Restoration 

~~MTS-4357
Restoration
“The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them. They rebuilt the temple of God according to its original design…”                             Ch. 24:13
    O how we fancy that we are originator of things, yet we are in fact restorers of what was built a long ago. There are no new things under the sun and what we do is merely a repetition of what has been done before.
    The Lord is the only original one and we are just copiers and imitators. The so-called geniuses are the rare persons who discover things that are hidden from most people. They are discoverers at best, not inventors or creators of reality.
    Yet we are so arrogant and congratulate and give awards and accolades to one another when new innovations have been done or the frontier of human learning has been extended further.
    The tent of meeting the Israelites erected on the Sinai desert was constructed in such a way that every detail of the building had been revealed to Moses. It was by no means human invention; it was the Lord’s original intention out of his sovereign divine imagination. It was an entirely new building and one that the world had never witnessed before.
    The temple was demolished a long time ago and what we are commanded to do is primarily to repair it according to the original intent of the Lord. Indeed, the temple was taken down by the Romans, yet the house of the Lord we are involved in restoring is the one the Lord erected in three days through his death on the cross.
    What must I do to restore the house of the Lord? That’s the question I have continued to ask myself for the longest time. There seems to be so much self-expression and human vanity involved in the ministry we render to the Lord and so much we have done in the name of serving the Almighty might have been a self-serving and self-affirming kind of thing. I dare not dig deeper into the bottom of my heart to find out what really lies there at the moment when I claim to be serving the Lord. The more I look at myself, the greater I need divine cleansing and forgiveness. I have often cried out “I am a man of unclean lips” as the prophet once did in the holy temple, even though I have been called to preach the Word. It has been twenty-three years since the day I stepped behind the pulpit, yet not a single day has passed that I didn’t feel a strong sense of undeserving and a tingle of shame for not devoting to the Lord my very best.
    What shall I do? I asked the Lord again as I was sitting in the backyard, meditating on the next move I should be making. There wasn’t any answer from above as usual, and I have no choice but to keep on doing the usual, to make copies on paper of what has been revealed to me and to restore what has been made known all over the world. I am no master teacher; I am merely a reminder and reviewer of what people should have long ago mastered. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 31, 2017 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Church Building  

~~MTS-4356
Church Building
“They hired masons and carpenters to restore the Lord’s temple, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the temple.”         2 Ch. 24:12
    The building of my first home church was located in the bottom floor of an apartment building, which was our pastor’s residence as well. I guess the large room where we gathered to worship was designed as a living room and it could accommodate about thirty people or so. It appeared to me from day one that God’s church was not merely a building; it was a group of people gathering together to worship the almighty God. I have fond memories of that place, for I was saved in that particular church at the age of twenty-three.
    The church was a couple of blocks away from the apartment I rented after I was discharged from the army. I felt rather lost at the time since I was yet to adjust to civilian life after spending three long years in the service. I suppose the Lord chose the best time to do his mighty work in my life, and turned my fainting faith in God into concrete reality. I became born again a few weeks after I was invited to teach a children’s Sunday school class by my friend, who happened to be the pastor of the church.
    The church congregation was rather small and I might have been the only able-bodied person the church leadership could find to do some manual work for the church building. I remember digging dirt from the nearby foothills of Da Twin Mountain and hauling it back to the church to build a planter. I am sure there were quite a few other jobs that I did for the church building during that time, and I always did them quite willingly and joyfully. I had no idea of what a “church home” was, but I had firsthand knowledge of its reality.
    There was a small hole in the wall of the church sanctuary. The damage had been there for a number of months and I hardly ever paid any attention to it, so I was slightly puzzled when Carlos, a Mexican brother who was visiting our church, mentioned to me about repairing it, which he did the following week. I was amazed that he, being a visitor and a guest, was able to spot something that we as a church family seemed to have been blind to it.
    How many of us within our small congregation, I often wonder, actually consider this is their church home, and care for it as such both physically and spiritually? If that were so, why did we fail to see the hole in the wall and other physical flaws existing in the church building and do something about them?  
    It goes without saying there was only one holy temple in the ancient world and it’s no longer there today; but God’s spiritual temples are everywhere and we are charged to treat them with care. If we claim to love God, we must love his church and care for her, both inwardly and outwardly, accordingly.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 30, 2017 5:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Cheerful Givers 

~~MTS-4355
Cheerful Givers
All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly, dropping them into the chest until it was full.         2 Ch. 24:10
    In what manner do we spend our money that brings the most joy and satisfaction? This is the question that we should ask ourselves often. This is the only time in my life that I don’t have to stretch the mileages of my paycheck from month to month, yet I have no idea how to spend what’s left in my checkbook since my desire to acquire things is rather meager and my aspiration to travel or take a vacation is almost nonexistent.
    “Well, we need to save for our retirement.” Kathy has always been the prudent one among us and, according to her, what we may get from Uncle Sam for our last days will hardly be enough.
    “It may not rain on the rainy days, so why bother?” I was being my usual self, an unredeemable pessimist who simply doesn’t believe that we will outlast our money in retirement; or rather I am the ultimate optimist who believes money does grow on trees and no one starves to death and the goal of life is to remain alive. It doesn’t take all that much to keep one from starvation, does it?
    Therefore, it’s far better to make whatever savings we have stored away in the bank more productive by giving it away, and by doing so our financial resource may actually generate within our hearts the most joy.
    How can we become overly possessive of our possessions if we truly believe what we have earned from our labor in the market place is entirely enabled by God’s enabling and made possible by the grace of the Lord? It goes without saying that we can just do whatever we deem fit if what we have made is merely the result of us being fitter than others and the fruit of winning competitions against our peers. This seems to be the case for a lot of people, yet what we believe is the opposite, and how we utilize our finances should be the opposite to this concept. We do have a Master who holds us accountable concerning how we use our money and his opinion should always remain paramount in the way we handle our financial matters.
    I was called to the ministry in the midst of my doctoral studies at Ole Miss, and what made that possible was the divinity degree I had earned a few years prior. Therefore, I was able to serve the Lord and raise a family at the same time. How did one with limited intelligence and English language ability manage to earn two degrees within three years from two institutions that required a thesis and one hundred and thirty credit hours? Indeed, I was making a living, however meager it was, enabled by the Lord and giving to him tithes and offerings over the years certainly became just a matter-of-fact. Surprisingly, it brings joy to my heart every time I put the check into the offering box, for it never fails to remind me of God’s faithfulness in providing for my family throughout the years.
    In view of this, how can it be that difficult for all of us to become cheerful givers?
    
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 29, 2017 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Chest 

~~MTS-4354
A Chest
“At the king’s command, a chest was made and placed outside, at the gate of the temple of the Lord.”          2 Ch. 24:8
    As a new believer, it was quite an embarrassing experience when the offering plate was passing from one pew to another, for I had nothing to give. Even if I had some money in my pocket, parting from it would have been rather difficult. The feeling of uneasiness still remains in my heart up to this day, and a sense of awkwardness is still there when the offering plate comes to me at a worship service. It’s doesn’t mean a thing to the Lord if we are coerced to give merely out of embarrassment or to give to avoid being noticed by the ones sitting next to you in the pew. Therefore, it’s a good idea just to place a chest of offering in an obscure place within the church, so people will have to search for it if they really intend to give.
    “At the king’s command, a chest was made and placed outside, at the gate of the temple of the Lord.” A great idea, wasn’t it? People who were eager to give would always locate the chest, and the ones who had no intention or means to give could just walk by the offering box, as if it didn’t even exist.
    Buddhist temples in Taiwan seem to have a similar practice, for they place a box of “money for oil and incense,” inside the building, soliciting donations from the worshippers as they walk across the threshold of the temple. I guess it’s a much less intrusive way of demanding money.
    Whether we are being coerced or not, giving our tithes and offerings to the Lord often may feel like some type of coercion on our part, since our sense of obeying God’s bidding may not be strong enough to overcome the instinctive power of our possessions, particularly material possessions. It may even feel like being robbed to part from what we consider ours and we may never reclaim what we have lost in the act of giving.
    Monetary giving has always been and will always be an act of faith. Apart from faith giving money consistently to God’s church will become an utter impossibility. So, instead of laboring about our lack of funds or our unwillingness to give, it’s wiser to examine ourselves to see whether we have faith in the Almighty or not, for not giving is a sure indication of the lack of it. The Lord Jesus himself made this rather clearly by uttering: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Indeed, the way we utilize our treasure does reveal the true color of our heart, leaving absolutely no room for self-deception or a cunning apologizing. It is what it is, and the best thing for us to do is to face the truth.
    Wasn’t this the Lord Jesus’ way of assessing people’s spirituality while he was in the flesh? If it isn’t so, why did he spend an ample amount of time observing people giving their offering in the holy temple? Are we so naïve as to believe that he isn’t secretly examining the way we spend our money, his money rather, and repaying us accordingly?
  
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sacred Objects 

~~MTS-4353
Sacred Objects
“Now the sons of that wicked woman Athaliah had broken into the temple of God and had used even its sacred objects for the Baals.”            2 Ch. 24:7
    All the objects in the holy temple were deemed sacred and meant to be used for sacred purposes only. Yet the holy temple was broken into and the sons of the wicked woman had taken away the holy objects and used them in the worship of the Baals. By doing so, they managed to remove the Lord from the temple worship and replace it with the Baals, which was indeed an abomination to the name of the Lord.
    Was Baal competing against the Lord for people’s attention and adoration? That wasn’t possible, for Baal wasn’t a true entity and what he represented was a dark force controlled by the prince of darkness who sought to take people captive and render them slaves and followers of Satan.
    We are created to worship and to serve the Lord and to use our life for any other purpose is idolatrous. Therefore, Paul exhorted the disciples to offer their bodies as instruments of righteousness. If we are merely instruments, then the Creator alone should be the one to determine how they are going to be used.  This is a simple logic, isn’t it?
    Yet this idea is so foreign to us that we hardly ever entertain the thought and we primarily lead our lives in such a way as if we were results of Darwinian evolution and our bodies are being used as instruments both to earn a living and to generate pleasure for ourselves. Consequently, we push our bodies to the limit both to work and to play until they perish out of sheer exhaustion.
    Don’t we realize that our bodies are the temples of God and they should be considered sacred and therefore should be employed for holy purposes? This, as a matter of fact, doesn’t contradict with what we do to earn a living in any way if we do all things unto the glory of God. All things are sacred if all things are done to honor the Lord.
    To be saved is to undergo a thorough transformation in perceptions of our life and our bodies, and we no longer consider ourselves our own. How can anyone make decisions on all matters without consulting with the Master beforehand and asking for permission to do things whether great or small? I am afraid many of us only pay the Lord lip service and lead our life as if the Master doesn’t even exist. If this isn’t idolatrous, I don’t know what is.
    Are we using the sacred objects from God’s temple for the Baals? Are we practicing idolatry without knowing it?        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, March 27, 2017 8:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

At Once 

~~MTS-4352
At Once
“But the Levites did not act at once.”       2 Ch. 24:5
    It wasn’t a pleasant job to get money from people’s pockets, no matter how legitimate the reason was. I suppose this might have been the cause of the delay. The collection of the temple tax had ceased for quite some time now and it was hard to start all over again. Surely it wasn’t a popular thing to do at the time, or at any time, really.
    When was the last time I preached about monetary giving at our church? It must have been quite a long time ago, if it did actually take place at all. Money matters have always been considered private and it does sound a little intrusive for me to touch upon the matter from the pulpit, doesn’t it? Surely I am not employed by the Heavenly IRS to audit people’s tax returns.
    Who is to talk about tithing and charity giving if I fail to do it? Indeed, I do people a great disservice if I don’t speak out since making an offering to God is one of the greatest privileges and honors that we possess, and there is tremendous blessing behind it. In fact, the Lord is completely self-sufficient and by definition the Almighty has absolute no needs, financially or otherwise, and the act of receiving our offering is his ultimate stooping and our utmost uplifting. We have everything to gain and nothing whatsoever to lose by offering to him a portion of our earnings, for whatever we have given to him will eventually return to us in various forms a hundred and a thousand fold. Surely our gifts to God will continue giving, and we are the recipients of all the benefits.
    We don’t have to wait until we enter into eternity to withdraw the treasure we have stored up in heaven. It’s not a CD with its mature date beyond this earth; the deposit can be withdrawn immediately when necessary. If there is hardly any scarcity in heaven the treasure up there will no longer be needed; therefore what we have stored up in heaven may be cashed in on earth during rainy days and dry seasons.
    I do believe whatever spiritual blessing and material wellbeing that we are harvesting at the present time has a lot to do with the treasure we have been storing in heaven over the years, however meager it might have been. Of course I am not touching upon the matter of finances, for there is more to our life than merely money. An abundant life is composed of many other factors with money being a rather small component. What else is more crucial to our happiness and joy in life than having great relationships with all our family and friends? This is quite enough if such is the only return that I generate from my investment in both tithes and offerings. 
    “But the Levites did not act at once.” Indeed, the delay was rather appalling.
  
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 24, 2017 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Collection 

~~MTS-4351
Collection
“Go to the towns of Judah and collect the money due annually from all Israel, to repair the temple of your God. Do it now.”         2 Ch. 24:5
    It takes about three months to build up a habit, I have heard. Making a donation to God’s church is also a habit, and it takes more than just three months to make it into a monthly routine. I doubt giving money away can turn into a routine even if we have been doing it regularly for years. We can learn to part from our money cheerfully, but it will always take effort whenever we do it. Willpower and a strong desire to love and obey the Lord are still needed when we write a check and place in on the offering plate.
    I have been collecting a little money in my private check account, which I consider mine, and there is no money taken out from the account to do any tithing or charity giving. I have been rather stingy concerning that special bank account, for I consider the money mine. Whatever we consider belongs to us will always remain ours, and no one, even the Lord himself, can ever touch it.
    What difference does this make, really, since all we possess belongs to the Lord and he has the right to demand from it from us if he so desires. It’s my mindset that makes the disparity, I suppose. Indeed, we become overly possessive if we reckon something entirely ours, which renders it untouchable.
    “Go to the towns of Judah and collect the money due annually from all Israel, to repair the temple of your God. Do it now.”
    The Israelites had quit giving the temple tax for quite some time now. The negligence must have turned into a habit and gradually the act might have become rather foreign to them. So much like disobedience to God’s command in other areas, it becomes extremely difficult to be rooted after bad habits have been formed.
    Why do we continue to nurture the bad habit of not giving to the Lord what’s due to him and to the poor who are suffering starvation and all sorts of ills? The reason behind it seems to be quite simple, if I venture to guess: we deem what we have earned entirely our own and other people, as well as the Lord himself, have absolutely no right to demand a share of it.
    I find this hard to explain, though. Why does Uncle Sam have the right to take a big chunk of our earnings, yet the Almighty is deprived of it? Indeed, we fear the government more than we fear the Lord and, besides, the IRS will surely come after us if we fail to file our tax returns; yet the Lord doesn’t seem to mind even if we rob him by failing to give to him his due year after year.
    Isn’t this the time to start creating a habit of giving to the Lord by giving to him faithfully every month? The act of giving will become less difficult if we are convinced that it’s the Lord who endows us with the ability of making a decent living and he is entitled to all our earnings.     
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Restoration 

~~MTS-4350
Restoration
“Some time later Joash decided to restore the temple of the Lord.”          2 Ch. 24:5
    Joash was only seven years of age when he assumed the kingship and we have no idea how much actual ruling he was doing during at that time. It was likely the chief priest who was doing all the decision making and grooming the child to fulfill his royal duties at the same time. When it was the time to hand the power over to the king, Jehoiada didn’t seem to have any reluctance at all, for he knew who he was and, unlike the queen mother before him, the man wasn’t ambition driven at all. He withdrew from the inner circle of power when it was the time to do so.
    What was the king’s top priority when he actually had the power to make important decisions concerning national affairs? He decided to restore the temple of God. Why? By this time, the worship of the Lord was in decline and the physical building of God’s house was in need of repair and restoration. Athaliah evidently had done a lot of damage against the true worship of the Lord by bringing idolatry from the north and the worship of Baal was becoming more and more popular. Something urgent had to be done.
    Joash decided to restore the temple of the Lord first, for by doing so he could rally the entire nation to accomplish one important goal and the Israelites would also come to know what the king’s focus was. For the country to be restored, her worship and spirituality must be recovered first.
    The king obviously had the power to do a lot of things, yet restoration of the holy temple was something he was determined to do. He must have been motivated by his love of the Lord and by a genuine desire to please the Almighty.
    What are the things that we desire to do at the time when we have the means to do them? Our so-called bucket list may include a lot of things, such as trips to many exotic places or acquiring many new things, yet do you find on it any monetary contribution toward the restoration of God’s church or other projects toward world missions? Do we have any real concern for our own spiritual state and the condition of God’s kingdom on earth?
    “Some time later Joash decided to restore the temple of the Lord.” For some reason I have found this simple sentence quite moving. There he was, the child king whose life was spared as an infant, and this was something he had been wanting to do for the longest time out of his gratitude and love for the Lord, and he took the action when opportunity presented itself.
    What aspect of our life will we attempt to restore first when we have the means to do so? 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 22, 2017 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Two Wives 

~~MTS-4349
Two Wives
“Jehoiada chose two wives for him, and he had sons and daughters.”       2 Ch. 24:3
    Two is better than one, isn’t it? This may apply to a lot of things, but I doubt this works in marriage. On the contrary, one is better than two as far as our marriages are concerned.
    “Having two wives equals to having no wife.” This Chinese saying seems to make a lot of sense to me. The chance of having a good marriage becomes much less if we go against the original design of the Lord. There was a perfect reason why God only created one woman for the first man. Had he realized that two would be better than one, I am sure the Omniscient would have had taken another rib from Adam and done what was the best.
    Did Jehoiada really believe that two wives were better than one for the king? Well, he might not have thought much about that at all, since it was a common practice during that time and many monarchs either within or without Israel seemed to have a sizeable collection of wives and concubines. Compared to other kings, having two wives paled greatly and would have been considered rather moderate and temperate.
    Having one wife is the limitation, and the number becomes endless if the limit is done away with. There can be a thousand beyond one, which was the case with King Solomon, wasn’t it? Our potential to sin knows no boundary if the boundary of holiness is taken away. Sin is a kind of addiction and, like all addictions, there is really no boundaries to it. So much like a bottomless hell hole, there is nothing that will catch the sinners’ free fall.
    Jehoiada was merely doing what was commonly accepted for a king and I may be making a mountain out of a molehill. Had Joash so desired, he could have taken for himself two hundred wives, yet he seemed to be content with having only two, for which he should be lauded, shouldn’t he?
    Surely the privilege of having more than one wife wasn’t God’s design; therefore, it shouldn’t have been deemed a right whether one was a king or a peasant. God isn’t beholden to anyone and his law and regulations should apply to all, including King Joash.
    Be it great or small, a compromise was nevertheless made by the priest. Jehoiada evidently had his private concerns when the decision was made, yet he didn’t seem to create friction by his action. Even so, his failure to do the right and wholesome thing still makes the reader like me thousands of years later wonder why this godly man did what he did, even causing some to think that monogamy might not be all that clear cut and absolute after all. From a few examples from the Bible, some may even go so far as to consider polygamy permissible.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 10, 2017 6:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Mentoring 

~~MTS-4348
Mentoring
“Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest.”         2 Ch. 24:2
    Joash was merely seven when he assumed the kingship. What did the child-king do to rule the nation? It was pretty much training on the job for the boy and there was a man behind the throne watching over what was going on. Jehoiada was the one who was calling the shots concerning the daily operation of the country, and Joash had yet to assume the control of the nation, since he was just a little boy. The young king needed a mentor to groom him for the most important position of the nation.
    Things could have turned out to be rather different than it did had the priest been an ambition person who aspired to become a king himself. The man went through all the danger to get to where he was merely for the sake of God’s kingdom and glory, not for any vainglory or ambition of his own. He was trying to maintain the lineage of David on the throne, thus preserving the integrity and trustworthiness of God’s promise to David.
    We all need we have a mentor exactly like this godly priest, don’t we? Someone who edifies and guides us and leads us along the path of righteousness. I wish there had been someone standing beside me when I was struggling as a young minister who was trying to learn the ropes of pastoral ministry.
    Pastor Lin, who was the senior minister of the church where I served as assistant for a year, could have assumed the role of a mentor to me, yet that was something he had never done before. Our relationship was strained, for we both seemed to feel rather insecure. I often wonder how different my life would have been had Rev. Lin been more supportive to me during the year I was in L.A. My understanding was the deacon board was intending to groom me to be the future pastor of the church, since the senior pastor was retiring in a couple of years. Of course, it didn’t happen. I only lasted for a year there. Surely this is by no means a complaint or an accusation against anyone; I am merely contemplating the importance of mentoring in the pastoral ministry.
    Apart from the tireless efforts of Jehoiada and his wife and the great risk they took in preserving the lineage of David, Joash would have been slaughtered and we would have an entirely different story to narrate. What the priest did in raising and mentoring the future king of Judah altered the course of history of the kingdom in the south and made the world a better place for a number of years.
    Being a lone ranger type of person, I would much rather be left alone and leave others alone as well. Yet my preference isn’t necessarily God’s choice and I would have been much better off had I been mentored by a godly man. Likewise, someone out there might have benefited had I reached out to them as a mentor. Unfortunately, neither of these took place and both parties have suffered the loss.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 9, 2017 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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