God's Protection 

MTS-3024

God’s Protection 

“When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.”

                   I Sam 30:3

 

     David thought it would be safe to leave their wives and children behind, since it was the land of the Philistines and no one would have the nerve to stir up any trouble. Yet the unthinkable happened when they were away. The Amalekites had raided the city and taken the people captive. David and his men found a pile of ashes when they reached their home.

     The time was cruel and the strong and powerful continue to devour the weak and the vulnerable. A perfectly safe place was impossible to find. David and his men had tried very hard to find a safe haven for their loved ones, but their enemies had still found a way to bring the nest down. David had been successful in eluding Saul, but the Amalekites were not too far behind in the hot pursuit of their easy prey and they pounced whenever there was an opening.    

     David and his six hundred had a difficult decision to make, however. They could have stayed behind and guarded their wives and children, but there was work to be done. They had to work hard to earn the Philistine king’s trust so that they could remain in Ziklag and lead a peaceful life, but it was nearly impossible to fight the battle in two fronts. Like the Philistines, the Amalekites were fearless fighters and considered the Israelites their mortal enemies.

     They had done all their could to survive in an extremely hostile world, but what they did wasn’t quite enough. Ultimately they needed God’s protection. We are not in control when we seem to bring all things under control; we are not really secure even after we check all the securities. The Lord alone is our security.

     Flying still frightens me, for I like to have my feet on solid ground. Statistically, driving is far more dangerous than flying, but I feel so much better with four wheels squarely on the ground. On the other hand, we seem to be closer to the Lord when we are flying, since we one mishap will send us into his presence. A sense of crisis or apprehension may cause us to draw near to God, which may not be a bad thing after all.

     “The safest place is within God’s will.” This may sound like a cliché, but most clichés are closer to the truth than original sayings, for what most people reckon to be truth is more truthful than the ideas espoused by some egotistic sophist or poet.

     David wouldn’t have left his loved one behind without adequate protection had he realized they might have been exposed to danger and attack. But the seasoned warrior was wrong this time. Despite all had transpired, the Lord’s protection of his people was still sufficient.  

             

Friday, April 29, 2011 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Into the Night 

MTS-3023

Into the Night

“That same night they got up and left.”

             I Sam 28:24

 

     First there was great depression, desperation, and finally resignation. Saul seemed to have gone through all these emotions after his ghostly encounter with Samuel. He had a bite to eat and went into the darkness, preparing to meet his destiny at daybreak. At this time, the man might have given up all hope and been resigned to the fact that he was totally on his own. He could only summon demons for some secret information, but he could not ask them to reverse what was going to take place in his immediate future. Satan finally succeeded in accomplishing what he had planned to do to the first king of Israel.

     What was Saul’s tragic flaw that caused his downfall?

     Fear of men might have been Saul’s blemish, for he appeared to have been polling people’s opinion of him throughout his kingship. He became furious when people considered David more esteemed than him, and his fear of people also caused him to offer the sacrifice on his own.

     Being overly concerned about people’ perception of us may become the cause of our ruin as Christians as well. We won’t be able to keep our plow straight if we continue to look from side to side or look backward, listening to what people are saying about us.

      “Friendship with the world is enmity with the Lord,” wrote James in his epistle.

     It was the first breath of winter when Saul failed to observe God’s command for the very first time concerning the spoils he had looted from the Alamlekites. In that case, the king appeared to be so eager to please his followers, even to the point of disobeying God’s mandate. From then on, he continued to slide downward spiritually, even as he was moving up in his career.

     The night would grow darker and darker in Saul’s life and dawn would never unveil itself. Rather than running toward the light, the king had learned to get used to the darkness.

     We may be acquainted with the night, but we don’t have to grow accustomed to it, for we are creatures of light. Therefore, we must keep on searching for the light of dawn when darkness engulfs us and presses on our weary bodies. When darkness becomes visible, we know the light will also be visible. Unlike Saul and his men walking into the night without any hope for tomorrow, we can envision our east with the bright morning sun slicing through dense darkness, welcoming us into its arms.

     Walk into the light!

Thursday, April 28, 2011 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Presence 

MTS-3022

God’s Absence

“The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me.”            I Sam 28:15

 

     The battle against the Philistines was lost before Saul started fighting. There was absolutely no chance for the king to prevail, for the Lord had departed from him. Engaging in a battle without the Lord’s help must have been a very scary thing.

     Saul must have felt completely deserted. He had no other option but to march to the battlefield, realizing it would be his last fight. He had to take the journey of no return.

     Life is so much like an endless battle; can we fight the battle on our own?

     Some atheists often congratulate themselves for being brave, for they are able to face the reality that there is no God and we are nothing but dust. They mock Christians for being delusional because they believe in a lie.

     Whether there is a God or not, I prefer to be delusional rather than not believing in anything. I am not being intellectually dishonest in believing in God, for the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved scientifically. I am merely being honest because my faith informs me through the Holy Spirit that I am God’s child.

     How can anyone convince a person who is passionately in love that he is deceiving himself or that love simply does not exist?

     Saul could have mustered enough courage and gathered as many men as he could and fought the battle on his own, but deep inside he knew it wasn’t enough. He knew the battle was the Lord’s.

     “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” said Job, who was about to lose the biggest battle in his life. God seemed to have forsaken him, but he still held onto hope and refused to succumb to the temptation to “curse God and die,” which an atheist would likely have done under similar circumstances.

     It isn’t certain that Saul would have won the battle had the Lord been with him, but the king at least would have had a peace that passed understanding, realizing that, win or lose, the Lord was on his side, which would have made defeat or victory a lot less significant.

     What a tragedy it was that God was absence at the time when Saul needed his presence the most. May we never let this happen to us. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hope 

MTS-3021

Hope

“Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.”         I Sam 28:14

 

     Saul knew it was Samuel, but was it really the dead Samuel? It is unlikely, because the last judge of Israel was dead.

     It was for sure there were some live prophets in Israel, but the desperate king had to turn to the one who was long dead. Surely he was “seeking the living among the dead.”

     It was tragic that Saul had to consult with the dead.

     This may be a little bit strange to westerners who are not familiar with the this sort of thing, but what Saul did was quite a commonplace thing for people who practice idolatry.

     As a little boy, I have heard things such as this many times. Some people missed their deceased loved ones so much that they went to village mediums, most of whom were women, who were able to bring up their dead and to have some sort of communication with the living.

     I didn’t think much about it when I heard such things, for the people in my little fishing village seemed to be doing a lot of outlandish things that were beyond my comprehension. Life presented the people many challenges and they simply did what they could to survive many emotional and physical hardships.

     I think they were mostly driven by fear when they sought supernatural help and whatever assistance or information might have gotten from below really didn’t do them any good or bring them any comfort.

     Satan and his followers’ main goal is to keep people from turning to the true God and they will employ whatever means possible to achieve that end. Communication with the dead through mediums is just one of them. Saul did the right thing by getting rid of them after he assumed the kingship, for he did so with good reason. The law forbade such practice.

     Who do we turn to for help when we have no one to turn to? Where do people go seek information when God becomes silent?

     We may have strayed too far away from the Lord to hear his whisper in our ears and what we need to do is to draw near to him. Instead of turning to demons through the help of mediums, we should run to God through repentance.

     We may become so disappointed in ourselves that we quit turning to God to ask for forgiveness. This is exactly what the Accuser is trying to do to us - our self-condemnation caused by his insistent accusation is the main obstacle that keeps us from repentance.

     The evil one’s scheme is to make us feel completely hopeless, yet there is bright hope as long as we can still repent, for the Lord’s forgiveness through Christ’s redemption on the cross is limitless. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Past and Present 

MTS-3020

Past and Present

“He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land.”

             I Sam 28:9

 

     Saul was probably an idealist when he assumed the position as a king over Israel yet he gradually became a realist when he realized it wasn’t always practical to be idealistic. He probably didn’t become pragmatic by choice, but by necessity.

     He had to take up the role of a priest and offered sacrifice to God when Samuel was late showing up and people were beginning to scatter. It just wasn’t practical to observe all the rituals, which might have become a little old fashioned. He did the expedient when observing God’s word became inconvenient.

     “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere,” said G.K. Chesterton.

     Saul was no artist, but he sure didn’t learn to draw a line when he was a newly minted king and one compromise led to another until he became a person he had never dreamt he would have become - a moral failure.

     After he crossed the line relating to God, there wasn’t any line he dared not cross relating to people. There was absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do to keep his kingship in his family. This is obvious when we look at the irrational and cruel ways he dealt with a harmless person who was also his son-in-law.

     “What kind of person have I become?” The king might have asked himself at the moment when his conscience was awakened.

     “We must get rid of all the mediums and spiritists!” he declared. The young king might have had some knowledge of the law of God and was anxious to show people that he was God’s chosen vessel.

     O how things changed over the years. The king was old and weary, and was about to violate the law he himself established years ago. Evidently his perception of God’s law had drastically changed, since his relationship with the Lord was waxing cold.

     Where do we draw the line?

     One moral failure can easily lead to another until the moment when we no longer believe there is such a thing as moral truth, or find ourselves incapable of believing in anything beyond the materialistic. “There is no truth but scientific truth,” one well-known atheist said boldly. “Moral truth is not truth.”

     We miss our youth when we were still innocent, still eager to believe in the existence of a loving God and the infinite possibilities of love. We yearn for the days when laughing and crying were as spontaneous as breathing. Were we being naïve and ignorant or, as Chesterton put it so poignantly: “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

     When do we lose our “eternal appetite of infancy”?      

Monday, April 25, 2011 7:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Inquiry 

MTS-3019

Inquiry

“He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.”           I Sam 28:6

 

     The Lord was silent and Saul had no one to turn to but a medium. The man was truly desperate.

     He was probably aware of what the answer would be, but he still wanted to know. Humanly speaking, he was doomed to fail this time fighting against his enemy. The Philistine army was too powerful and, apart from divine assistance, the Israelites had no hope of prevailing over their foes.

     Saul was still holding on to a slim hope that things would turn out to be different than what he anticipated. His relationship with the Lord was strained, yet he needed him just the same during this critical time.

     The Lord’s silence was deafening.

     As a matter of fact, the Lord had revealed to Saul through Samuel all he needed to know concerning his future - his kingdom would be taken away and given to someone else, period.

     What could Saul have done to alter the course of his destiny?

     Being a king over a nation, it must have become increasing difficult for Saul to make any significant change, both in his thinking and action. He had gradually developed a sense of invincibility.

     Power does corrupt; it also misleads. It blinds the powerful and causes them to become blinded to their true identity as mere mortals. Even if he had wanted to, Saul was incapable of repenting.

     It’s crucial to keep our hearts sensitive to sin and maintain their tenderness through constant repentance. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of any known or unknown sin, making apology or justification for ourselves is a deadly route to take; we should be on our knees immediately, asking God for forgiveness. We should remain silent even if we feel totally justified.

     Instead of getting down on his knees, Saul made a fatal mistake by searching for a medium for help. When God became absent in his life, he turned to demons for assistance. Is this the mistake that people often make?

     What did the demon-possessed woman do to help Saul? Nothing at all. Through the help of demons, the woman might have had secret access to some knowledge concerning Saul’s immediate future, but such information only threw Saul into deeper depression.

     Beware of fortunetellers who may have limited knowledge about our future, but have absolutely no power to change the course of our destiny. Their foreknowledge concerning our future is always foreboding and destructive to our psyche.

     No matter how dire the situation is, running away from the Lord is never a good option.                 

Friday, April 22, 2011 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fear 

MTS-3018

Fear

“When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart.”          I Sam 28:5

 

     Saul had every reason to be terrified, for the Philistines were a lot more powerful than the Israelites. It was evident to the king that they would lose the impeding battle unless the Lord performed a miracle; yet the Lord was no longer with Saul.

     The king had absolutely no fear when he was hunting down David, for he was in a position of strength and power when he was dealing with the fugitive and he found no reason to seek God’s help, but the situation was now entirely different. He had encountered an insurmountable obstacle and help, both human and divine, was nowhere to be found. It appeared that Saul was going to meet his ultimate end.

     It must have been an awful feeling when Saul realized the Lord had forsaken him at such a critical juncture in his life. He was sailing right along when things were rosy and he could enjoy the abundance of being a king; yet the tide could turn at any moment and Saul found himself desperately needing assistance from above.

     Can we summon the Lord to help us at any time? We may be so naïve as to envision our Heavenly Father being alert every minute of the day, readying himself to help us when he is called upon in any emergency situation, as if he is sitting at the other end of the 911 hotline.

     A well-known atheist who was dying of cancer became irate when he realized many Christians were praying for him. It didn’t mean that he didn’t crave healing; his reaction simply indicated that the staunch atheist was unable to believe. It’s nearly impossible for someone like him to go against the grain of the thought patterns by which he had been operating his entire life. “There is no eternality. I just don’t want to leave the party alone when the party is still going on,” he said.

     Terror filled Saul’s heart when he anticipated what was going to happen to him and his army. Yet hoping against hope, Saul started to seek divine revelation, wanting to glean some good news. He didn’t seem to have any intention to seek divine aid; he just wanted to know the possible outcome of the battle.

     By this time, Saul had become fatalistic.

     To be hopeful under whatever circumstance does take years of practice. We can’t just summon hope when it’s needed. If we are not hopeful at all times, we will not be hopeful at the critical moment. We need to discipline our minds and direct our thinking in the right direction so we can still have hope in any seemingly hopeless occasion. What happened to Saul is typical for a lot of people who only live for the present When their future comes crashing down, they can do nothing but surrender to the inevitable.    

Thursday, April 21, 2011 6:48:00 AM

Cruelty 

MTS-3017

Cruelty

“Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive…”          I Sam 27:9

 

     David had two opportunities to put Saul to death but he relented, for he considered Saul’s life precious because the man was God’s anointed; yet he seemed to be quite merciless as far as his pagan enemies were concerned. When he was in Ziklag, he often raided the neighboring tribes people and did not leave a man or woman alive. How could this be? I wonder. Why didn’t David show mercy both to his friends and enemies?

     David was lauded for his heroic acts. He turned into a national hero because he slaughtered thousands of his enemies. “Showing kindness to your enemy is cruel to yourself,” I was taught when I was in the service. We were in the business of killing or being killed then, and our manhood was measured by how ferocious we were on the battlefield.

     Fortunately I wasn’t sent to the frontline and didn’t have to fire any shot at my enemy. I have no idea how I would have felt had I had to do that. Would I have had the courage to pull the trigger? I wonder.

     Things would have been entirely different had it been a life and death issue for me. I might have fired the shot if my life depended on it. People may do the unimaginable to save their own skin. I suppose it was common during the time for tribes people to raid one another and what David did to his enemies might not have been all that unusual.

     It was a brutal world when people conducted their lives on the philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” We have no idea what we are capable of doing when our lives or the lives of our loved ones are threatened. We may have to go to the farthest extreme to protect the ones we love.

     I am in no position to judge David’s conduct while he was on the run, for he might have been doing what was absolutely necessary. In a world reddened by sin, people had to adjust accordingly if they desired to survive. There were over a thousand people he had to feed and the Philistine king might turn against him at any time and take him out. Surely he was in a very precarious situation and anything he did at the time, including killing all the innocent, was for self-preservation.

     We don’t have as much control over our lives as we think. We could have done a lot worse had we been put in David’s situation. He did all he could under the circumstances and we ought to suspend our judgment for now. Our history books are stained with blood and the line between hero and villain is rather vague. I believe the Lord will bring all things to bear someday and we will be amazed to find out who the true heroes and villains are. I believe it’s likely that there will be no heroes at judgment time and all the great ones we have lauded may all turn out to be villains.        

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Escape 

MTS-3016

To Escape

“The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines.”

             I Sam 27:1

 

     David had tried all he could to convince Saul that he was harmless to him by not laying a hand on him, even though he had ample opportunity to do so. What David did might have convinced a rational person, but Saul was far from rational at the time and would have kept on searching for David had his adversary still been on the run in Israel. David didn’t seem to have any other option except to leave his homeland and venture into enemy territory. He decided to escape to the land of the Philistines.

     David wouldn’t have done that had he had any other choice, for by going into the land of the Philistines, he would have to pretend that he was rebelling against his own country, which was something that he could not do with a clear conscience. Yet that was secondary, considering how Saul had been harassing him every step of the way. He wouldn’t have had any chance to survive had he continued to roam within the confines of Saul’s control. Survival was his primary goal at this time.

     David obviously had no intention to stay with the Philistines for a long period of time; he was merely waiting for the best time when he could take his people home. But in order to win the Philistine king’s trust so that he could stay in his land, David had to do something to earn his goodwill - he pretended to raid the Israelites. David had to lie to the Philistine king several times to accomplish this goal.

     Is it all right for us to compromise our moral principles in order to survive? This is a rather difficult question.

     David did nothing to get himself into such a difficulty and, under such circumstances, he had to do all he could to keep himself alive, including walking on the edge of a moral boundary, realizing that the Lord had greater things in store for him to do. Even though the Lord was protecting him throughout the ordeal, David still had to do all things within his power to remain alive, including telling lies and pretending to be insane.

     All the things that David had to do to preserve his life were humiliating and humbling, but they seemed to be essential if David was going to be of some use in God’s kingdom. He had to be brought down to the lowest so that the Lord could lift him to the highest. The man couldn’t have become a king over a nation of God’s chosen people had he not first learned some valuable spiritual lessons through suffering. David was stripped down to the core of his being before he was clothed with glory and honor.

     David might have appeared to be a thug and was morally compromised on many occasions, but God continued to work with him and would eventually make the man after his own heart a more polished work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

慶祝今天 

慶祝今天

         -不要為明天憂慮

 

遺忘昨日才能慶祝今天

不想明天才能慶祝今日

好像麻雀邊覓食邊歌唱

有如野花悠閒看著藍天

沒有昨日也沒有明天

喫飽了就在草地嬉戲

花凋了就在草地入眠

那有黛玉葬花的憂情。

 

沒有遠見才能看到近處

沒有常例才有特殊

沒有預料才有驚喜

慶祝今天

我怎麼會走路

會笑會說會吃會愛

會看會聽:

好像花第一次開

鳥第一次唱

太陽第一次昇起

嬰孩第一聲喜極的哭泣。

 

Celebrate Today

            -Do not worry about tomorrow

 

To celebrate today is to be forgetful of yesterday

And not to be mindful of tomorrow,

Like sparrows, singing as they seek for food

And wild flowers, looking leisurely at the blue sky,

Who are not aware of yesterday or tomorrow,

For they play on the grass after they feed

And the flowers sleep on the lawn peacefully after they fade

Without having been properly buried.

 

We can only see what’s near without gazing at what’s afar,

To perceive the particular only when we are not blinded by the regular,

And can only experience amazement if we don’t anticipate anything.

Celebrate today -

That I am able to walk, to dance,

To speak, to laugh, to eat, to love

To see, and to listen,

As if flowers blooming for the first time

And birds surprised by their first song

As the sun rising at the first morning of the brave earth

And babies bursting into joyful tears at their birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, April 18, 2011 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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