Forgiveness 

MTS-3487

Forgiveness

“Hear from heaven, your dwelling place,
and when you hear, forgive.”

           1 Kings 8:30

 

What exactly happened I have long forgotten, but the ill-feeling still lingers. I was being
bullied by someone and all I could do was find a corner on my elementary school
campus and curse the guy. I genuinely wanted something bad to happen to the one
who did me harm for no particular reason.

Have I forgiven the bully? It’s hard to tell since the target of my hatred had long
vanished from my memory. I only remember being hurt, but have forgotten the one
who hurt me; therefore my forgiveness has nothing to do with my enemy, it has
everything to do with myself. Unless I forgive, the hurt that took place years
ago will continue to hurt me.

As a little boy I was taught by the elders in my village that I was supposed to hate Hakka
people, since we had fought with them off and on for years. The few Hakka
persons I knew were nice and decent people, yet for some odd reasons they were
never to be forgiven, even though they have never done anything to me. I
suppose that is racism, rooted in ignorance and lack of forgiveness.

Up to this day, I have been avoiding a high school coach who refused to play my son on the
basketball team, although he only caused me to lose a little bit of self-respect
and an opportunity to cheer for my boy. The cause of my un-forgiveness might
not have anything to do with him and have everything to do with me as a person.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the Lord Jesus interceded with
his dying breath for the ones who abused him and nailed him on the cross. To
the Son of God, the murderers were to be pitied, not to be hated.

Praying for the ones against whom we have harbored ill-feeling or hatred is the first step
toward forgiveness and inner healing. Surely there are evils in the world, yet
we are called to overcome evil with good. True goodness is forgiveness.

Does it sting when I think of the hurt people have inflicted on me? If so, there is still
work for me to do in the area of forgiveness. I haven’t been praying long and
hard enough and, consequently, I am still held captive by the ones who have
harmed me in some way. To forgive is to be liberated from the bondage of people
who have hurt us.

We are to forgive seventy times seven times. Forgiveness is one of God’s attributes and
it should be one of ours as well, since we are created in his own image.

  

 

       

 

   

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 6:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Building Project 

MTS-3486

Building Project

“May your eyes be open toward this
temple night and day…”

           1 Kings 8:29

 

Therefore I continue to labor on my building project, hoping to make some visible progress
so that my Master won’t be displeased when he comes to inspect my work.

I waited and waited impatiently every day, wanting to show him the beautiful pillars I just
built and the wall that was coming up in between. I had been working hard.

There was no sign of my master. I was disappointed.

“What’s the use of working so hard since no one is paying any attention,” I mourned.

My will and strengthen were in need of being reinforced by some encouragement and a praise
or two from the Lord would have gone long way in boosting my morale and lifting
my spirit. Yet none was forthcoming.

In the meantime, the temple I was building seemed to be crumbling for lack of proper
support. The foundation was solid, but I had failed to follow the blueprint, so
there appeared to be a disconnection between the building and the foundation.

“Do you really care about what I am doing,” I throw my arms in the air and let out a
cry out of sheer frustration. “Have I been laboring in vain?”

“I have been watching,” replied an inner voice, sounding more like a heart murmur.

“I was there when you launched the project and will be there when you finish. I was there
when you cried and was also there when you laughed. I enjoyed being with you
when you worked and when you rested. I have never departed from you for a
single moment,” the inner voice continued.

“You may be thinking that you are to construct a house for me, which is plausible, but you
are really building a place for yourself, an inner chamber you will enjoy
visiting everyday and within that chamber you will meet me face to face.”

I thought I was building a temple for the Lord and had been motivated solely by that idea,
not realizing that I was building some place for myself to dwell, and I would
be strengthened physically and spiritually in the process of my construction.

Progress has been quite slow, but my master doesn’t seem to mind at all. All he desires to
see is me hard at work. Besides, the real progress that I have made appears to
be invisible, except my skin has become tan, my muscle more defined, and my
health greatly improved, if that can be called progress at all.

I have gotten it all wrong, since I thought I was building a temple for the Lord, but he in
fact was building me into something he desires and designed me to be.     

Monday, April 29, 2013 6:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Building Project 

MTS-3485

Building Project

“How much less this temple I have
built!”

            1 Kings 8:27

 

I have been building a temple for the Lord to dwell for the longest time, yet it is far
from being finished. In fact, it will never be completed, no matter how long I
spend working on it.

I started constructing the temple about thirty seven ago, but the structure is hardly
visible. The foundation has been dug and a cornerstone was laid, yet for the
bystanders the house is hardly there.

Surely I have erected some pillars here and there, and put up a few walls over time, but I
have taken them down since, for I wasn’t pleased by how they looked and where
they stood.

“What’s this?” people have often asked in dismay when they happen to walk by the job site.
There seemed to be an empty hole there and nothing more.

“I am building a temple for the Lord,” I replied.

“Are you dreaming, or are you insane?” they looked at me in disbelief, and mocked.

Day after day and year after year I continue to dig and to lay a brick or two. With the
blueprint before me I know how to proceed and what the finished product should
be, albeit I have serious doubts I will ever finish.

I have been tempted to give up and leave the building undone, for the work is strenuous and
my strength seems to be diminishing by the day. I am growing old and the
construction is so far from being done.

“The project is too grand for such a dwarf as me,” I sighed.

“Who do you think you are to take on such a great enterprise?” I question myself.

“I’m not fit to build a temple for the king,” I conclude.

What else can I do if I quit my project? I often ponder when I become discouraged and
disenchanted about my lofty endeavor. Maybe I should build a few straw huts
instead.

I did start putting up a few of them on the site, which gave me a sense of accomplishment
and drew admiration from my neighbors. “Now you are doing something,” they gave
me a thumbs up and I was pleased. But no sooner were the huts built then a fire
came down and swallowed up all of them and my labor was in vain. I sat by the
ruin and wept. Indeed I am good for nothing.

“Am I destined to build a temple for the king, even though I will never get to
finish?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about finishing, just keep on working,” a voice from heaven fell like thunder,
nearly breaking my ears.

“I have already moved into the house you are erecting, even though there are no walls
or roof,” the voice continued. “The tears and sweat you have shed in
constructing this house is more pleasing to me than the grand building you are
envisioning about finishing.”

So I continue to lay a brick here and there every day and seem to tear down a lot more than
what I have erected.  

 

 

   

Friday, April 26, 2013 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Heavens 

MTS-3484

The Heavens

“But will God really dwell on earth?”     

                  1 Kings 8:27

 

The blue planet is an eye

Sparkling in the darkening sky;

And the ocean’s tears well up

When a storm pays its visit by surprise

Leaving a lengthy trail of ruin;

Looking down from beyond

The heavens doesn’t the Father see

The tears that pour out,

Brought down by the tempest rolling

And pierced by the thunderclaps

Across her worn out face the earth’s

Rivers of tears flow?

 

 

Thursday, April 25, 2013 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

If Only 

MTS-3483

If Only

“…if only your descendants are careful
in all they do to walk before me faithfully as you have done.”         1 Kings 8:25

 

There is an “if only” condition in this promise and we know how it transpired at the end.
The Lord didn’t keep his promise to David because his descendants failed to
walk before the Lord. The Lord would have remained faithful to them had they remained
obedient to him

Not all God’s promises are unconditional. There are stipulations behind most of them. Even
the promise of our salvation is hinged on our submission to him. Salvation
through the merit of Christ Jesus is free for all, yet the gift will not become
ours unless we embrace the Lord both intellectually and emotionally.

The issue is: our entire being has been polluted by sin; therefore it’s impossible for us to
hold our end of the bargain. We want to believe, yet are in dire need to be
helped with our unbelief.

“What is the difference between believing and wanting to believe,” asked a young man from
our church who was contemplating about getting baptized.

“All we have is our feeble desire to believe, isn’t it?” I answered, which might have caused
him to become more confused. He decided not to get baptized at the end.  

 

“Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,

    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

    Except you enthrall me, never shallbe free,

    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”  

 

John Donne wrote this in one of his sonnets, in which the poet seemed to be struggling
with the issue of our total depravity and free will, and he concluded that
apart from God’s enabling, we wouldn’t be able to turn to him and be liberated
from our sin.

Even Solomon failed to walk before the Lord faithfully in so many ways throughout his career
as a king. For sure he intended to keep God’s commands, but it takes more than
just one’s good intentions to succeed in obeying God’s law; he needed divine
help.

Our relationship with the Lord is fragile and it needs to be attended to with the greatest
care. We tend to become careless in maintaining our intimate connection with
the Lord. Believing that the Lord is all loving and all forgiving, we think we
can afford to be a little cavalier in our walk with him. Indeed the Lord is
loving and forgiving, but we may suffer great loss if we take his love and
forgiveness for granted. We will never lose our salvation as Christians, but we
can never fully experience the joy of salvation unless we lead a life of
holiness and obedience. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Promise 

MTS-3482

Promise

“And now, God of Israel, let your word
that you promised your servant David my father come true.”        1 King 8:26

 

My father had every intention to keep his promise to his son, who was twelve years old at the
time, yet he himself was under the authority of his father, the head of the
household; therefore he had to break his promise to me for lack of the power
and means to carry it out.

Forty some years later, I can still feel the sting of the disappointment I experienced. My
dad shouldn’t have made the promise that I could move to the city close to the
school where I was attending. Out of his love for me, he made many promises
before he formulated ways to carry them out. Had he thought more about it, he
wouldn’t have made so many promises to me, since his power and ability to keep
them was very limited indeed.

Things changed when my father became better endowed financially.

“I will buy you a new car when you come back from the states,” my dad promised. There was
no need for him to entice me to come home by making such an offer, for I was
very anxious to return after three years of study in America. Besides, I had
serious doubts that he had the means to purchase a new car for me.

It happened, and it was the only new vehicle I have ever owned thus far.

Had my dad had the means to keep all his promises to me when I was growing up, he would
have done so every time. It must have hurt him a great deal to break his
promises to me, but he just couldn’t help it. When the time came when he was
better equipped, I was able to harvest the benefits of his promise.

I think of my dad often and the image of him slowly riding his bicycle away after he came to say
goodbye to us for the last time will forever be etched in my memory. He did all
he knew and could to love his son and that’s all I could have asked of him,
really. He passed away a month after our last visit and the only father I have now
is my heavenly Father.

There is “no turning of shadow” in my heavenly Father, who is fully equipped to keep all his
promises to me if he so desires.

I was unaware of all the promises my heavenly Father had made to me, since I was yet to know
him as a teenager. Even so, he meticulously planned out every step of my young
life and took me to the point when I had no choice but to bow down before him
and submit to his love. From then on, he carried out all his promises to me
according to his sovereign will and perfect timing. My heavenly Father has made
many promises to me and none of them have failed to come true, since he is
completely sufficient to bring all of them to pass without the slightest
difficulty.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are
‘Yes’ in Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul. Yes, and yes.

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Nevertheless 

MTS-3481

Nevertheless

“Nevertheless, you are not the one to
build the temple…”

        
1 Kings 8:19

 

Had the temple been built by David, it would have become a grand monument, symbolizing
the king’s profound love and deep adoration for the Lord. He was disqualified,
however, from launching the project, even though he had been preparing to do it
for a long time, for he had shed too much human blood.

The holy temple shouldn’t have been constructed by blood-stained hands, the Lord
decided. Thus this would become one of David’s greatest regrets and forever
remain his unfulfilled aspiration.

“You are not the one,” proclaimed the Lord.

Those words must have stung David’s heart like a dart. He had been the one in all things
his entire life, why couldn’t he been the one at this time? Wasn’t he the one
who was anointed by Samuel out of his many brothers? Wasn’t he hand-picked by
God to lead the nation of Israel? How was it his fault that his hands had been
smeared by the blood of his enemies? Wasn’t it the Lord who led him to the
battle field and granted him all the victories against his foes?

Had the Lord tried to find a man with completely unstained hands to erect his holy temple,
it would never have been built. Solomon’s hands might not have been drenched in
human blood; they were nonetheless tarnished by sin of many other sorts.

Indeed the Lord was saying to David that there was no need for him to build a temple for
God’s name, since he had been lifting God’s name high his entire life; and the
Psalms which he composed throughout his life might serve as a physical monument
of the man’s deep devotion to God.

 The temple Solomon built is now covered by dirt and has been used as a foundation for other structures and it’s hard to
find any trace of its glorious existence. On the contrary, the poet continues
to sing God’s praises throughout the psalms he composed.

The fleeting will keep on fleeing from our grasp and the ephemeral will continue to
evaporate in midair; only the solid will become more and more solidified as
time goes by and will forever remain as testimonies of God’s grace. Therefore,
I will never cease constructing God’s dwellings on earth through my humble
writing, praying, and hoping that some of them may actually stick on the receding
wall of space and time.

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

The great Shakespeare appeared to be laboring to immortalize his lover through his sonnets
and his beloved would survive as long as his artistic endeavor remained. His
poetry indeed had endured the onslaught of time thus far, yet the identity of
his love remains a mystery. Surely the Lord needs no one to immortalize his
name on earth in any way; yet my music will continue to play eternally if it happens
to harmonize with heavenly melody.  

 

 

Monday, April 22, 2013 6:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Be Amazed 

MTS-3480

Be Amazed

“I have indeed built a magnificent
temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”         1 Kings 8:12

 

Solomon was the one who initiated the building project and, without his vision and
leadership, the temple wouldn’t have been completed. It took seven long years
for the structure to be built and thousands of people must have shed much sweat
and tears constructing it. The king shouldn’t have taken the entire credit for
the great accomplishment, but he did it anyway, for being a king, he could
easily assume the ownership of whatever was achieved by his underlings.

“Look what I have done for you, Lord,” he seemed to be reminding the Lord for what he had
done on his behalf. Aren’t we all tempted to do the same thing when we survey
what we have accomplished with our lives? Don’t we all want to assure ourselves
that our lives do count for something and we haven’t buried our God-given
talent in the ground?

Isn’t this the time for me to take an inventory of what I have achieved thus far for the
Lord, even though I may still have a ways to go before I am finally done.
Surely I cannot point to a magnificent temple like the young king and be amazed
at my own work, but I have done a few things, albeit they are infinitely
inferior by comparison.

John Donne, the renowned Elizabethan poet and minister, did his best work for the Lord when
he was lying in bed, believing he was dying of the Black Death. The meditation
he composed during his battle with death still speaks to thousands of people in
the following generations. He survived the illness that was misdiagnosed as the
plague and the remainder of his earthly years might have been his best as far
as spiritual service was concerned. I have surpassed Donne in age, but I am yet
to accomplish a mere friction of what the man did with his life. Shouldn’t I be
amazed by how little I have achieved for the kingdom compared to the saints of
old?

Could the stonecutters and thousands of manual laborers who took part in the building
project point to the temple and be amazed of what they had done? They remain
nameless, yet apart from their efforts, the temple would have remained a mere
dream of the king. Of course they could and they should. History might have
long forgotten them, and the temple they built has long become ruins, but the
Lord still remembers their sweat and tears, and has rewarded them accordingly.

Should I be amazed at the books I have written and the poems I have composed when I look at
them standing proudly on my desk? Not really. What amazes me more than anything
is the grace that was sufficient for me to do what I have done, and will be
more than sufficient as I continue to do what I have been called to do the rest
of my life.   

 

Friday, April 19, 2013 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Dark Cloud 

MTS-3479

Dark Cloud

“The Lord has said
that he would dwell in a dark cloud…”

        
1 Kings 8:12

 

Cloud is the curtain that divides

The holy from the profane

And with its mere presence

We can look up without blinking,

For the penetrating ray is veiled

Graciously by the gentle shade.

We can only speculate

What the divine countenance must be like

And the passion behind the covered face

From the seam of the dark mask

A glimpse of blue surfaced

As the curtain from the top was torn;

O the deep gaze behind the veil

That causes me to conjugate

Throughout all my years,

To search for the endings that match

Many auspicious beginnings

And to examine all my visions

To see if they are echoing

My Father’s lasting dreams.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 18, 2013 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Service 

MTS-3478

Service

“And the priests could not perform their
service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.”         1
Kings 8:11

 

What could the priests’ presence have done to enhance the service they were going to
perform? Absolutely nothing. Their participation in the solemn ritual was
rendered unnecessary, superfluous even, when the Lord’s presence was in their
midst. Who would desire to see the priests’ performance of various ceremonies
when they could see the Lord? Who would want to hear human chattering when they
could listen to the heavenly voice?

The priests should just have withdrawn from the scene, for their presence could have become
a hindrance for people to see the Lord and to hear from him.

Preaching would have been so much easier for me had the Lord filled our little church
whenever I spoke. Yet it has been such a laborious job for me to preach week
after week, since I haven’t been riding the wave of the Holy Spirit when I
speak; therefore the outcome of my service has left a lot to be desired.

Have we ever experienced similar phenomena at our church? No doubt the Holy Spirit has been
at work in our midst, for people have been saved, albeit not in great numbers.
I seriously doubt people can be moved unless the Lord moves them first. Yet I
have never witnessed a white cloud covering the church.

“If you believe, you will see the glory of God,” the Lord said to his disciples.

How can I, a minister of the gospel, enhance people’s belief in Christ? Am I supposed to be
responsible for people’s lack of faith in Jesus? Only a narcissistic and
arrogant person would harbor such a ridiculous idea. I will accomplish nothing
of value if I center my spiritual service on myself. I just need to move myself
out of the way so that God through his Spirit can do his work freely.

I was praying for three people to join the church’s baptism class in April. Although there
were only two attending, midway through the session and, before I gave up
entirely, another person surfaced out of the blue in our class. The Lord does
work in such a mysterious way, doesn’t he?

We need to become more invisible so that the Lord can become more visible. I think all
God’s servants have found this extremely challenging and very few of us can
claim that they have succeeded in doing it. Some of the priests present at the
temple dedication service might have considered they were the ones who brought
the glory of the Lord down from heaven. They believed they at the least had
something to do with what was occurring.

“If they remain quiet, the stones will cry out,” the Lord said. God can easily raise up stones
to sing his praises if we refuse to render him our service. This is something
worth pondering.  

 

 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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