~~ MTS-3934
“From the Kohathites: Heman, the musician…”
          1 Ch 6:33

I think I would be pleased if I were called “the musician,” or better yet if I were labeled as “the sweet singer of Israel,” which was the term used to introduce David before he uttered his last words in this life.
I have always wanted to become a musician, even though I have absolutely no formal training in music and still can’t read music up to this day. I may have the desire, yet lack the determination and ability to turn my dream into reality. I can carry a tune and sing a little bit, but that’s the end of it.
I suppose I was born a musician and do have songs to sing, yet am afraid to do so because my singing may not measure up to the standard. There is no doubt that I am a much better singer when I sing to myself while taking a shower than when I do so for a crowd, no matter how small it is. Singing to oneself or unto the Lord is entirely different than performing for an audience. 
I took a few voice lessons and quickly found out what kind of material I was made of and gave up the idea, I guess at my age I will forever remain a kitchen and bathroom singer. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. Singing only unto the Lord surely beats performing for people any time. I am not one of those special few who seem to be able to do both rather effortlessly.
Heman the musician was a true artist whose heart and mind were in perfect unison when he played or sang unto the Lord. He had very little concern about how his music sounded to a human audience as long as it pleased the divine Audience. He offered a sacrifice through his music, performing for the Lord and Lord only.  
Of course this does not mean that his music was sloppy or anything close to that at all. Anything that is done unto the Lord from the heart and motivated by love should be accepted before the Lord. Being a musician who was set apart to serve the Lord through his music, I think Heman must have striven to present his best to the Lord and anything short of that would have bothered him a great deal. Surely the Lord deserved his best, even though his best wasn’t good enough.
I sometimes turn “sing for joy” into “shout for joy” when I sing before an audience, for I often have great difficulty hitting the high notes. It might not have sounded that good to human ears, but I suppose the Lord didn’t really mind as long as I shouted from the bottom of my heart, not just from my throat, with the sole intention to give God the praise that he deserved. The “sweet singer of Israel” might have fallen short if we measure his singing skill by the standards of our time, yet what he sang was still beautiful music to the Lord’s ears. 


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 31, 2015 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there.”         1 Ch 6:31

     David had an ample amount of time mediating on God’s grandeur and greatness while he was shepherding his father’s sheep in the wild. Did he ever contemplate about the best way to worship God? Did he ever shout for joy when he beheld the magnificence of the starry sky at night? Many times he might even have broken into singing the hymns he had composed. David himself was a skilled musician and he must have taught himself how to play the harp during the leisure time when his sheep were quietly grazing in the meadow and he found out his heart was the most in tune with God when he was singing and playing a musical instrument in praising the Lord. Surely the future king of Israel must have spent time mediating on God’s attributes and praying to God with words of thanksgiving, yet he realized music was the thing that pulled and touched his heart strings like nothing else. Singing, he determined when he was still a shepherd boy, had to be an essential part of worship, for it appeared to connect his heart with the Lord’s.
“I want to join the singing part,” said a little girl who was brought to our Wednesday fellowship and wanted to take part in our singing before we started our program.
“Do you understand the words,” I asked.
“No, but I still like to sing,” she insisted. I guess just humming along with the melody would be quite enough to satisfy her or ease her inner hunger to make a connection with the Divine whom she was yet to know.
“Was he singing?” My grandson appeared to be singing while he was playing with his toys. He is a year and half and is yet to talk, but he seems to be able to carry a tune. I suppose it was the music without words that he sang to express his joy, or whatever he intended to express.
The preaching of the Word doesn’t seem to move the ones who come to the church the very first time in their life, for there seems to be a fortress erected in their mind which keeps them from the invasion of any foreign ideas; but oftentimes these people tell me how they are moved by the music. I guess music can sometimes break down the barrier of the mind and directly reach people’s hearts. One of the reasons why it’s so difficult for Chinese people with an atheistic background to come to the Lord is they simply think too much and feel too little. Music is something that touches people’s emotion more than their intellect.
I don’t think it’s possible to even impress the omniscient God with our profound intellect or our implacable interpretation of the Scriptures, yet the Lord’s heart may be easily moved by singing praises to him from our hearts. Love communicates better than anything else, and singing is mostly an expression of our love and adoration for God.     


Posted by Robert Sea Monday, March 30, 2015 6:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Samuel's Sons 

Samuel’s Sons
“The sons of Samuel: Joel the firstborn and Abijah the second son.”
           I Ch 6:28

I have no idea how it feels to be the son of a great man, for my dad wasn’t one from a worldly point of view. He was an illiterate fisherman and a farmer who worked hard to earn a living his entire life. It wasn’t that demanding being his child, since he didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for his eldest son. I think he would have been very happy had I turned out to be a man who could make a good living and produce for him many grandchildren. Surely the acorn fell pretty far from the tree and what I became was far beyond his wildest imagination. I have about twenty-some years’ worth of education more than he did. I saw more than once how he struggled to read the newspaper, sometimes holding it upside down, and he oftentimes tried to show that he was actually literate by writing the numbers from one to ten. I loved my dad and he was great in his own way, but it wasn’t that hard to surpass his expectations for me, particularly academically.
It must have been quite difficult being Samuel’s son, however. Joel and Abijah must have tried to match up to their father’s expectations for them, but it did not take too long for them to come to realize the impossibility of it. The last judge of Israel had set a high standard for himself, and he must have expected the same thing from his sons. Being a busy man who was preoccupied by all the work he had to do, Samuel really didn’t have the time to supervise and discipline his children and it was too late when things got out of hand. After a few failed attempts to emulate their father, the brothers had long given up the effort and just followed their instincts and carnal natures in conducting their businesses.
The consequence of not bringing up his children the right way was far more serious than what Samuel had expected. Not realizing that his sons were ill-prepared to handle the priestly job, he did what was natural for every father to do. He appointed his sons as his successors and, no sooner had he done that, the people started to voice their complaints. Eventually, the displeasure with Samuel’s sons as leaders caused the Israelites to ask for a king, thus turning Israel from a theocratic nation into monarchy just like all the other nations. We all know how the whole thing transpired hundreds of years later.
The ways we raise our children do have consequences. Even so, the Lord is sovereign over all and he is certainly capable of turning things around to accomplish his eternal purpose. Certainly my dad didn’t in any way intend to groom me to be a minister of the gospel, a “foreign monk,” as people from my neighborhood would have disparagingly put it. Samuel might have felt a little guilty for what his children had turned out to be, but he must have also known the truth that God’s sovereignty did oftentimes supersede human responsibility.   


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 27, 2015 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional


~~ MTS-3931
“Jozadak was deported when the LORD sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.”       1 Ch 6:15

His father Seraiah was the high priest and Jozadak, which means “righteousness of God,” was in line to succeed his father. Yet before he was able to do that, catastrophe hit Israel and he and his fellow Israelites found themselves taking a long journey to Babylon where they would become exiles for many years. As far as we know, Jozadak never made it back to Jerusalem, and his son Joshua succeeded him as the high priest when the exiles returned home and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem.
We have very little information about Jozadak as a person except he was the son of a high priest and he was being groomed to be a priest when the time came. He must have spent a lot of time in his youth studying the Book of the Law and familiarizing himself with all the affairs of temple worship. After years of preparing himself for the important role he was going to assume, Jozadak thought he was more than ready to tackle the task at hand. Yet the Babylonians arrived suddenly with their invincible army and laid a siege outside of the city wall, and all Jozadak’s hopes and aspirations for his future had to be put on hold. Many people, including many of his friends and family members, were butchered after the wall was broken down and the ferocious Babylonians rushed into the city like a tidal wave, swallowing up all things in its way.
It wasn’t really a good thing for the young man to survive the siege and the subsequent atrocities that broke out afterward. After it was all over, Jozadak was forced to hit the desert road with only the few things he had managed to salvage, including the Book of the Law, from the ashes of his once polished home that had gone down in flames. Indeed the man was alive, but it must have seemed worse than death to him.
Being an exile is just a remote idea to the ones who have never been dislocated against their will. A few days before, the Israelites were protected by the city wall and surrounded by their loved ones, yet they found themselves accompanied by strangers, herded and driven by people with foreign tongues, having no idea what their destination was, with only a hazy horizon in the distance. Their beloved city was out of sight when they looked back with their eyes drenched in tears.
Many people must have turned to Jozadak for wisdom and comfort since he was a spokesperson for God. What words of wisdom and comfort could he have given to the people who were in such destitute circumstances? The Lord only knows. Yet being a man who had been groomed to intercede for his flock, I would like to believe that Jozadak did the best he could to minister to the people who were overcome with unthinkable sorrow and paralyzed with terror and fear. That was the best anyone could have done under the circumstance, wasn’t it?            

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 26, 2015 6:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land…”   1 Ch 4:25

The heroes of great renown from the half tribe of Manasseh had all achieved successes in their lives, and were successful in every way perceived from a human point of view. The crux of the matter is, God does not take human opinion into consideration when he judges people. The approval from those whom we have been trying our entire life to impress doesn’t seem to matter an iota when we stand before the judgment throne of the Lord.
At the end God will be the sole Judge and Christ will be our only advocator, and no one will be able to defend us except the One who shed his blood for our sin.
I have seldom earned any applause for what I have done, therefore I have no idea how it actually feels to be lauded by the masses. I do, however, have a faint desire to be recognized by people and to be counted for something. The crushing failures I experienced as a youngster that used to cause me great shame and embarrassment are still haunting me up to this day, even though my world and life view was completely transformed at my conversion. Indeed, I still deem people’s perception of me as quite important.
“I will never forgive that man since he severely insulted me,” the elderly Taiwanese person I barely know has said to me more than once in our casual conversations.
“You need to do yourself a favor by forgiving him, otherwise you will become more and more bitter,” I suggested. Yet he told me the exact same thing the next time we met. He seemed to have reached the point where he rather enjoys his bitterness. 
We are easily wounded by other people’s words and deeds, and are pumped when we hear good things said about us, yet human approval and disapproval means very little in the scheme of things. Being looked down upon by people does sting a great deal; what it doesn’t do is affect or alter God’s opinion toward us. In fact, God often esteems what people disdain, and he does lift up the ones who are trampled down on the ground. I have a slight suspicion that the Lord chose me out of many merely because I was so despised and disdained as a little boy. Of all the verses from the Scriptures, this verse remains one of my favorites since it depicts my life so well: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
Well, perhaps I should get rid of this self-absorption and narcissistic self-pity once and for all and dwell on what the Lord has to say about me, not what others see in me. Acute self-awareness surely is one of the worst curses of Adam’s sin. What we must labor for our entire life is God’s approval, not men’s. Indeed, even my own approval of myself doesn’t mean a thing before God. “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me,” we read in Second Corinthians.
The great men from the half tribe of Manasseh might have been lauded by men, yet there was a “but” attached to the sentence that brought up God’s assessment of these people. We know full well whose assessment between the two would amount to anything at the end.          

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Men of Great Renown 

Men of Great Renown
“They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families.”
            1 Ch 4:24

How did these people listed in this verse make a name for themselves? I guess we need to pay attention to what the people valued the most at the time. If they valued material things more than anything else, then the way to become well-respected in the community was to become very wealthy. If bravery was valued, then being courageous in battle would be the path to being recognized by the masses. I suppose different cultures and generations put more weight on different things, yet there are certain attributes in people that we all deem precious - such as courage, honor, and integrity.
“They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families.”
These people were leaders of the half tribe of Manasseh and they were all great warriors and all had won renown by what they accomplished in battles. Of course opportunities to perform were presented to them, for they were all heads of their families. David almost lost the chance of being anointed by Samuel merely because he was the youngest among his brothers; therefore he was deprived of many privileges his elder brothers might have enjoyed. Being heads of their families, there were ample opportunities for these people to shine and, if they rose up to the occasion, they would have earned fame and fortune for themselves.
There are three essential things necessary for one to succeed in life, which were driven into my mind in my youth growing up on the island of Taiwan- timing, location, and people’s cooperation (天時,地利,人和). This simply means that people must be at the right place at the right time, and they must be aided by the right persons in order for them to achieve success in this world. I suppose that was the case with all these people who were lauded as brave and famous.
Are they the ones we have been trying to emulate? When Liu Bang, the founder of the Hun dynasty, saw the grandeur of Emperor Qin on full display, he exclaimed: “A great man should be like that (大丈夫當如是也)!” Upon hearing this, Xiang Yu, an ambitious general replied: “I can take over his place (彼可取而代之也). Surely we all thirst for greatness; it’s just how we define greatness that makes a world of difference. Indeed we are how we perceive greatness, for such is the primary goal that we pursue in life. You can always tell who people really are by asking them who they admire the most.
I found it quite amusing when I saw a giant oil portrait of Bill Gates hanging on the living room wall when I stepped into the house of an accomplished artiest from China. I have no idea what drove the man to spend days and days depicting a man whom he didn’t even know personally. Was it because he admired the tycoon so much that caused him to do the unthinkable, or was he merely trying to make some money out of his art work?
Come to think of it, I would very much like to have a portrait of Jesus nailed on the wall of my heart, for he is the One whom I adore and admire the most and would like to become more and more like him. I don’t know about you, but being more like Christ is how I define true greatness.    

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 24, 2015 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“…and many others fell slain, because the battle was God’s.”
           1 Ch 5:22

I am a sports fan, yet never a single time in my viewing of different competitions did I pray for the outcome that I desired to see, no matter how much I wanted my teams to come out victorious. I don’t think God cares that much about the games we play and it makes very little difference to him who wins the contest. God never gets bored and needs no diversions like we do, and he must be quite amused by the way we look at games and how we become so euphoric or depressed by the performances of our teams.
“Does their victory have anything to do with you,” a guy once asked me while I was totally immersed, intoxicated even, in watching a football game.
“Well, not much,” I was annoyed by his question, for he had raised a probing question for which I had no answer. It was just one of those diversions that kept me from becoming overly concerned about the life I was leading. People cannot be a serious fan of anything if they remain too disinterested and detached. A lot of the passion we have for something comes from our identification with it. Isn’t the catharsis we all experience after viewing a tragic drama mostly produced from our identification with the tragic heroes in the play?
Are the battles we fight among ourselves more like games in God’s perception and is he amused or entertained by them all? If this is so, then the line we find in King Lear must ring so true: “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”  The battles are the Lord’s, and he doesn’t really care about the outcome or how many are slaughtered as a result. They are mere spectacles to him. How can anyone believe in such a cruel and indifferent God?
One thing must be made very clear here, though. God is sovereign over all, yet that does not mean he causes all wars to take place; it is rather our greed and ambition that cause all the battles to occur. God does determine who the victors and losers will be, but we can only speculate on the reasons behind all his decisions. What we can do is to take the side of righteousness and justice in any battle and leave the outcome to God, yet at the same time realizing that justice doesn’t always prevail in a sinful world, and though battles may be lost but our war will eventually be won. 
It doesn’t matter who comes out victorious when my three boys race against one another, but my interest about the race often increases if they race against people outside of the family. Battles are no games and it must hurt our Heavenly Father a great deal when his children meet in the battle ground, fighting against one another to the death. It’s indeed a lose-lose situation and the animosity and hostility among us can only be resolved by the death of the Prince of Peace, which is God’s resolution to end all battles.    

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, March 23, 2015 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Prayer Answered 

Prayer Answered
“He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.”
            1 Ch 5:20

“People cry out to God for help when they are in distress (人窮則呼天.)” We Chinese people are very familiar with this saying. Whether we are religious or not, we turn to a higher power, whatever it may be, for help. “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I guess humans are the same everywhere. We may not want to have anything to do with God when things are going well with us; but our true colors show when we are at the end of our rope. There are obviously exceptions, however. When he was dying with terminal cancer, a well-known atheist declined when Christians reached out to him and offered to intercede for him. He insisted his throat cancer had absolutely nothing to do with his badmouthing God throughout his career as a journalist and a writer; the culprit, he believed, was actually his heavy drinking and smoking.
Both the Israelites and their enemies prayed to their gods earnestly when they were waging war against each other. I guess if polytheism were true, all the gods would be waging war against one another to determine which side would emerge victorious at the end. I suppose whoever worshipped the most powerful god would win out at the end. Isn’t this how the gods on Mount Olympus operated?
The biblical writer could make this claim since the Israelites won the war in the end and out of habit they attributed their victory to God. I presume their interpretation of the event would have been a lot different had they lost the battle to the Gentiles. Would the prophets have concluded that they lost the battle because of their lack of trust in the Lord? How would they have drawn any other conclusion except this one?
Many more people with serious illnesses have died before one was cured, yet it’s the one who becomes well we choose to talk about, either amongst ourselves or from the pulpit. Indeed we have prayed for them with the same earnestness and faith, yet the end result remains the same except for a chosen few. For every Lazarus who comes out from the tomb, there are thousands upon thousands who remain there.
Let’s be reminded of God’s sovereignty and omnipotence when we talk about divine healing and other issues concerning God’s answers to our petitions. There is no question that God is all powerful and is capable of responding to our prayers; he is also completely free to do whatever he deems appropriate. The one way our prayers get answered according to our wishes is that we perfectly align our human wishes with the divine will.
“He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.”
Not only did they trust the Lord, the Israelites must also have trusted that their cause came from above as well, and the outcome of the battle proved it to be the case. They had lost many battles not for lack of trust in God, but for negligence in seeking God’s will before they took on their enemies.   


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 20, 2015 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Military Service 

Military Service
“The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service.”         1 Ch 5:18

It was my sophomore year in college that I received a notice, asking me to report to one of the new enlistee training centers on a certain date. I had just turned nineteen and had only a very vague idea of what tribulation I was going to experience in the next three years.
I was a budding poet and a romantic, and was by no means ready for military training and war. I withdrew from the non-accredited college right away and went home to make preparations for military service, while the college students my age were still enjoying their golden days in college. They were the fortunate ones who had passed the college entrance examination and were enrolled in colleges accredited by the government, therefore their military obligation was deferred until after they graduated, and they were also eligible to become officers in the service.
It was merely the starting point of my lifelong hardship, both physically and emotionally, just because I was a couple of points short of meeting the college entrance requirement. I was deemed a failure and have been looked down upon since then.
Did the young men from the Reubenites and Gadites have any option at all besides marching to the frontline to face death when the time came? 44,760 is just a nameless and faceless number at first sight, but things become entirely different if we try to put faces on them, knowing every single one of them had parents who loved them and many of them might even have had wives who adored them and children who waited for them to come home from the wars.
Death still feels and smells very much like death either in one person or in many people’s deaths. The sting and stench of it will always smell just as foul. The first time I saw my dad cry was when he made the three-hour bus trip to come visit me at the training center. With my long hair shaved and my skin turned dark after days spent in the scorching sun, I must have appeared quite haggard. My father might have been quite apprehensive that after I finished the training I would be sent to one of those remote islands where battle with the enemies was on going.
After three years of military service, which was pretty much akin to incarceration and a labor camp, I became a sadder, but not necessarily a wiser man. Why did I, as well as many others my age, have to go through such unnecessary and meaningless suffering? Why was it even essential for young men in the prime of their lives to be trained to shoot the men whom our government considered to be deadly threats and mortal enemies?
I can’t help but look at my three years in the army engineering corps with disgust and disdain, and some of us may feel the same way toward similar things, yet it may be something we need to learn to accept and embrace, for the hardship and suffering helped in shaping and molding us, causing us to become who the Lord intended us to be as his children.  

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 19, 2015 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional


~~  MTS-3925
“Then they settled in their place, because there was pasture for their flocks.”
           1 Ch 4:41

The Hamites and the Meunites were there first and should have had the claim of the territory, but the Israelites invaded the land and utterly destroyed the people there and “then they settled in their place, because there was pasture for their flocks.” Evidently injustice was done to both the Hamites and Meunites, and this appears to be the case from a human point of view. From the genealogical record, all we read is merely the rendering of the fact, with absolutely no apology for the event. It was justly stated that the Israelites did so “because there was pasture for their flocks.” Was it the right thing to do? Probably not. Was it a necessary thing to do? Absolutely. Indeed, the principle of “might as right” was applicable during the ancient times when natural resources were scarce and people were fighting for their survival.
Even the chosen people of God had to conquer the Promised Land in order to inherit the territory the Lord promised to give to them. There is still ongoing debate concerning the ownership of the land and both Jews and the Gentiles are ready to shed blood to claim their right to the land.
We can probably make a judgment from the comfort of our homes and act self-righteously, yet we have no earthly idea what we would have done had we been placed in the similar situation. When our loved ones’ lives are at stake, we may do the unthinkable to secure their welfare and continual survival. When the Lord was forsaken, what should people have done except operate on the Darwinian principle of “survival of the fittest?” 
Was there any other option except the option that they took, which was to destroy the residents of the land? Could a treaty have been worked out between the two peoples so that they could share the abundance of the land? Wouldn’t it have been so ideal if that had happened?
The nature of sin will always have run its course if people are left on their own. Under the circumstances, war appeared to be inevitable, for reconciliation was never an option at all, and blood had to be shed for the issue to be resolved. What happened between the Israelites and the Gentiles during that time was also taking place universally both in the east and the west. God seems to take the blame for all things, for he decided not to interfere or intervene, realizing the futility of it. People will continue to slaughter one another if they don’t honor the Lord as their God and King.
The Lord did have a long term plan to resolve the issue, however, and he was paving the way for the final resolution by preserving a people he chose to be an instrument of his eternal salvation from utter destruction, and whatever occurred in the process of his preparation was totally justifiable in his sight. In this case, history can only be understood by looking forward.   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 18, 2015 7:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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