Work 

~~MTS-4165
Work
“Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”         Eph. 6:6
     So much of what we do daily we do out of a sense of duty to men, not to God. Therefore, we seem to be more diligent in doing our work in front of people and let down our guard a little when no one is watching. We seem to be more at ease when our boss or manager is away from the office and we can work at our own pace, even taking coffee breaks when we are not supposed to.
    Ministers are classified as “self-employed” when they file their tax returns, which is rather odd but, come to think of it, it does make some sense, for so much of what we do in the ministry is self-motivated and it takes strong self-discipline and strict self-regulation for us to keep on working. I have often found myself slacking off during my working hours since no one seems to hold me accountable for what I spend my entire day doing. It does take a daily conscious effort for me to practice “the presence of God” so that whether I am under men’s supervision or not, I faithfully carry out what I am called to do just the same. We are not self-employed as classified by the government; we are in fact God-employed and ought to perceive ourselves that way and act accordingly.
    If we rightly consider ourselves God’s servants, we are all employed by one Master to whom we should render all our service. Our first loyalty should be offered to God and our primary purpose of work is to bring glory to him.  It makes no difference whether we are supervisors or the one being supervised, making one hundred or ten dollars an hour.
    Adam was created to work and being idle is never a good thing. Why in the world did Eve take time away from her husband chatting with the tempter under the tree? Why wasn’t she occupied with the work assigned for her to do in the garden? One who is not occupied by working is akin to a house swept clean, readying to be taken over by the evil ones.
    We won’t be filled with apprehension if we have a sense of calling toward our work even though the outcome of our effort may not be all that desirable and our job performance may suffer loss. We do have a lot to worry about if we labor for the world, but we should be anxiety-free if all our labor is for the Lord. Even if the one with one talent had invested what he was entrusted with by the master and lost it all at the end, he would still have been considered “a good and faithful servant,” for being faithful at what we have been entrusted with is what the Master is looking for in all of us, and it should always be our main concern. What ultimately counts in our Master’s eye isn’t the outcome we have generated; it’s the effort we have put into it. Faithfulness does take precedent over productivity or profitability in all our endeavors as God’s servants.          

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 31, 2016 8:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Slavery 

~~MTS-4164
Slavery
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”           Eph 6:5
     It would have been far easier for the slaves to be obedient had their masters been nice and kind, if they had treated them not merely as their property, but as fellow human beings, regarding them with dignity and civility.
    This might not have been the case for the most part, for to the slave owners slaves were just slaves who weren’t supposed to have any rights during a time when the value of a person was defined by the various social echelons in which people happened to find themselves. The opportunity of altering their position was rather slim and in most cases slaves were slaves for life.
    They should have been given an opportunity to escape from their lot as slaves, shouldn’t they have?
    Gaining their freedom was of secondary importance compared to remaining faithful and obedient to their earthly masters, according to Paul. Obviously he didn’t think there was anything wrong with slaves attempting to advance themselves if there were opportunities to do so, yet his main concern was for Christian slaves to develop a good reputation by being excellent slaves. This was to be demonstrated in their faithfulness and obedience to their earthly masters.
    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
    This was by no means Paul’s justification of slavery as a system, for in essence the practice is unjustifiable, whether in ancient or modern times. Human morality and common decency should know no bounds in time or space. Yet the apostle seemed to value one thing over the other, and urged the people to do the same – one’s Christian testimony should always take precedent over personal freedom or physical wellbeing and people should do all things possible to preserve their reputation as Christians so that the name of the Lord would be lifted up and honored.
    We seem to place the pursuit of personal fulfillment and happiness on a pedestal and all others can easily be sacrificed if they stand in the way of our passionate search. Unfortunately, our faith may also be utilized as an instrument by which we attain the goal, thus the Lord may have become the supreme facilitator of our personal fulfillment and happiness.
    Do we lead our lives for our own happiness or for God’s glory? The answer to this may determine everything we do and all the decisions we make. We may have been fighting against who we are and what has been happening to us in life and attempting to transform ourselves and our circumstances for the better. “I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this,” said the Psalmist. The mindset of the Psalmist expressed in this line should become ours as well.
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 30, 2016 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Honor 

~~MTS-4163
To Honor
“Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise.”         Eph 6:1
     Do we honor our mother and father so that the promise will become a reality in our lives so that we can live longer in the world? Interesting question, isn’t it? Can we all love and honor our parents with absolutely no self-interest in mind?
    King Lear in Shakespeare’s tragedy was about to divide his kingdom into three parts and he wanted to know how much his three daughters loved him before he did so. The two elder daughters both spoke in hyperbole, telling in flowery language how much they loved and adored their father, yet the youngest daughter Cordelia, being brutally honest, only stated to her father: “I love you according to my bond.” This threw her father into a great rage and, consequently, she was deprived of any inheritance.
    Isn’t this commandment telling us to do exactly the same thing, which is to honor our mother and father according to our bond? So much of what we do in this life, love included, we do according to our duty, whether we like to do it or not. Honoring our parents is our call of duty, which is nonnegotiable, and we must fulfill it whether there is a reward or not.
    Do parents even an option whether to care for their children or not? Of course not. There is no such command for parents to watch over their children, yet there is one spelled out for all children, for the latter isn’t as natural and spontaneous as the former, and they are even enticed to do so with a wonderful promise. It’s not always that easy to honor our parents, for some of them may not be that worthy of honor, and to honor always demands some sort of sacrifice from us, either physically or emotionally.
    I pray this will never happen, but I am afraid someday either my wife or I will become a liability to my children. In fact, this may be the fear of many of us who are elderly. Therefore those who have the means make all the necessary preparations to avoid becoming dependent on their children, by accumulating enough retirement for instance.
    For a while Kathy’s parents were entertaining the idea of moving in with us, and I was thrilled about the possibility, for I considered it a privilege to do so, without even thinking about all the logistics if that were to take place. They ended up moving in with Kathy’s younger sister in Florida and it has seemed to work out for the best for all involved, but I remember Kathy felt a bit sad over the whole thing, for she would very much have liked to have had the honor of caring for her elderly parents.
    Filial piety is the foundational virtue that seems to have sustained Chinese civilization for over five thousand years. The teaching has been driven into my psyche and it’s unthinkable for anyone not to abide by this. Obeying the law of the Lord is its best reward, and the promise attached to it is just a bonus.   
   
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:52:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Respect 

~~MTS-4162
Respect
“…and the wife must respect her husband.”
          Eph 5:33
     Chung was a post-doctoral researcher from China and was working at Tech and frequented our church occasionally even though he wasn’t a believer at the time. He was quite an outstanding researcher, specializing in some kind of cancer and, all things considered, he should have commanded people’s respect since he had earned his Ph.D. from a reputable institution in the Orient and was an up and coming scholar in his field, yet his wife absolutely didn’t show him any respect and didn’t mind voicing her opinion in public. It was puzzling why she did so, and I had great difficulty understanding the reason behind her displeasure until Chung confided to me- he wasn’t making enough money as an associate researcher.
    The marriage didn’t end well and they ended up separating after a year or so, for the woman seemed to be interested in another man who had greater prospects of making money. Being a faithful husband, Chung made a great effort to try to keep the marriage together, but his wife simply had no respect for him, which is one of the most important factors that keeps a marriage together, especially from a man’s point of view.
    At the end of Paul’s lengthy discussion on marriage, he gives wives a charge - that they must respect their husbands. I suppose men need women’s love as well, but respect from them is relatively more important. Being a man who was well aware of men’s fragile psyches, the apostle brought it up in passing before he ended his discourse as if it wasn’t all that crucial to a blessed marriage. I think the reason behind it was self-explanatory since he believed men should always do the heavy-lifting as far as maintaining a functioning marriage was concerned. As long as husbands did their part of loving their wives as Christ loved the church, the likelihood of building a successful marriage was rather great indeed. Yet it doesn’t mean that wives can remain completely passive and contribute nothing towards the union. Paying respect to their husbands both in public and in private and being obedient to them when obedience is due: this is for sure the formula applied to wives for building a happy marriage.
    No matter how successful and accomplished they are, deep inside most men still harbor a deep sense of insecurity and insufficiency and it’s up to their wives to patch up the breach by pumping them up through ample encouragement and expressions of profound respect and to ensure their husbands that they will always get reverence from the home front, which they may fail to receive elsewhere.
    To a certain extent, grown men may still need a motherly figure who is always affirming in whatever circumstance in their lives and they often find it in their wives. If not, there will always be something missing.         

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 24, 2016 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Mystery 

~~MTS-4161
Mystery
“This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”           Eph 5:32
     There are tons of books dealing with this issue and people seem to be quite concerned about this topic, yet nothing is more misunderstood and misinterpreted than the subject of love. It’s amazing that so many people enter into marriage knowing very little about it and half of them get out of it, losing the strength and courage to make it work and feeling rather dejected and cheated.
    “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” How in the world can we make our marriage work if we fail to know the essence of it? How many people actually have grasped the mystery of marriage before they entered into matrimony and are willing to manifest the relationship between Christ and his church in their marriage relationship?
    Indeed, most couples enter into marriage with good intentions and the majority of them want their marriages to last, yet I believe most of them still leave the door ajar so that they can make an easy exit if things don’t work out. Like all other human relationships, it can be severed when the cost of maintaining it becomes too great. Doesn’t it cause us to have second thoughts before we launch the journey of marriage, realizing half of the ones who have done so end up breaking their vows and seeking greener pastures?
    Will Christ, the eternal bridegroom of the church, his bride, ever leave or forsake his church when the going gets tough or when his bride turns out to be less perfect and desirable than what he had expected? If divorce between Christ and his church was ever an option, the marriage would have been severed long ago, for the bride has been discovered to be unfaithful and disloyal to her heavenly Groom and apart from the commitment and faithfulness of the husband, the marriage would have ended a long time ago.
    “A perfect wife who can find?” we ask. By the same token, we can ask the same question about husbands. The imperfection obviously becomes much greater when two entities of imperfections are united as one, and such a giant imperfection may become too great to bear for mere humans.
    Surely Christ entered into the marriage out of his own sovereign volition and there was absolutely no misperception toward the union. Even so, he stilled proceeded with the intention to love his bride eternally. Such is the determination that we should always keep since there will be dissension within our marriages and there is no other options except continue to forgive and keep on loving despite all the imperfections. Do keep this in mind so that you enter into matrimony with a higher purpose, which is to illustrate the mystery of how Christ relates to his church.
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 23, 2016 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

One Flesh 

~~MTS-4160
One Flesh
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”         Eph 5:31
     “Mothers’ hearts are connected to their children’s,” so some Chinese people say. Once the hearts are connected, they can never be separated. It’s as if a mother’s life ends when her baby is born, and she starts to live her life through her child from then on until she enters into eternity.
    “You seem to know a lot more about your children’s careers than my parents,” one of my son’s friends commented a few weeks ago at Michael’s wedding. His casual remark did cause me to ponder about the way I raised my children and how difficult it has been for me to let go. I guess it’s far better that his parents could still keep their own identities even though they brought forth another entity into the world. After they fulfilled their responsibility, they could move on and have an abundant life of their own, which isn’t so intertwined with their children’s lives.
    This isn’t, however, the way we are brought up as Chinese, for filial piety is just such a pivotal part of our culture that it’s woven into every fiber of our daily life and casts a shadow on all the things that we do. “People raise their children for their old age.” This is a popular saying in Taiwan and people seem to believe it for the most part. Parents seem to be willing to sacrifice all they have for their children, yet they do so not without an expectation attached - they expect their sons and daughters will reciprocate when they are old and in need of care.
    Surely this wasn’t the way our children were raised since we strived to bring them up according to Biblical principles, yet I sometimes catch myself thinking about my children’s shortcomings in terms of dealing with their father according to Chinese tradition. Of course, I rarely dwell on it, since Chinese traditions and Christian beliefs are not one and the same thing and, if they are in conflict, I know which must be discarded. I have been attempting to pull away from my children emotionally since they are supposed to depart from their parents and be united with their wives. Indeed, I have started to reestablish myself as a person, not merely a parent, and only my children can tell the degree of my success. At the least I am not calling them nearly as much.
    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This may not be all that difficult for children to do since they have been preparing to do so since they were teens when they began to establish their own identities as individuals apart from their parents, but this is a lifelong enterprise for us parents to achieve, if it even achievable at all. I guess such is the nature of things, and God’s design is obviously far superior to man’s plan. God only knows how many tragedies have taken place and marriages broken in Chinese society merely because some children have never made the necessary departure from their parents both emotionally and physically after they get married, and when conflicts inevitably arise, wives are often the first ones to be sacrificed. “Peacock Flying South” is the most well-known long poem in the history of Chinese literature depicting just such a tragedy.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 22, 2016 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-love 

~~MTS-4158
Self-love
“He who loves his wife loves himself.”
         Eph 5:28
    Loving one’s wife not only is the right thing to do, it’s also the wisest and most pragmatic. Why? When the wife is happy, everyone in the household benefits from her happiness, particularly the husband.
    “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Nothing is truer than this simple folksy saying. The primary responsibility of the head of the household is to make the mother of his children happy. “The best way to love your children is to love their mother.” I heard this from somewhere, and can’t agree with it more. There is nothing we can do to hurt our children more than by being verbally or physically abusive to their mother.
    Assuming that we all love ourselves, therefore we should all love our wives, for it’s a form of self-love. If we can’t love our spouses altruistically, we can at the least love them for practical, even selfish, reasons.
    Of course such isn’t what we are aiming for in our dealing with our loved ones, for human love eventually falls short. No matter how strong our willpower is, it will not be sufficient when our love is tested or stretched. Human love must be based on divine love for it to last, and to last eternally.
    There wasn’t an ounce of self-love in the way Christ loved the church, for he received no benefit from loving except his own satisfaction in fulfilling what he was called to do. He loved the church out of his love for God, yet in the process of doing so, he had a sense of peace and joy, knowing that he was being obedient to his heavenly Father. He would have been miserable had he decided not to submit to God’s will; therefore, in some senses, Christ received some benefit from his love for the church as well.
    To love is the best policy, for there is simply no other alternative better than that, for the opposite of it is to hate, and we are all aware of the dire consequence of hate. I don’t see why otherwise intelligent people choose to do the most idiotic thing by not loving their wives. It’s borderline insanity.
    That is what we witness in the world today, for after the first of the dominos has fallen, the rest go down one by one as well. Most families start with love between a man and a woman and, in a lot of cases, are ruined by a man who ceases to love and care for the woman in his life. I don’t see how anyone can be truly happy after forsaking the wife of his youth. Of course, the same principle can be applied to women as well, even though I believe most women do so more out of self-preservation than anything else. There are obviously exceptions to this.
    What we read from this verse is a formula by which we can solve all our marital issues. Even when all hope of reconciliation is gone, this principle will still work if it’s faithfully applied. If we claim to follow Christ’s example in our marriages, where do we find in the Bible a single incident that Christ ever forsook or ceased to love his church?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 9, 2016 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-love 

~~MTS-4157
Self-love
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”         Eph 5:28
     I had a nightmare last night which caused a great stir in me and I was terrified before I finally realized it was merely a dream. Kathy and I were in some sort of conference and I found out that she was missing before taking a shower, for the shower water was still pouring down and she was no longer there. I quickly got dressed and went outside to look for her, yet I couldn’t locate her anywhere and became very much alarmed and finally managed to wake myself up. The first thing I did after I came to was to reach my hand out to find out whether my wife was still there next to me. It was indeed a great relief to feel her hand and to hear her quiet breathing. I guess that is what thirty-five years of marriage does to me.
    The thought of saying our final good-bye is forever present in my mind, but I am still able to push it back as far as I possibly can. Yet as we age, it becomes harder and harder not to entertain the morbid thought occasionally, which is rather unpleasant to say the least.
    Being a hypochondriac who is frightened to visit the doctor, I am always on the lookout to detect the slightest change in my physical condition, which is a sure sign that I love my body very much and will try to do whatever I can to make it last. How can one not love one’s body, since it’s the thing by which his or her life is sustained and without it life as we know it would become impossible? Perhaps people can do without wives, but they can certainly not sustain themselves without their bodies. Therefore, the question arises: can husbands love their wives as much as their love their bodies?
    One of my sons seems to spend a lot of time working out and he is able to keep his body lean and trim. Oftentimes when I call, he is either working out or on his way to work out. I guess Yeats’ idea that woman must labor to be beautiful doesn’t apply to females only; it speaks about men as well. My question is whether my son will still find time to work out during his free time since he just got married and his new wife may demand more of his precious time. So when push comes to shove, what will he choose? His body or his wife?
    I guess the two shouldn’t be in any sort of conflict, really. A love relationship is no more when the body does not exist. The illustration merely tells husbands that they should get their priorities straight by considering their wives more important and precious than their own bodies and be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their brides. If it becomes necessary, they should be willing to lay down their lives for their wives, which was exactly the thing that Christ did for his bride on the cross. Truly, love is not for the faint-hearted or the cowardly, for it may take us to the place where we are very afraid to go. It took Christ to Golgotha, didn’t it?     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 8, 2016 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Himself 

~~MTS-4156
To Himself
“…and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”         Eph 5:27
    After his church was founded what Christ was going after was to build for himself a bride “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,” so that she might be suited to married and be united to the Lamb. We, as a church of God, are being prepared even at this very moment to become pure and holy so that Christ can make his second coming to take us home, which is the final completion of our salvation.
    That was what the parable of the ten virgins told by the Lord Jesus was signifying. We as a church of God ought to be alert and vigilant at all times while we are waiting for the Bridegroom to come to take us, for we have no idea when his coming will be.
    What can we do to prepare ourselves as individual Christians for Christ’s return? Well, we can probably ask a bride engaged to be married how to prepare for her impending wedding. Obviously she will try to maintain clean living, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, before the wedding date, so that she can be at her best when the time comes. I think it’s prudent to ask ourselves a question in the midst of doing something: “Will I be ashamed if Christ comes back right at this moment and sees me doing this?”  If so, it merely means that we are not ready to welcome him back yet.
    Keeping ourselves clean and pure inside and out is the best way to prepare for Christ’s return. If we fail to do so to the best of our ability, it will be a sad and terrifying moment when Christ in his full glory suddenly appears before our eyes. We must lead a life in such a way as if the Lord were returning any time.
    “What does this have to do with our marriage?” we question.
    Christ is preparing for himself a perfect bride and, when the time comes, he will present her to himself and the two shall forever be united as father and son, husband and wife, and as friends, which encompasses all facets of human love relationships. By the same token, we husbands should learn from Christ in his preparation of his church by exhorting, teaching, praying, leading, and comforting our wives, with the ultimate goal of presenting her to Christ as a radiant bride and, in the meantime, we get to enjoy our wives’ radiance as well. As a matter of fact, a husband and wife are the smallest church congregation there is, and both parties within the marriage relationship should be mutually prepared as a church unit to be ready for Christ’s return.
    We obviously become the main benefactors if our wives become purer and free of any wrinkle and blemish, yet ultimately it’s an act of obedience to God that we do all we can to prepare our wives to become Christ’s brides in the same manner as what he is doing for his church. 
      

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, March 7, 2016 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Cleansing  

~~MTS-4155
Cleansing
“…to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”            Eph 5:26
     The word of the Lord does purify us and keep us on the narrow and straight. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” asked the Psalmist. “By living according to your word.”
    The church was cleansed once and for all by the washing of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, and she continues to be purified by the holy word. We have been justified by the merit of the Lord Jesus, yet we need to keep on being sanctified by observing God’s word. Our justification before God does not mean our utter cleanliness before him. Justification is obviously a one-time thing, but sanctification lasts forever and ever. It’s true that our glorification may bring to an end the process of sanctification as we know it, but I believe our growth into the image of Christ should be ongoing.
    What role do we play in our brides’ purity as Christians? In terms of their righteousness before God, Christ has done his job, yet what can we husbands do to enhance their growth into the image and likeness of Christ in their daily walk and in the process of their sanctification?
    I have done very little, to be totally honest, in terms of causing my wife to become purer and more upright by encouraging her to study God’s word. It appears that she has been the one who has continued to exhort me to memorize God’s words and to put the Scriptures into practice. I might have long neglected my spiritual duty as a husband, and the Lord will hold me responsible if she by chance falters in her walks as a Christian.
    Husbands should be spiritual leaders of the entire family, and there is no excuse for not fulfilling that responsibility. May the Lord have mercy on us all. Being a person with a strong type B personality and an unyielding romantic temperament, I have always hated to be led by anyone and, by the same token, I have always been rather reluctant to tell people, my wife and children included, what to do; therefore I consider my greatest failure as a father has been a lack of spiritual leadership. In the span of thirty years, I have yet to erect a family altar in my family and to ingrain in my children’s hearts the vital importance of family members gathering together to worship the Lord. I am afraid the Lord will hold me accountable if the ones whom the Lord placed under my charge fail to remain holy and pure by failing to continue to be cleansed by the washing of the word.
    May all of you not develop the bad habit of making apologies like I have learned to do my entire life, and just do the right thing, albeit doing the right thing may be going against the grain of your temperament. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 4, 2016 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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