Giving Thanks 

~~MTS-4151
Giving Thanks
“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”         Eph 5:20
     Do I have to give thanks for myself even though I have had such a difficult time getting along with myself? How can I give thanks for other people if I have trouble being thankful about myself?
    Of course I am thankful for the good part about myself, and displeased in a certain aspect about my attributes as a person, but I love myself for the most part. I suppose I have to learn to be thankful for myself in its entirety since I cannot be divided as an entity.
    By the same token, we need to be thankful for the totality of other people, since most people are just like me, a mixed bag of goodness and badness, desirable and undesirable attributes. We should not be selective in our thanksgiving.
    As far as being thankful for what we encounter in our daily lives, neither can we be selective since whatever befall us comes in a complete package as well and with a clear intention. If all things are random and capricious, then we can be grateful for certain things and treat some undesirable things as mere accidents that were not meant to happen and can therefore consider them disdainful. 
    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” This should always be the basis of our giving thanks to God in all circumstances, be they good or bad from a human point of view, for all things occur with a clear intention, which is for the good of those who love Jesus.
    Of course we don’t always know the “goodness” behind all things, particularly behind the things that bring us awful sorrow and pain.
    Giving thanks to God is always an act of faith. We may not be aware of this, but giving thanks to God in all the good things is an act of faith as well, for we simply have no earthly idea whether the seemingly good things may turn out to be not so good after all. Take prosperity for an example; even though it’s the thing that most people yearn to possess, what it does to the human heart is rather unpredictable and this so-call blessing from a human perspective may turn out to be the worst. We give thanks to all things, for all things are generated by the omniscient God who intends to mold and chisel us into the image of his Son, full of goodness and holiness.
    God’s creation of us is yet to be finished and he is working on us even at this very moment. Whatever happens to us is part of his creation process, and being thankful for whatever he has done or will be doing in our lives is an act of cooperating with what the divine Artist is creating. He does all things with a goal in mind, which is to create a masterpiece out of a lump of clay. For this reason, therefore, we can be thankful for all things.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, February 29, 2016 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Spirit 

~~MTS-4149
Spirit
“Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”           Eph 5:18
 
    It’s such a tug of war kind of thing during conversations that I have had with people, Christians and non-Christians alike, and I have often found myself trying to steer the conversation toward a certain direction, yet they seem to inevitably go toward the direction according to the whim of the majority and my efforts almost always ended up in a big failure.
    In order for a dialogue to go in the same direction, the ones involved in the conversation have to be same-minded. We can’t possibly speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” if we are not all filled with the Spirit. Perhaps, the apostle was speaking about occasions when Christians gather together to worship the Lord, for the ideal situation he was depicting couldn’t have occurred elsewhere except during the worship service when all worshippers were united in one Spirit and speaking the same spiritual language.
    There was an issue, however, since not all possessed the spiritual gift of tongue speaking, and the ones without the gift would certainly have felt left out during the service and a disunity within the church would have been created as a result. I guess an issue such as this is often created within a church when certain charismatic elements are being introduced into the church by a small group of people who happen to be blessed with certain spiritual gifts which are foreign to the majority of people in the congregation.
    There shouldn’t be any feeling of exclusivity or arrogance among Christians who are blessed with certain charismatic gifts, such as tongue speaking, healing, or other unusual abilities bestowed on them by the Spirit. In fact, they should be quiet about it and use the gifts judiciously in accordance with revelation from the Spirit. In one of our prayer meetings years ago, an elderly lady suddenly started to pray in tongues, which caused a stir since most of the people attending had no idea what she was saying. Spiritual gifts meant to be utilized as self-edification should always be kept to the self and out of the public eyes.
    Love is “the most wonderful way” the apostle urged all of us to diligently seek and the Lord will bestow it on us all according to the richness of his grace. The spiritual gift of love may not be all that exotic or awe-inspiring, it’s nevertheless essential and the fellowship among Christians will be appealing and wholesome if we can all season our conversations with love.
    What I enjoy the most when I associate with fellow Christians is good conversation, yet my definition of fine conversation may be quite different from others, since my talent, interests, and spiritual gifts are quite different from other people. I should just be content if we can all season our fellowship and conversation with love.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, February 25, 2016 7:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Drunkenness 

~~MTS-4148
Drunkenness
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.”
           Eph 5:18
     Yes, I have been there and know well how it feels, for it was being in a fellowship of pagans that I enjoyed the most as an unbeliever. We were loosened by the heat of the alcohol and all became rather uninhabited, which was the single most important condition for a group of men to have genuine fellowship.
    What did life offer to a bunch of young soldiers who had nothing to do during their time off except gamble, drink, and chase women? What they had was merely one day a week and it needed to be put to good use, which was a time they could forget the boredom of life by appeasing their senses through drinking and engaging in other sensual things.
    It was one of those meaningless things that people who don’t believe in meaning do to kill whatever leisure time they have. There is nothing more fun for them to do but sensual things to maximize their sensual pleasure.
    Of course there were always hangovers the morning after, which gave us a nagging feel that things shouldn’t have been so and that we had been doing something that wasn’t becoming and there would be consequences. Yet the next weekend we did the same thing all over again, for lack of something better to do.
    Military service on a remote island really did my brother in and he became a full-blown alcoholic after he was discharged. Not only did his addiction ruin him, it did the same thing to my parents as well, for there wasn’t a single day that passed without them worrying about my young brother’s issue, and they both took the nightmare to their graves.
    There I was in my rented room located in the foothills of Da Du Mountain in a suburb of Taipei, restless and lonesome, only a few weeks removed from my discharge from three long years of service. I had decided to drink my sorrow away, yet the alcohol didn’t seem to do the same trick as it used to. I was desperate. What was there for me to do if the only device upon which I depended for happiness failed to do the job?
    That was the moment when the Lord resurfaced in my life and the cliché did actually come true - the rest was history. The spirit of God did effectively replace the spirits I had enjoyed and I didn’t have a sip of wine for the next thirty years. Alcohol meant nothing to me when there was meaning in my life.
    “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.”
    Drunkenness is merely a symptom of something far more serious and deadly and it tends to lead to debauchery and other vices, and the snowball effect eventually leads to our utter ruin. Instead of drowning the pain by getting drunk we may have to treat the cause of the pain, which is the absence of Christ in our lives. That was exactly what happened to me and by turning to Christ my issue was resolved once and for all.
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 24, 2016 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Opportunity 

~~MTS-4147
Opportunity
“…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”         
              Eph 5:14
     Time isn’t very forgiving and the more we use it, the less we will have it, yet we have no choice but to use it. We certainly can’t save time for our future use, and neither can we borrow it from other people, and there is absolutely no recourse when we run out of it.
    “It will be at least twenty years before I will get another opportunity to officiate another wedding for a family member,” I said in my son’s wedding charge. He is the last to get married among the three, and my first grandson is only two years old.
    Indeed, that was my last opportunity to say something meaningful to such a unique gathering of family and friends. In fact, the next time the same people gather together I may not be able to be there to witness it and it may have been the my first and last time to meet the ones who came to the wedding ceremony. Whatever good I can do for them and whatever kindness I want to show them I must seize the chance to do it.
    “…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
    The evilness of time lies in its unpredictability. We may not have any day left without us knowing it. We may be formulating all kinds of plan for our lives and dream about all the possibilities of our future, not knowing that our future may not be there. What we have is today and all our tomorrows are mere possibilities, with both high and low degrees of probability.
    What do we do to make the best of our opportunities?
    We may feel a bit melancholic if we don’t use time the right way or squander it away without doing anything positive or impactful. We may eat and drink and have lots of fun when we gather together with our friends, yet we will feel rather remorseful at the end unless we do something to edify one another and spend more time encouraging than joke telling and more sharing of personal joys and heartaches than of gossip about our neighbors. 
    We certainly will feel the same way when we look at our lives in retrospect before we depart from the world unless we have done everything we possibly can to redeem our time on earth. I guess that’s what it means by leading the so-called “intentional life.” Do we face each and every day of our lives with a clear intention to not waste any time and to utilize all our days to bring glory to God?
    I felt a bit pensive driving home from our son’s wedding, which only meant that I might not have spent the previous three days the right way, and I might have squandered some precious opportunities to minister to my three sons and all their friends present at the three days festivities before the wedding. I suppose that was the evilness of it.
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, February 23, 2016 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Exposed 

~~MTS-4145
Being Exposed
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”    Eph 5:13
     Being in the light is to be exposed by the light and everything we do should be illuminated by the light and, consequently, all our deeds are enlightened and transparent.
    There shouldn’t be any skeletons in our closet.
    Because of our distrust of people, we may not have the courage to be entirely transparent before men for fear of losing people’s love and respect, yet we should at least to be totally visible before God. How do we do it? Through repentance, of course. The repentance of our past offenses and sins should know no bounds, at least consciously.
    Evidently, St. Augustine had mostly forgotten what sins he had committed as a little child, yet he was able to know what they might have been by observing how most children behaved and he repented of his sins accordingly. Indeed, by reading his confession we come to realize how extensive his repentance was.
    Come to think of it, I have never brought before the Lord in repentance my lack of love and disrespect for my parents. I had always wanted to leave my parents ever since I was a boy and had no consideration of how my parents might have felt. I have never repented of this particular offense, not even once. I have often thought about writing a book similar to St. Augustine, yet I am just too cowardly to do so, for fear of being exposed.
    Up to this day, I can only be transparent before God, not before men, for unlike flesh and blood, the Lord is all forgiving and all covering, and even though we are exposed before him, we don’t have to be afraid of being disposed.
    We can never be a light in the world if we are not exposed by the light of God first, for the light of God is a consuming fire that burns away all the filth in our life. Sin keeps us in the dark, but God’s light brings us to the light.
    “Humility is endless,” Eliot wrote in the “Four Quartets.” By the same token, repentance is also endless, and only through constant repentance can we be truly humble, for true humility become possible only through self-awareness. People will always be blinded of who they essentially are unless they are exposed by the light of God.
    O Lord, may I constantly by exposed, illuminated, and enlightened by the light, and may the pure and scorching fire of the Lord burn up both my repented and unrepented sins, the iniquities of my unremembered past and unseen future, so that I can become bright light in the world, for “everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
     
 
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 17, 2016 7:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Secret 

~~MTS-4144
In Secret
“It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”          Eph 5:12
     What I do in private determines who I really am when no one is watching my every move; therefore we should be always on guard when we let down our guard during our free time. The enemy will probably leave us alone if he finds us vigilant and watchful when we are on duty; he will assault us when he discovers we are out of the public eye and relaxing in the privacy of our chambers.
    Temptations will always be there when we turn on the television set or computer, for there is no way of knowing where they will take us when we start to flip channels or surf the internet. The power of self-control may not always be sufficient to keep us from veering away from the right path, for there are roads and alleys that lead us to places of no return and cause us to become addicted to all sorts of vice.
    I have developed a habit of rewarding myself by surfing the internet a little bit after I finish writing a devotional or doing something related to my work, which I consider rather harmless. Yet what I deem legitimate could easily turn into something sinister if I fail to guard myself. People may be in danger of getting burned if they ever get too close to the fire. Therefore, when I travel in the la la land of the internet, I always try to take my usual route to some familiar sites, mostly sports related, and retreat from there quickly with my body and spirit still intact. It would become precarious if I found myself searching for something to look at, for by doing so, I would be handing the reins of my mind and heart to my senses and their natural inclination is to run wildly in the mud and wallow in the filth.
    The best way to overcome temptation is to avoid tempting situations, which is something we can control most of the time. A Chinese saying makes a lot of sense to me: “Being made aware that there are ferocious tigers in the mountain, why insist in going toward it?” Of course, even if we try our best to avoid temptation, it will always find us at the most inopportune time. What shall we then do? I guess we can keep temptations to the minimum by occupying ourselves with constructive activities. Being “in secret” means that we are not occupied by anything, which is the most vulnerable time. Demons will always try to move into houses that have been swept clean and yet remain unoccupied. We will have heap of trouble on our hands if that happens. Another Chinese saying also rings true here: “It’s easy to invite the gods into your heart, but it’s very difficult to send them away.” When something sinister makes your heart its abode, it will become extremely difficult to root it out. This is what we call “addiction.”
    “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” 
    Can we be entirely transparent when someone inquires about what we usually do in secret? Or is it just such a shameful thing that we are frightened when it’s exposed. We are so afraid of being exposed before men, yet it doesn’t seem to concern us a bit even though we are completely exposed before the Lord. This is something I have trouble comprehending. 
        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, February 16, 2016 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Children of Light 

~~MTS-4142
Children of Light
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”           Eph 5:8
     We can afford to become completely transparent before people if we have nothing to hide, yet we are often pretty self-conscious, for we all have some skeletons in our inner closets. After years of accumulating, the number may be increasing and we become increasingly concerned about being exposed. People will not love us if they become aware of who we truly are.
    All our filth was removed when we turned to Christ in repentance, so there is no need to be afraid of being exposed and, if we remain transparent before God, we will be able to be translucent before men.
    Of course, lack of trust tends to create a wedge among all of us and causes us become suspicious at all times. Indeed, love must be built on mutual trust and, if it’s absent, intimate relationship often crumbles. We can be completely frank before the Lord, because we are convinced his love for us is unconditional and eternal. Not so with human love, we think, for it seems to be erected on the basis of performance.
    We don’t make any attempt to hide anything from the Omniscient, yet we do try to keep a lot of things away from humans who are easily beguiled by appearance. We think we will be loved more deeply if we perform more superbly, and people will cease loving us if they are disappointed by who we really are. Therefore we continue to hide, for fear of losing whatever love and good will we have obtained.
    Love must be built on mutual trust and utter transparency; otherwise there will always be a tinge of fear of losing what we treasure the most. For certain, sin is something that keeps us from being completely translucent. The more we are in the light the holier we will become, and the holier we are, the more transparent we will be.
    “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Isn’t this a good reminder of who we truly are and what kind of lifestyle we should be leading?
    There is always a sharp contrast between who we once were and who we are now if we had a distinct conversion experience. By the same token, there must be some sort of spiritual progression for the ones who haven’t experienced a dramatic transformation in their walk with the Lord. There should always be a gradual departure from our past and a moving toward our future, becoming more and more Christ-like and conforming less and less to the image of this world. There is a serious problem with our spirituality if we remain the same year after year. By doing so, we seem to accumulate more and more skeletons in our closet and we become more and more frightened to see the light.
    
   
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, February 11, 2016 6:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Empty Words 

~~MTS-4141
Empty Words
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”   Eph 5:6
     I received an email in the middle of my writing and attempted to save what I had written so that I could read the mail. I failed and I lost what I had composed and the train of my thought was gone when I tried to resume. It was one of those discouragements that we have all often encountered in life from which we can easily recover - things so mundane that they hardly demand our attention.
    The piece that I was drafting might have been so empty that it was not worthy to be saved, perhaps. There was probably something or someone out there who didn’t want my writing to be preserved, which is fine, for I have never considered my devotionals worthy to be kept. In fact, the thought of scorching them with fire often surfaces in my mind, and I may still do it sometime in the future in a moment of weakness or strength. Doing such may be a sign of consistency, for I have often talked about subjecting my writings, my sacrifices made to God, to being consumed on the altar, producing a sweet aroma for the Lord.
    Words uttered out of empty conceit or selfish ambition are best to be scorched, for were they to be kept in a library or elsewhere they might serve as evidence of a crime during the time of judgment and we surely will be found guilty.
    I spent countless hours sitting in the reading carrel of the library of my university when I was a graduate student and I often felt engulfed and swallowed up by rows and rows of books. I often wondered with what intention did people over the generations produce so many books. Of course, they are beneficial to all of us if they are all solid and truthful, but that might often not be the case. A lot of books have been written out of human arrogance and conceit. Out of empty minds and prideful hearts have come empty words that only misguide and misdirect. In an attempt to earn an academic degree, I felt that I had turned into a parrot, echoing the empty sounds empty people have sounded over the generations. No wonder I felt dejected and lost sitting alone in the still and solemn library, guardian of empty human knowledge, littered with human vanity and half-baked ideas.
    Why do I continue to speak, as if I have something important to communicate to this generation and generations to come? Who do I consider I am? I am indeed tiptoeing on thin ice and with a mere slip and I will be drowned.
    I will be deceiving others if I myself am deceived. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I have intentionally tried to keep my readership small, and eventually keep my writings within the family. I am not at the point where I consider my meditations worthy to be read by the public of my generation, let alone the generations to come. It’s better to let vanity die with the man.         

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 10, 2016 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Greed 

~~MTS-4140
Greed
“No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”             Eph 5:5
     For some reason Paul felt it necessary to add a comment about greedy persons, whom he labelled as idolaters. What does being greedy have to do with idolatry, I wondered.
    There was a temple located in the nearby village and the gods within were known for their “effectiveness,” by which I mean that people found them rather faithful in responding their petitions in a positive manner. My uncle who lived next door had seldom failed to visit the shrine to pay the gods his homage whenever he returned to the village, since he believed the idols were the ones who brought all his successes, both academically and professionally. I could have done the same thing he did, yet I was totally uninterested in doing so, since I was probably not as ambitious as my uncle in seeking worldly success. Greed might not have been my primary vice; therefore I considered idolatry superfluous and unnecessary.
    What motivated the villagers to go to the temple to worship gods had a lot to do with greed for money. Indeed, life was quite difficult in the seaside farming and fishing village and becoming prosperous was main aspiration of the people. Consequently, idolatry became a booming industry.
    Idolatry became an expedient practice not because of its effectiveness, but rather it was some sort of an “in case” kind of thing, really. If the idols turned out to be efficient in bringing forth wealth and fame to the worshippers, no one wanted to miss the boat by not participating in the worship. Greed for money and success can cause people to do a lot of irrational things.
    The ones who serve two masters often end up serving themselves, and the master whom they supposedly serve often turns out to be their servants. Since the almighty God will never succumb to our selfish desires and ambitions, for he is holy and just, Mammon will be more than happy to move in to occupy the throne and receive people’s worship. The needs of both the worshipped and worshippers are thus met in the transaction.
    “For Damas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” I can envision the apostle uttering these few words in II Timothy with a deep sigh, since the one who had seemed to be so promising in God’s kingdom had made a drastic turn and quit following Christ. Love for money and greed for fame might have done its job on the young man and driven him to idolatry. In the course of my church ministry, I have witnessed many cases such as this, which is indeed quite unfortunate. 
    “Greed is good.” We come across this statement in a movie portraying the business world on Wall Street. Surely we have long legitimized the practice of greed and, to a certain extent, glorified it, not realizing the seriousness of the issue. Of course, a capitalistic system as an economy may be built on people’s desire for monetary gain, yet it must be seasoned with Christian charity to keep it from sinking into the pit of idolatry.
 
 

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 10, 2016 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sexual Immorality 

~~MTS-4139
Sexual Immorality
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity…”       Eph 5:3
     Merely having determination to do the right thing just isn’t enough; there must be something more potent to keep us from having wandering eyes, for sexual temptations seem to everywhere and only the blind can keep away from all the junk out there, selling whatever they want to sell by showing what people desire to see. What in the world does the business of selling automobiles have to do with the modeling of skimpily-clad girls? Does their mere appearance cause an increase in a man’s desire to purchase a car?
    Men are visual creatures and the desire to look at forbidden subjects is mighty strong. We are probably lying if we claim that we have never been tempted to cast our eyes on the filthy stuff. But being tempted to look is one thing; yielding to the desire is entirely another. I have heard that a glance or two at pornography is enough to make one addicted to it, which is akin to becoming addicted to a drug. This is truly scary, isn’t it?
    Instead of fighting against it, nowadays people seem to accept what used to be unacceptable as the new norm and make justification for it. I read somewhere that the revenue pornography generates is greater than that produced by all the professional sports combined. How do we Christians who are called to remain pure and holy in a world contaminated by filth remain unaffected by what is going on in our midst and emerge victorious?
    St. Augustine had a close friend who was a frequent visitor to games presented in the coliseum and the arena, and he believed he could keep himself from becoming addicted to them, yet he found himself totally immersed in the scene the moment he witnessed bloodshed. I guess he was just overly confident in his willpower to resist the irresistible, and found out the truth after it was a little too late. What young Joseph did when he encountered a tempting situation serves as the best example for us to follow. Had he stayed in the room with his mistress, bad things could have happened, so knowing his own frailty as a young man, he escaped from the scene right away, thus avoiding a sin against God.
    The thirty-sixth military strategy according to Sun Tzu is to run away from the enemy. Knowing full well the daunting task of winning the war, the best thing to do, according to Sun, is to run away. We may be cowards, but being cowards is far better than being trapped and captured by our enemy the devil.
    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity…” What we are facing is a universal problem not bound by time or space, and for sure victory is attainable if we call the Holy Spirit alongside us, enabling us to remain pure and unblemished in a crooked and perverted generation.
 
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, February 8, 2016 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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