heavenly Father’s child, I will forever be united with God’s children everywhere. Christian unity is based on the fact that we are God’s children and all of us have been born anew by the Holy Spirit, which makes us members of God’s family.
    How can God’s church not be united as one? It appears to me that nothing is more natural and logical than for people who share the same father to be united as one. Yet this isn’t what we see from looking at the situation among our churches nowadays. Separations and walls of division are present everywhere we turn and harmony and unity among Christians is rather difficult to find.
    There are a few people who have frequented our church off and on over the years, yet I honestly don’t have a sense that I am connected to them spiritually, since they are yet to commit their lives to Christ; therefore it’s a given that light and darkness cannot be mingled and turn into one. Obviously the visible church and the invisible church are in this world and the two will never become one in spirit. The oneness in spirit is what makes Christian unity possible.
    Paul was actually speaking about the unity of the Spirit, not the unity of the mind or the body within God’s church. Occasionally there are new people who come to town and start to join us in worship. It may take quite a while for them to fully assimilate into the church body since the differences between the newcomers and the church have to be worked out, yet as long as they have the indwelling Holy Spirit in their hearts, unity will eventually take place. It’s rather natural for life to be connected with life.
    My siblings and I are united by virtue of the fact that we share the same parents and all carry the genes of our father and mother, yet as far as our spiritual selves are concerned, the distance between us is rather vast and to be unified with them in Spirit is out of the question as yet. Not until the day they all bow down to Christ can we speak about unity in Spirit.
    Outward differences among church people can be worked out and obstacles of racial divide can also be removed, but issues stemmed by spiritual differences are impossible to overcome. Life and non-life can never be unified as one.                            

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 17, 2015 7:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Humility 

~~MTS-4109
Humility
“Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.”   Eph. 4:2
    We are not worthy of God’s calling if we are not humble and gentle and lack patience, failing to bear with our brothers and sisters within the church in love. This is indeed a tall order, isn’t it? I think we all fail in one aspect or another associating with others in the church. Surely we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and are in the slow process of becoming more sanctified, and grace from above is truly needed as we move forward. It goes without saying that the Lord is far more patient with us than our fellow believers are, for we expect a lot more from others than from ourselves and are more forgiving to ourselves than to other people.
    Humility is a primarily generated from our self-perception, and our self-perception must be based on how the Lord views us; only through the eyes of the Lord can we see ourselves properly. We will never be humble if we fail to see God’s greatness and our lowliness. We can’t help being humble if we perceive God for who he truly is. If he is infinitely great, then we are infinitely small, and there is no room for us to become pompous and arrogant if we realize who we really are.
    Those who truly know their God should all be truly humble, for knowing the Lord and thinking highly of oneself are contradictory in terms. One simply cannot think highly of God and oneself at the same time. Putting oneself first is to put the Lord second, and by putting the Lord second we automatically place other people below us.
    People who know themselves based on their knowledge of the Almighty cannot be anything but lowly and humble. Atheists have ample reason to be proud, for they believe who they are is the result of self-creation, thus self-aggrandizement becomes a logical thing for them to do. As far as Christians are concerned, there is really no room for such a perverted mindset, for harboring such a view is utterly inconsistent with the truth we hold dear. I have never met a truly spiritual person who is pompous and proud, for such a creature simply does not exist, and if by any chance you point out such a person to me, I will show you a hypocrite who is nothing but a fraud.
    This is truly a staunch challenge for all of us, since we all have the tendency to lift ourselves up and put other people down. Therefore it takes daily vigilance on our part to keep our flesh in check and perceive ourselves according to who and what we are. No matter how highly or lowly the world views us, we should remain the same as we have always been - lowly and humble creatures of God.       

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 16, 2015 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Worthy 

~~ MTS-4108
Worthy
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”        Eph 4:1

Paul had obviously earned the right to tell the Ephesians to lead a life worthy of their calling since he himself was leading such a life by his example. He was then sitting in a prison for the sake of the gospel and it was clearly shown that Paul was deadly serious in leading a life worthy of God’s calling. There wasn’t a single moment in his life that he wasn’t preoccupied by the thought of bringing honor and glory to God through the way he lived his life and the manners of his actions. The apostle was truly a man of God from whom the Ephesians could learn how to live a life worthy of God’s calling.
What sort of life was Paul speaking about? From the immediate context of the book we know he was talking about each believer’s inner character and outward conduct. The Ephesians Christians were exhorted to be gentle and humble inwardly and to be unified with other believers outwardly. I guess unity in the church becomes rather difficult to achieve if believers don’t possess the attributes of humility and gentleness, perceiving others as better than themselves. Nothing ruins church unity faster than arrogance and self-centeredness among believers. If all believers center their lives in Christ, unity becomes quite easy to attain, for all members of the body are unified with the Head.
It wasn’t without struggles among the believers, however, in their pursuit of church unity and harmony. Paul was having great difficulties reconciling with the Jewish Christians who continued to advocate that gentile Christians must observe the law in order to be saved.  He even took issue with Peter when the apostle separated himself from gentile Christians when he was visiting the church in Antioch. Even if all believers are unified to the Head of the church, there are still differences of opinions and perceptions. We are all created with different temperaments and brought up with various prejudices, and all these must be taken into account and we may have to accept the way things are. Unity within the church doesn’t mean differences among Christians no longer exist. They do exist and we ought to allow them to exist as long as they are not contrary to the truth.
Indeed we do have preferences and tastes as far as our interests are concerned and we tend to gravitate to same-minded people, yet this does not make people who are different from us less valuable or desirable. They are just different and we make room for such differences within our churches. The church will become a rather boring place if we all have similar interests and same preferences about art and music. Surely different members of the body all function differently, and I suppose they all have diverse interests as well. Diversity within unity is what makes unity interesting and appealing.     

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 15, 2015 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Power 

~~MTS-4707
Power
“…according to his power that is at work with us.”
          Eph 3:20

    God’s power has to be experienced to be known. It’s not some sort of theory to be learned; it’s rather something to be practiced. When times of great difficulty present themselves, we should take a hold of the opportunity to experience God’s power and let him do his mighty work in and through us.
    Certainly we don’t mean that God’s power and strength isn’t really needed for us to go through each ordinary day and to fulfill our ordinary duties that we are required to do. The fact of the matter is that we tend to feel we are sufficient for those things and there is no need to bother the Lord with them. Something isn’t quite right with this kind of thinking, since doing something consistently everyday may take more strength than doing one or two extraordinary things occasionally.
    Remaining consistent in doing good takes more strength than doing some earth-shattering thing a time or two in our lives.
    Take daily prayer, for example. Everyone can rise to the occasion when prayer warriors are needed for some emergency, yet remaining vigilant in prayer everyday is entirely different. Observing the Lord’s Day is relatively easier than living for the Lord seven days a week. Surely we need the power of God during times of desperation as well as times of tranquility. In fact, we may need him more when things are calm and we let down our guard than at the moment when we are armed for spiritual battle. We may be assaulted by temptation from the most obscure sources when we expect it the least.
    The power of God is always at work within, no matter what the situation is; we just need to of aware of its constant operation. We need his sustaining power in times of peace as well his surpassing power in times of turmoil, and we are doomed to fail apart from the daily empowering of the Holy Spirit.
    The more we are aware of God’s power at work within us at all times, the more we will know how to utilize it. By the same token, the more we entrust ourselves to the Lord, the less we will rely on our natural strength, and it will eventually get to the point when we entrust the Lord with everything, and ourselves with nothing.
    
   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 14, 2015 7:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Immeasurable 

~~MTS-4106
Immeasurable
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”  Eph 3:19

How could I have imagined what was going to transpire in my life when I looked ahead in my youth? I could have made some plans for my life and anticipated what would occur had I succeeded in what I wanted to do. Even so, my plans were quite small in scale compared to what actually was to come into being as my life moved forward. I dreamt about having a little career and raising a little family and leading a little life. That was it, for a person with neither solid family background nor sound intelligence, and such was the best that I could have expecting for myself.
Of course I didn’t place the Lord in the equation of all my calculations since I didn’t know him at the time, neither did I have desire to seek for him. I was a total stranger to the Almighty and he had no reason to pay any attention to me. I was nothing in the eyes of the world, and the Lord might have considered me as such.
I was entirely wrong as a matter of fact. My little miserable life changed completely when the Lord and I crossed paths as I was stumbling along on my life’s journey as a young man, and amazing things started to take place one after another. Indeed, it was a thrilling rollercoaster ride with its exciting ups and downs. It has been rather exciting, come to think of it, and I couldn’t have written a better script than what it has been. The Director of my life had done his job thus far and will keep on doing his work till eternity, and this is merely the starting point, and the best is yet to come.
"What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love him—“
Even though I had no idea who he was nor did I love him or had any desire to love him in my youth, he had already decided to love me and make a perfect arrangement for my life without me asking for it. How can I even imagine what he will do for me in time and eternity since I have begun to love him the best I can? Obviously what the Lord will do for me is going to surpass immeasurably what he has already done on my behalf and I will just go along for a joyful ride. I have no idea how is it going to be better than what it is now, yet knowing who the Lord is, I am certain there will be tons of surprises along the way, both here on earth and up there in heaven, both in time and eternity.
Truthfully I can only appreciate what’s naturally considered good in time and space, yet I am looking forward to receive what I cannot imagine or grasp through human understanding, and will be more than happy to embrace what is going to transpire after the world vanishes from my sight.     

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, December 11, 2015 7:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Know 

~~MTS-4105
To Know
“…and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”        Eph 3:19

Compared to what we need to know about human love, we have fallen way short in our knowledge; by the same token, compared to what we ought to know about God’s love, what we know is merely a drop in the vast ocean of God’s abundant charity. We may claim to know something, we know nothing compared to what we need to know. The reality of things eludes us the moment we seem to grasp their essence. Indeed, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” concerning the essence of love, for knowing something in part and acting upon it can be rather damaging, and our perception of love can easily be utilized as a weapon to achieve our selfish end.
The daily realities that we encounter may or may not be consistent with our understanding of the love of God, so how do we handle them when inconsistencies do occurs? Do we cast doubt on God’s love or become suspicious of our perception. When faith and sight are in conflict with each other, which side are we going to take?
Does God’s sometimes bring us sorrow and pain? It happens, doesn’t it? If we believe nothing bad will happen to us without God’s consent and yet bad things do happen to us on a routine basis, how do we reconcile the two? “If there is a God, why suffering?” What kind of apology can we offer when atheists raise this sticky question?
Unless, of course, God has a hand in all things that have ever occurred to us, including what brought the most joy and the bitterest sorrow. Quite contrary to what we believe, God intends to bless, not to harm, to bless, not to blast through all the seemingly tragic events. Through things weal and woe, God’s intention remains the same, which is to work them out for our good, ultimately.
     God’s love becomes so much more comprehensive and mysterious if we look at it from this point of view, and we will start to perceive our troubles the same way when we look at the cross on Calvary hill. What could be more horrific and brutal than what the Father put the Son through, yet the blood Christ shed on the cross turned into the bloodstream of our salvation. What appeared to be the worst tragedy turned out to be the greatest blessing of all, and only through the spectrum of the cross can we truly comprehend the essence of God’s love. Surely this is the kind of knowledge that surpasses human understanding, and we cannot comprehend it unless we experience it collectively as a church, for various things, both good and bad, do happen to all of us, and we ought to perceive them as a whole from the mysterious perspective of God’s love, so that our understanding and appreciation of the Lord “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”       
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 10, 2015 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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