The Heavens 

~~MTS-4215
The Heavens
“The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you.”
         2 Ch. 6:18
     The created and the Creator are two separate entities, and the Creator cannot dwell within the created. His being permeates all his creatures by virtue of his act of creating, but he does not live within them. The Holy Spirit does make our bodies his dwelling, yet he isn’t confined within them. His presence within our bodies does not mean his entire being, and the two are not the same things at all. For us human beings to live somewhere is to be confined and bound there and we cannot be in two places at the same time. Undoubtedly, the Creator of the cosmos dwells outside of the created universe, in light that cannot be seen by human eyes.
    If heaven is truly God’s dwelling place, then it can’t be located in a particular locale within the universe, yet we also read that the heavenly Jerusalem will be established on earth and the Lord will dwell with his people on the renewed earth. Indeed, the Lord often paid the first couple visits before the fall, which simply meant that he could be at any place at any particular time and is in no way bound by time and space. Of course, here I am venture into the unknown and have no earthly idea what I am speaking about. Indeed, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you,” yet we have often make attempts to bring the Almighty to earth and make him one of us.
    The God we claim to worship has been “tamed” and humanized and all the mystery seems to have been stripped away and it’s becoming more and more comfortable for us to be with him. In fact, the presence of God has ceased to evoke a sense of terror and fear, and his appearance instead produces a warm and fuzzy feeling within us and causes us to have unspeakable joy. Surely, such is the feeling we crave and from it we come to know God’s love, which is rather similar to human affections that we routinely experience.
    I am afraid the Lord has been humanized to the point that he ceases to be who he is and the God whom we claim to worship may be a deity who we have created in our own image. Our religion may, in fact, be idolatrous.
    We may be feeling increasingly comfortable being loved and cared for by the all loving God, and are in essence deceiving ourselves by believing and claiming that our salvation is nothing but mere verbal recognition and simple lip service and our eternal bliss is all but guaranteed, and there are no more acts of obedience and services needed to be taken. Woe is us if this is what we truly believe and adhere to in our faith and practice.
    Have we been attempting to contain the infinite God within our finite earth and forcing him to reside in our meager world?  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 30, 2016 7:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Will He? 

~~MTS-4214
Will he?
“But will God really dwell on earth with humans?”          2 Ch. 6:18
     The planet earth is merely a speck of dust floating in the seemingly infinite vast universe, hardly visible from outer space, yet we consider the blue planet so significant that she even deserves the full attention of the Creator of the cosmos by his setting up his abode down here. This is rather unthinkable and unbelievable, isn’t it? Who do we think we are?
    Yet the vast cosmos seems to be so barren from our vantage point and it looks rather uninhabitable as far as we can tell. Of course what we see is nothing but an infinitely small sample of what’s out there and drawing conclusions from our limited view is shortsighted and naïve. All we can infer from this is, for some unknown reason, the Lord of the universe deems us worthy of his attention and has gone so far as to pay us the attention that we don’t deserve by any stretch of imagination.
    Do we all sometimes deem ourselves the center of the universe and demand that other people pay attention to us?
    To be loved is to be entitled and, as beloved children of our parents, we seem to believe we are the centers of the universe. To our parents, at the least. By the same logic, we may have come to a conclusion that we are the apples of God’s eyes and he can’t help but love us unconditionally. The infinitely great God seems to be so helpless as far as building a love relationship with his earthly children is concerned and he’s been treated more like a rejected lover than a sovereign Lord. In fact, we oftentimes think that we do God a favor by turning to him or by tossing to him some of our cheap affection.
    “But will God really dwell on earth with humans?” A good question, isn’t it? I guess the supposedly wisest man on earth knew better than to take the Lord of the universe for granted. The people who truly know their God will never have a foolish sense of self-importance or any idea of entitlement before God. To know God’s awesome greatness is to know that we are but “worms” who deserve nothing from God but wrath and displeasure, for we “all have sinned and fall short the glory of God.” 
    Grace from God is all we need and will ever need, and the mere mention of self-worth and deserving is naïve and laughable. We will all be consumed if the Lord ever decides to deal with us by his justice.
     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 29, 2016 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Coming True 

~~MTS-4213
Coming True
“And now, Lord, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true.”      2 Ch. 6:17
 
    What the king could have done at the time was to take care of his own business and leave the rest to the Lord. Whatever the Lord would do to the house of David was entirely out of his control, and God would do to the successors of David’s throne accordingly. Whether he would bless them or not seemed to depend on how they would walk with the Lord. It goes without saying that the Lord is sovereign over all, yet it does not take away human responsibility and men must do their part to make God’s promises come true.
    This doesn’t seem to be quite right, does it? We are ruined if the coming true of God’s promises is totally dependent on our performance, for no matter how much effort we put in, we will inevitably fall short at the end. Ultimately, mercy is what we need, not justice.
    How much effort on my part is enough, I often wonder. My issue has always been that I don’t think I have done enough and I tend to believe that as long as I work a little bit harder in enhancing my spirituality and maturing my status as a Christian, the Lord will become more willing to fulfil his promises concerning me and my loved ones.
    We have a strong tendency to fall back to the idea of salvation by merit and attempt to make ourselves worthy of God’s calling by performing good works and doing good deeds. Does what we do have anything to do with who we are, or is who we are determined by what we do?
    Our status before God doesn’t change no matter what we do or how rotten we may have become, since it’s primarily determined by the Lord Jesus’ merit. It will never change, yet our perception toward ourselves does often fluctuate according to what we do routinely. Our lack of spiritual discipline may not affect our status as righteous beings before the Lord, but it does rob us of the joy of the Lord. It’s awfully hard to maintain the joy of the Lord if we continue to live in rebellion and sin.
    The temple had actually been built and the king could have rested on his laurels, but what he had done wasn’t enough. In fact, it was merely the starting point of his walk with the Lord and the best, or the worst, was yet to come. In Solomon’s case, things seemed to spin out of control as time went on, and what he did as a king impacted what was to come in a negative way. He seemed to play a part in hindering God’s promises to the following generations from coming true.     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 27, 2016 8:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

If  

~~MTS-4212
If
“…if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me according to my law, as you have done.”             2 Ch. 6:16
    The Lord would have kept his side of the bargain had David’s descendants kept their side as well, which was to walk before the Lord according to the law. We all know what transpired of course: generations later the throne of David was taken away and the Israelites were put in exile. The kingdom of Israel, both from the North and the South, were uprooted and the promise of God became an afterthought, something that only lingered in people’s memory.
    How did it happen so quickly? The kingdom was divided after Solomon’s passing, and the glorious days created by David’s triumph suddenly turned to dust, never to return to the land.
    The Lord will always fulfill what he had promised to do if, and only if, we also fulfill our end of the covenant, which hasn’t always been the case. In fact, we seem to fail one hundred percent of the time. Our spirit might be willing, but our flesh has often failed.
    What we failed to do, the Lord Jesus has done it for us, and through his merit we finally are able to hold up our end of the bargain, not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, declaring us to be righteous. This is indeed no small matter.
    That’s why I have continued to look to Jesus and to depend entirely on him for my salvation up to this day.  I have always been reminded rather quickly and bluntly how frail and weak I am whenever I have made an attempt to please God through my own strength and to observe the law by my own power. Indeed, “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord,” as one of the old hymns renders.
    Does it really matter that I have been rather displeased with my Christian walk since the day I was saved and will continue to be annoyed by my inability to lead a pure and holy life on my own? I am doomed if the Almighty only sees the filthy rags of my own righteousness instead of looking at the blood-stained robe of righteousness that I have been clothed with from head to toe.  Every part of my body has been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Surely, I have been found insufficient in keeping the conditional clause attached to God’s promise and there is no more “if” affiliated with the covenant between God and men. It has been forever removed through Christ’s death on the cross.
    So, ceased is the ceaseless labor to please the Lord by the strength of flesh and blood and we no longer attempt to earn any sort of favor from God by human merit. We merely are called to rest in the boundless love of Jesus.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, June 24, 2016 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Word and Action 

~~MTS-4211
Word and Action
“…with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.”           2 Ch. 6:15
     What our mouths have promised our hands may not be able to fulfill, for we are mere mortals who are frail in so many ways. We may have every intention to do good, but lack the resolve and strength to consistently carry it out and, when we fail, we gloss it over with all kinds of excuses and justifications. We always come up with perfect reasons for our failures when they happen.
    In that case, it’s far better not to make any promises at all, since they are made to be broken. Of course, we have every intention to fulfill what we have vowed to do, yet seem to always lack the strength to do it. Surely, flesh and blood are not to be trusted.
    Of course, the Omnipotent does not lack the ability to carry out what he intends to do and to fulfill whatever he has promised to do. Since he is omniscient, whatever he promises to do for us is essentially good for us, even though it may not look that way at the onset.
    The Lord does not make vain promises merely to please; whatever he intends to do for us is both doable and good.
    “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is obviously the Lord’s promise to all his children, and he is able to keep it. Nonetheless, we seem to often feel deserted and forsaken when things don’t go our way or when suffering befalls us and we find ourselves wallowing in self-pity and sorrow. Indeed, God’s people become sick and die in this world, and people can’t help but feel forsaken when they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
    Well, how we feel isn’t reality itself; what’s real is the Word of God, which is eternally established and valid. As the Psalmist wrote: “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” What are we going to trust? Our fleeting daily experiences or God’s word that “stands firm in the heavens.” 
    It is our faith in God that comes into play when our experiences seem to point to the opposite direction of God’s mercy and love. “Are we ostriches who bury our heads in the sand and are entirely blinded to the realities?” we may well be accused. What’s the alternative, then? How can we interpret the temporal by the temporal and time by timely things? Surely, one must see all temporal things with an eye to time and with the other to eternity to see things as not what they seem, but what they are. Such is the truth spoken by the Apostle Paul: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
    When all else fails, the word of God will remain. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away,” the Lord has assured us.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 23, 2016 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Not the one 

~~MTS-4210
Not the One
“Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son…”   
                    2 Ch. 6:9
     David might have had great difficulty comprehending this, for he was the anointed servant of God to accomplish a great mission for the Lord and yet he was told point blank that he wasn’t going to be the one to build a magnificent temple to house the name of the Lord in Israel. Don’t we all find this rather unreasonable, for who in Israel was more qualified than the person who was a man after God’s heart?
    The king had finished what he was called to do and now it was his son’s turn to pick the slack. The man served his generation and then he passed away. He was indeed quite a capable man, yet his time on earth was brief and he could only do so much. David’s life would have had to be extended for many years if he had been assigned the heavy responsibility of building the holy temple.
    It got to the point that God’s anointed had to let go. In fact, such is the thing that all of us must do. Realizing that we aren’t irreplaceable, after we have done all we can possibly do for the Lord, we must leave all the rest to the next generation. The old will fall and the young will rise up.
    What David had done with his life was obviously irreplaceable, for it was his lot and he would get the reward due him for doing what he was called to do. It matters very little whether the tasks are great or small; being faithful to the end in doing them is what really counts.
    We must have a sense of calling no matter what occupation we find ourselves in.  We don’t just merely make a living by doing whatever; we are accomplishing the heavenly mission we have been called to achieve. In the same way we will be able to utter at the end as our Lord Jesus did, “It is finished,” albeit on an infinitely smaller scale.  
    David seemed to have submitted to God’s will without voicing any complaint, and in the meantime, instead of pouting, he did all he could to accumulate the materials necessary for the construction. By doing so, he was in fact participating in what his son was going to do in the near future. Surely all kingdom works are interconnected and interlocked in some way and there will be a missing link if we fail to do our part of the great kingdom enterprise.
    Therefore, the little articles that I write every day or the short poems that I compose occasionally may be contributing toward the great success that is to come in the future when I am no more. Everything we do daily, be it great or small, is faith work and kingdom work, which is completely essential in fulfilling God’s eternal purpose on earth.
          
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 22, 2016 6:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

His Name 

~~MTS-4209
His Name
“But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there…”
            2 Ch. 6:6
     Surely the name of the Lord was proclaimed there, yet not all the people in the city were aware of it, and perhaps much fewer of them decided to claim the name of the Almighty and name themselves after the Name of names. The name of the Lord might have meant very little to the Israelites unless they made a conscious decision to call on his name and claim him as their God and father.
    The name of the Lord was rarely named in the village where I was brought up, and it was always in a derogatory and disdainful way the few times the Lord’s name was mentioned, if he was even spoken about at all. The name of the Lord was an anathema to me, more to be avoided than anything else.
    I was more eager to build up my own name as a young man than anything else. Well, that was a little pompous really. I was merely trying to survive in a big city where finding each meal of the day was quite a challenge. When one is starving, making a name for himself is the least of his concerns.
    Are we erecting a magnificent building for the name of the Lord to dwell? Our bodies are indeed the temples of the Holy Spirit, so in what way do we make them a more suitable and comfortable abode for the third person of the triune God?
    Daily cleansing is surely needed.
    How do we do it? Through repentance, of course. We may easily be contaminated by the filth of this world as we go through the day and rub shoulders with ungodliness and worldliness and the Holy Spirit may feel ill at ease dwelling within. Only through the blood of the Lamb can our sins be purged and the means by which this is accomplished is repentance. Indeed, repentance is endless, for our potential for sinning against God is also endless.
    Isn’t this discouraging? Must we go through our entire life repenting of our many sins, both overt and hidden, conscious and unconscious?
    Such is the dire consequence of the original sin.
    In actuality, our sin it its totality has been wiped away by the washing of the sacrificial lamb in the Lord Jesus, yet that fact isn’t our daily experience at all, and the peace and joy of forgiveness may or may not be present in our lives, for we are still afflicted by weakness of our flesh which seeks to lead us astray. Whether we sin consciously or unconsciously, daily repentance is completely necessary.
    After some eighty years of weathering the elements, our house is starting to show its age and unless we do some necessary upkeep, it will become an unsuitable and uncomfortable abode of us. Sin will do damage to the temple of the Holy Spirit unless we keep it in good shape. Certainly we can’t expect the name of the Lord to dwell in a dilapidated hut.     
                                                                                                                        
  
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 21, 2016 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

I Have Built 

~~MTS-4208
I Have Built
“I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”             2 Ch. 6:2
     After twenty-three years of ministering at the same church, the size of the congregation remains about the same. I am not into numbers, so I hardly ever count the heads during the services, but since the crowd is always small, I can always tell the number by eyeballing the people sitting in the pews. It’s a good day if we reach sixty in the Chinese service and ten is a satisfactory number in our English service. Come to think of it, I have yet to build a “magnificent” house for the Lord to dwell. We would be in serious trouble if the Lord paid more attention to the number of our attendants and judged us accordingly. Our English congregation started out with three during the praise and worship time, and ended up with seven at the benediction. I have gotten used to it, and I often wonder whether the Lord will ever get used to the meagerness in numbers within our worship services. If he does, he may find it rather disappointing, bothersome even, to ever frequent his church.
    Years ago, long before I arrived, the church sponsored an evangelistic outreach and invited a well-known speaker to conduct the meeting. Someone told me the man of God became rather annoyed, angry even, at the smallness of the gathering, which was rather large considering the size of Chinese population in town. If the meagerness of people who came to hear the gospel preached bothered the servant of God, how much more it must have annoyed the Lord. I remember thinking.
    Our church is neither large nor magnificent by any stretch of the imagination. I suppose in order for a church congregation to become magnificent, largeness in numbers is essential. I always feel despondent at the thought of this. It’s not always easy to reconcile yourself to the fact that one has been a failure in whatever he has been called to accomplish.
    I can at the least construct a magnificent palace for the Lord to dwell, which is my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
    Why open up another can of worms, a Pandora’s Box? How many flaws and shortcomings, leaks and cracks, would I find in this building of mine if I dared to take a closer examination? How in the world would the third person in the triune God find it suitable for his dwelling? “Woe is me!” I lament as the prophet once did, “I am ruined.”
    The beauty and wonder is the Lord doesn’t seem to concern himself with the size of our gatherings, for he is really into individuals; neither is he bothered by my inner filth and sins, for they have already been cleansed and purified by the blood of Jesus.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 20, 2016 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Dark Cloud 

~~MTS-4207
Dark Cloud
“The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”            2 Ch. 6:1, 2
     The mystery of the Lord cannot be penetrated through human understanding, yet this doesn’t keep us from continuously seeking to know the deep and dark secrets of the Almighty, for to know is to control and to bring order to disorderliness.
    The Lord’s mandate was for us to name his creatures and to manage the manageable, yet we are often tempted to cross the boundary and venture into the territory where we are not supposed to be and end up getting lost in the dense cloudy maze where we cannot find an exit. Wanting to know everything is indeed a trap, causing us to lose our humanness in the passionate pursuit of becoming superhuman,
    Being a superman or a superwoman is something is to be pitied, for being superhuman is an extremely lonely predicament. Geniuses are often treated as someone peculiar and out-of-the-ordinary, and they are often isolated and tend to lead a life of unhappiness.
    Being ordinary is actually a good thing, and not knowing a lot of things is in fact more to be desired than knowing too much. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much we know, our knowledge is still rather meager compared to what there is to know.  According to Pope, “a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing,” for human knowledge seems to do far more misleading than leading, and the more human knowledge we gain, the more we are confused by its contradictions and misdirection. Surely, the writer of Ecclesiastes was right on target when he wrote: “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” That’s exactly what human knowledge does to all of us. It seems to lead, yet it often misleads; appears to be enlightening, yet it often darkens and at the end we cry out as Eliot did in his poem: “O dark, dark, dark. They all go into the dark.”  He then added in the same poem: “I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you, which shall be the darkness of God.”
    There is a deep irony in this bold proclamation made by the young king: “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” Why bother erecting a “magnificent temple” if the Lord indeed intended to “dwell in a dark cloud”?
Don’t we all get into trouble by attempting to bring God down from the dark cloud where he dwells and expose him in broad daylight, and instead of clarifying the unknowable, what we do is only to mystify.
    By no means am I anti-knowledge; I am merely saying that we should let God be God. What we need to know has been made transparent by the incarnation and any further action beyond that brings forth more confusion.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 7, 2016 5:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Service 

~~MTS-4206
Service
“Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service…”         2 Ch. 5:14
     The priests might have thought that their services in the temple were entirely essential and that the Lord must be rather pleased with them and that their labor would be handsomely rewarded.
    “Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service…”
    We are nothing but a speck of dust in the vast universe and our mere existence means absolutely nothing but to a few who are close to us.  We will be quickly forgotten when we are no more, yet we have such a strong sense of self-importance that we even consider ourselves worthy of the undivided attention of the Almighty, and demand his praise and reward for what we might have done on his behalf.
    “Look at what I have done,” we exclaim. We become rather dejected if no one pays any attention to our efforts in whatever we do. We are vain players who act to earn applause and do things to gain rewards.
    We tend to give ourselves a big applause after we do something we consider beneficial to ourselves. Don’t we all feel great after we spend time working out, for we think exercise does our bodies good. It may even prolong our earthly days if we do it consistently. Some of us may feel somewhat differently if we take the time to read the Bible and to pray, as if by doing those things the Lord, not we ourselves, will be greatly benefited. In fact, some people may even feel that they do God a favor by going to the church to worship on Sundays or performing some sacred work during their spare time.
    We do physical exercise to the benefit of our bodies and, by the same token, we do spiritual exercise to boost our spiritual health also. The Lord has plenty of glory of his own and whatever we do on his behalf surely adds nothing to what he already possesses. We are extremely naïve if we think otherwise. We were born to serve and worship our Creator and the more we do it, the more fulfilled we will become. The sure prescription for misery is to do our own thing and to serve our own needs throughout our entire lives.
    This may not be a good analogy, but I am pleased and comforted if my children make wise choices in all they do or if they perform well academically or financially.  As a parent, I feel happy mostly for their sake, not for mine, since I may not benefit directly from their spiritual or physical prosperity.
    Surely, the Lord is sovereignly disinterested concerning our work and worship, yet he remains interested in all we do, not for his own sake, but for ours. I think this realization may transform our attitude toward all our spiritual activities.    
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 6, 2016 7:01:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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