Worship 

MTS-3549

Worship

“I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as
one burns dung, until it is all gone.”

              1 Kings 14:10

 

What was King
Jeroboam’s aspiration in life? This is something worth pondering, isn’t it? As
a king over a great nation, he must have had an ideal higher than himself,
otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did, which was to lead the Israelites
astray in their worship. It appeared that he created a new religion in order to
keep his kingdom intact, but people just don’t create gods and formulate a new
philosophy out of a vacuum. Jeroboam must have harbored other motives other
than the obvious one. He was brooding over something sinister in his mind.

He created
false gods to mock the existing religion and, when people became disillusioned
about their worship, he himself could then rise up as a new deity for people to
worship. Jeroboam was indeed advancing a new form of secularism and was promoting
himself as a savior of sorts for his people. From his cavalier attitude toward the
priesthood and other religious affairs, we can easily tell how lowly he
perceived established worship. Traditional worship was more of a joke than
anything to him, and he sought to replace it with a more advanced form of
worship.

We know
exactly what those two calves represented: nothing but vanity. Jeroboam wanted
the Israelites to worship false gods, for his true desire for them was to
worship no god.

The Romans
accused early Christians of practicing atheism, because they worshipped only one
God; yet the Romans and their subjects from various nations actually adhered to
no god, albeit they practiced polytheism. We in essence lift ourselves up as
gods if we determine on our own which god to worship. By leading his people
astray in their worship - turning from monotheism to polytheism, the king
succeeded in elevating himself to be a god. Like many kings before and after
him, Jeroboam was attempting to deify himself.

Why are some
people so passionate in spreading the doctrine of atheism? They themselves may
not realize it, but the truth is they desire to be perceived as a god-like
figure. By fighting against God, they make themselves equal with God. How do I
become famous as a poet? Simple enough. All I need to do is to engage in a “pen
fight” with the most accomplished poet of the time and people will start to
consider that we stand on an equal footing. Many writers have done just that
and it has been proven effective.

Am I giving
Jeroboam too much credit by accrediting to him with all these lofty ideas? Was
he merely trying to keep his power and religion was an instrument which he
employed to achieve that particular end? It matters very little whether that
was so or not. What the king did, for either pragmatic purposes or personal
reasons, had a long lasting effect. The Israelites became more and more secular
and worldly as a result of Jeroboam’s action, and at the end the Lord merely
became an after-thought in people’s minds. They, in reality, worshipped no god
by worshipping many gods.    

 

  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Other Gods 

MTS-3548

Other Gods

“You have made for yourself other gods,
idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on
me.”    1 Kings 14:9

 

By turning
away from God, Jeroboam himself became a god, and the gods that he made were
merely the instruments which he employed to achieve his own purposes.

I sometimes
feel a little ill at ease when I pray, for my prayers are composed mostly of
various petitions both for myself and my loved ones. By asking the Lord to do
things on my behalf all the time, I seem to have made him more my servant than
my master.

O how often
do we emphasize how the Lord can perform various tasks for us when we urge
people to turn to him, and we fail to tell them that the Lord is glorious and
sovereign, that he alone deserves our worship and adoration and whatever he can
do on our behalf is secondary, not primary in importance.

“Though he slay me, yet will I
hope in him,” stated Job in the midst of his unbearable
suffering. This verse may not be expounded upon from the pulpit very often, yet
no other verse from the Scriptures depicts better the essence of our faith than
this lament of the old saint. Our belief is centered on the fact that God is
sovereign over all and he alone determines all affairs, both in heaven above
and earth below. We are to bring him honor and glory by who we are and what we
do, not by asking him to meet our every petty need and satisfy our every little
whim.

We may have
made the Lord our servant by constantly asking him to do different things for us.
We rejoice when our prayers are granted according to our desires, yet we
grumble when the Lord fails to meet our personal needs. We take him for granted
when things are going well, and instantly turn against him when adversity
falls. We may claim to be servants of God, but in reality we may have made him
our servant without knowing it.

In one sense
we are worse than atheists, for by denying God’s existence they will never make
God their servant but, unfortunately, those of us who worship the Lord may be
doing so for selfish and utilitarian reasons.

Have we made for ourselves other gods?

Surely we
have created for ourselves other gods if we don’t worship the Lord according to
his sovereignty and are not very mindful of his attributes of holiness and
justice. The all-loving, all-tolerant, and all-embracing God may just turn out
to be one of those other gods, like the calves Jeroboam made for the Israelites
who demanded nothing from their worshippers and granted them everything. If
this is truly the case, our worship may arouse God’s anger and cause him to
turn his back on us.

Isn’t this
the time to evaluate our faith to see whether our worship is indeed centered on
God, not on ourselves, and whether we are truly lowly servants of the Lord and
our ultimate goal in life is to love him and to glorify him forever?

          

 

   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 7:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

But  

MTS-3547

But

“…but you have not been like my servant
David.”

        
1 Kings 14:8

 

Was the Lord merely
hoping that Jeroboam would turn out to be another man after his own heart?
Hardly. Being omniscient, he undoubtedly knew what was going to transpire in
the king’s life at the end. Yet he still held the man responsible for failing
to live up to the Almighty’s lofty expectations for him.

There was
only one man in the Bible who was labeled as “a man after God’s own heart,” but
the Lord expected all the Biblical characters to be ones who were in tune with
the Lord’s heart. David had set a standard by which the Lord measured all
people.

Did Jeroboam
have potential to be just like David? He probably did. The kingship seemed to
fall in his lap and he had such a great opportunity to do great things for the
country. He would have been such a great blessing to the Israelites had he done
things in perfect accordance with God’s heart. Unfortunately the verdict wasn’t
so glorious. “But you have not been like my servant David,” we read.

Unlike David,
Jeroboam did all things according to his own heart and his own selfish desire
to fulfill his own ambition and to advance his own career. Indeed Jeroboam was
his own man who wasn’t beholden to either human or divine.

Was it unfair
to measure Jeroboam according to the standard set by King David? Not so at all.
The Lord did not expect Jeroboam to become another David who excelled in poetry
and in politics and became so beloved by God and men. The Lord only desired
Jeroboam to become the best Jeroboam he could ever be - a man who followed the
Lord and always tuned his heart’s rhythm to the pulse of the Spirit.

“Be the best you can be.”

That’s what
the Lord expects from all of us. We may not achieve great renown like David or
other spiritual giants in history, but we do need to strive to become men and
women after God’s own heart and tune our emotional inclination according to
God’s sentiment.

Ultimately we will be measured by what we have, not by what we have not; be judged by what we have been endowed, not by what we have not possessed; by what we are, not by what we are not. This little grain of truth can be quite liberating if we take this to heart and digest it. People are indeed endowed with various amounts of talent by their Master and for sure they will be measured accordingly.

May we quit
judging ourselves according to the standard of this world or comparing
ourselves with the ones who have achieved great deeds for the kingdom and become
dismayed. What we should labor to become are men and women after God’s own
heart. Jeroboam was condemned not because he didn’t turn out to be another
David; he merely failed to become what the Lord intended for him to be,
whatever it was.  

   

 

 

   

Monday, July 29, 2013 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Bad News 

MTS-3546

Bad News

“Why this pretense? I have been sent to
you with bad news.”

         
1 Kings 14:6

 

What was the
purpose of Jeroboam’s wife pretence? Was it because she believed that she would
get a more favorable answer from the prophet by pretending to be someone else,
or were there other reasons? It didn’t make any difference, however, for the
prophet had already received the message from above and his job was to deliver
it faithfully, not to change anything, not even a jot or tittle.

No one likes
to be a deliverer of bad news. Had the prophet had the power to change his
message, he might have done so with ease. It would have been much more pleasant
to tell the grieving woman that her son was going to live, wouldn’t it have?

“Truth is
adverse to the ears; and good medicine is bitter to the taste (忠言逆耳, 良藥苦口)” This old Chinese saying makes a
lot of sense, doesn’t it? No wonder some good medicines are sugar-coated,
making it less painful for us to take them. I have been trying to urge Kathy to
take a daily vitamin to no avail and her excuse has always been the pills are
too big. That is an excuse, really, for I found some smaller pills and she
still doesn’t take them. I suppose she has her doubts about the effectiveness
of the pills, otherwise she would have taken them. If life and death were
depending on them, she would have swallowed them up with her eyes closed.

Sugar-coated
medicine is good if the medicine is indeed sound, for the intention is for
healing, not for killing. Even if the medicine turns out to be ineffective, it
at least doesn’t do us any harm; but sugar-coated poison is entirely different,
because it aims to kill. Jeroboam’s wife might have been overjoyed had the
prophet given her good news against God’s mandate, but her sorrow would have
been doubled had the healing of her son not happened. Sugar-coated news may
tickle our ears and ease our anxiety, but it aims to misguide us, giving us a
false sense of security, and keeping us from seeking the bitter medicine that
does heal.

What kind of
prophets are we? Indeed we are charged to preach the gospel, which is the best
news in the world, yet before we accept the gospel of salvation, we need to
take the bitter pills of repentance and of determining to lead a life of
holiness, which can be painful and unpleasant. Salvation without repentance is akin
to a child sucking up the sugar coating and spitting out the pills.

It would be a
good thing if the reason why our church has remained small is the preacher has
been preaching the bad news; otherwise we have cause for concern. We can coat
our medicine with sugar, yet we need to make sure the medicine is sound and the
patients are taking the whole pill, not merely licking the sweetness off the outside
and discarding the healing medicine within.     

 

 

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Old Prophet 

MTS-3545

Old Prophet

“Now Ahijah could not see; his sight was
gone because of his age.”

             1 Kings 14:4

 

“Old soldiers
never die, they just fade away,” said General McArthur, an old soldier. I
suppose it’s the same way with old prophets; well, old anything really. I
turned sixty not long ago, and I have probably lost a step, for it’s getting
more and more difficult to keep up with the swiftly moving world. In fact, I
often find myself giving up in following my sons’ conversation, for they often speak
too fast.

Grandpa became
more and more silent while he was sitting with the family for dinner before his
passing, and no one seemed to be paying much attention to him. Elderly people,
like small children in many ways, have to make themselves known by making some
noise; otherwise they will just be ignored most of the time. Indeed, my devout
father-in-law kept on speaking to people through telephone calls and mail, even
when the world seemed to have left him far behind. Old prophets can never be
silenced by time, and through their devotion to God and passion to love people
time is easily conquered.

Grandma
always has something good and edifying to say when her children take the time
to speak to her, even though she is 94 years old. Her eyesight has faded, yet with
her sound hearing left she can still learn all things both spiritual and
secular through listening to teaching materials. Seriously, the old prophetess
will not be silenced until eternal silence overtakes her.

Ahijah’s
sight was gone, but he still had ears to hear and a mouth to utter the message
from above. As long as the Lord still spoke to the old prophet, he would keep
on speaking to the world. A voice would continue to cry out in the wilderness,
for God’s servant still had voice.

It will be a
good thing if I pass away behind the pulpit, which may be the best way to go.
Had he had a choice at all, the old general might have chosen to die on the
battlefield, fighting for his country. There simply is no better time to bid a final
farewell to the world than the time when one’s heart is filled by the Holy
Spirit and one’s month is uttering the eternal word of God.

Ahijah might
have been old and blind at the time, but his earthly mission was yet to be
completed. Years had lapsed since the day he made an earth-shattering prophecy
to Jeroboam, and he had been following the king’s career over the years, hoping
and praying he would turn out to be a Godly leader. Much to the prophet’s
displeasure, that didn’t happen and he was again the one to tell Jeroboam the
bad news. The man was old, but he was still a prophet with messages from above
to proclaim. Yes, old prophets never die, and they will never fade away, for
their message is ever new.

 

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 8:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Jeroboam's Wife 

MTS-3544

Jeroboam’s Wife

“So Jeroboam’s wife did what he said and
went to Ahijah’s house in Shiloh.”

         
1 Kings 14:4

 

Her son
Abijah was sick and there didn’t seem to be any hope for the boy to survive.
Jeroboam was concerned, but not as concerned as his wife, for the boy might
have represented the only joy and hope for her. Being a king over a nation,
Jeroboam obviously had other important issues to occupy his mind and, most
likely, he had many other wives and concubines from whom he could derive comfort
if the boy was no more. Nevertheless he was still the father of the boy and
would do anything he possibly could to save his son.

The journey
alone had to be treacherous and long for the woman. She must have had some
companions who traveled with her, yet her mind was so entirely occupied by her
son’s illness that she didn’t even have the energy to engage in any chatting
with her travelling companions. She was anxious to find out what would happen
to her son, yet she was so afraid to find out, for the news could be
devastating. Yet it was the journey she must take and the sorrow she had to
endure.

Why didn’t
Jeroboam make the trip himself? It would have been so much easier for the king
to do such a chore, wouldn’t it have?

He probably
would have let the illness run its course and let the chips fall where they may.
It was not at all unusual for children to perish in their infancy and he had
other important business to attend to. He might have been on the verge of
giving up on the boy, but the mother simply refused to yield. Paying the
prophet a visit might have been the last resort he could come up with and it at
least gave his grieving wife a glimpse of hope.

What could
the prophet have done except tell her the inevitable?

Nonetheless
it was a journey she had to make, albeit the hope for her son’s healing was
quite slim. She might have been hoping against hope and thinking wishfully the
prophet might be able to bring her boy back to health again. Jeroboam might
have been evil and heartless in all he did, but his wife was just a woman and a
mother who was been thrown into all the intrigues of the court against her will
and all she was concerned about at the moment was her son’s wellbeing.

For the
mother’s sake, don’t we all hope the news she was going to receive from prophet
Ahijah would turn out to be a good? The mother was loving and the son was
innocent; why didn’t the Lord perform miracles on their behalf?

Nothing could
have been done to alter the course preordained by the Almighty and the role
Ahijah played was merely as an informer, not a transformer. The die was cast
and the verdict had been made, and all she could do was wait for the
inevitable. All the evil had been wrought by her husband, and both she and her
son had to suffer the consequences.     

  

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Sin 

MTS-3543

The Sin

“This was the sin of the house of
Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the
earth.”          1 Kings 13:34

 

I am a man of
very small influence; therefore if I do or say something to mislead people, the
number of people who are misled by me is quite small, if any at all. So
compared to great people with great influence, my sin of polluting other
people’s minds or contaminating people’s thoughts is minuscule at best.

I am not
trying to minimize my sin at all, if I do lead people astray through my
speaking or writing. We all have a small circle of friends and followers who
may be looking to us for inspiration and encouragement, and it’s sinful if we
provide them with poor examples and therefore embolden them to do something
displeasing to God. Surely the ones with smaller influence sin a lot less than
the ones with greater impact on people when they fail to guard their thoughts
and watch their conduct.

Richard
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, both great champions of atheism, should have
kept their thoughts and beliefs to themselves, for if what they have published
far and wide turns out to be false, their sin of misleading people will be
incalculable. Although both are sinful, surely leading one to hell is much less
sinful than lead one thousand to perdition, isn’t it?

It doesn’t
make a whole lot of difference in their followers’ lives if these two scholars
happen to be right. People are going to do what they deem appropriate, and what
these two atheists do is to put the minds of their followers more at ease,
that’s all.

Had Jeroboam
just made a little golden calf or silver shrine for himself and his household
to worship, his sin would have been so much less than making his worship a
national affair. True religion should never be a private matter, for our love
for lost souls constrains us to spread the good news far and wide; but false
religion is an entirely different matter, since the blind should not lead the
blind and both end up being lost eternally.

The king
misled the Israelites intentionally, for I doubt he himself believed the calves
he created were gods; he was merely using false religion to accomplish
political purposes, without realizing that one’s worship did have eternal
consequences.           

 “This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam
that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.”

It is one
thing that the king’s sin led to his downfall; it’s entirely another if his sin
caused the downfall of the whole nation. Not only did he keep people from going
to the holy city to worship the true God, he also made them worship the false
ones.

  

Monday, July 22, 2013 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Priesthood 

MTS-3542

Priesthood

“Anyone who wanted to become a priest he
consecrated for the high places.”

            1 Kings 13:33

 

How did I perceive priesthood before I became a Christian? Not very high at all.  Christian ministers and Buddhist monks made
no difference to me. I had placed them in the lowest echelon of society. 

That was the last thing I would do, I assured myself.

Did my perception toward ministry change after I became a Christian? Perhaps some, but
not completely. Being a minister was still the last thing I would choose. I was
thinking more about becoming a professor in a Christian college than anything
else, even after I decided to dedicate my life to full-time Christian work. To
be totally honest, I still didn’t have a lofty view of ministers at the time. I
had become a new creature in Christ, but it was hard to erase all the old ideas
and beliefs from my mind.

I did everything possible to become a college teacher, yet I ended up becoming a
minister in a small church and have been one for the last twenty years. Did my
perception toward church ministry change?

Intellectually, yes, but emotionally, not so much. Deep inside, I still feel being a college
professor is more desirable than being a minister. After years of battling
against seeing myself after the heart of the world, I am yet to succeed
completely. I still, for the most part, perceive myself as the world perceives
me.

“Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places.”  Am I just anybody? Why don’t I value myself
and my calling as the Lord does?

God has only one Son, and he made him a minister of the gospel. Why don’t I see things that
way? I can’t expect other people to value my calling as a minister unless I
value mine first. Why can’t I perceive myself as the Lord sees me?

Obviously Jeroboam had a very low view of God; therefore his view of God’s servants was
just as low, if not lower. I am not better than Jeroboam, for I perceive God’s
servants as he did. Am I a hypocrite in this aspect? Yes. I have yet to succeed
in completely eradicating the residue of the worldly ideas and philosophy
engraved in my emotions, and my perception toward ministers is one of them.

My brother-in-law was let go as an associate pastor from a church and had to
assume his old trade as a physical therapist, which was such a big blow to him
that he still hasn’t recovered, for he believes, from both his heart and his
head, being a minister is the highest calling and nothing else comes close to it.
I admire him for his dedication to the Lord’s work and his lofty view of the
Christian ministry. I have fallen far short in both aspects and I pray that
someday I may become entirely consistent in both my thinking and my practice as
a minister of the gospel. I hope I can declare to the world that I am honored
to be chosen as a minister of God’s church and believe it whole-heartedly,
too.        

 

Friday, July 19, 2013 8:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Donkey and Lion 

MTS-3541

Donkey and Lion

“Then he went out and found the body
lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it.”        1 Kings 13:28

 

It was very unusual that the donkey and the lion, which had mauled the man of God to death,
were both still standing by the body. Naturally, the donkey would have run for
its life when its master was being attacked, but it didn’t happen that way.
There was no obvious reason why the lion remained with the body, as if it were
guarding the man whose life had been prematurely ended by the beast.

It only goes to show what happened to the man of God wasn’t by accident; it was by design.
Both the donkey and the lion were instruments by which the Lord carried out his
plan. The man of God defied the word of God, and the divine punishment was
death.

Was the punishment too severe? Perhaps. But the man of God had a choice to avoid the
tragedy by doing that he was told to do. Therefore he himself was to blame, not
the Lord.

The whole incident could have been perceived as random, for such accidents did occur in
those days. However, people couldn’t have drawn such a conclusion, since both
the donkey and the lion still remained with the body, revealing to them the plausible
cause of the event. The man must have done something sinful to cause such an
awful thing to happen to him.

Things that we consider random may not be random at all. If all things that have ever
occurred are preordained by God, then all things that happen do have definite
causes, for God isn’t a capricious God who does things randomly.

The donkey could have run away, but it didn’t; the lion, which was responsible for the
man’s death, could have scampered away after the job was done, but it didn’t,
leaving us an inkling of the cause and effect of this particular tragedy.

All things seem to happen to us randomly every day, leaving no trace for us to reveal their
meaning. Should we just act as if they are meaningless, since they are clueless,
or should we make a conscious effort to search for the lion and donkey behind
each incident?

I didn’t have a good day yesterday, why?

“As your days, so shall your strength be.” We read in Deuteronomy. 

I guess I can easily locate the donkey and lion behind my not
having a good day: I didn’t spend my day bringing glory to God in all I did and
thought; that’s why I was having a bad day. My day was mis-focused and misled
and before I knew it, I was having a depressing day.

“Your life seems to be more abundant than mine,” I said to my
wife during our meal.

“How so?” Kathy was a little puzzled.

“Well, you have spent your entire day working and you ended your
day having great fellowship with your book club sisters.”

I wish I was more like my wife, whose life is focused and
well-defined, quite contrary to mine, which is more of a go-with-the-flow type
of thing. I can’t really blame anybody if I am not having a good day. It’s
really not all that hard to find the donkey and lion in what has occurred in
our daily life. We just don’t bother to find them, period. 

 

    

Thursday, July 18, 2013 7:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Lie 

MTS-3540

A Lie

“I too am a prophet, as you are.”

            1 Kings 13:18

 

The old prophet wasn’t much of a prophet, but he called himself a prophet. Certainly he
wasn’t a prophet equal to the man of God both in depth of spirituality and
divine revelation. He was inspired to become someone he wasn’t, and would probably
have done anything to achieve his goal.

“I too am a prophet, as you are,” he said to the man of God.

What kind of a prophet was he? He couldn’t have been one with integrity, for he lied to the
man of God, even though he was well aware of that fact, and by inviting the man
to his house he would entice the man to violate God’s command.

Satan is the father of all liars.

The old prophet claimed that the Lord had revealed his will to him concerning the man
of God, which was a blatant lie since the Lord had never done so. He knew it
was a lie and still uttered it with a straight face. I suppose he had already
worked it out in his mind and must have found a perfect justification for his
action and a lie had somehow become less than a lie to him.

When is a lie really not a lie to us?

“If God is love, why do some people try to keep me from dating and loving somebody?” a guy
who frequented our church a few times once asked me. He seemed to believe that
romantic love should override all things and cover up all wrongs and it should
not matter even if it violates God’s attribute of holiness. 

Movies after movies are made to glorify adulterous relationships and to give them
legitimacy, which has never existed before in human history. It’s perfectly
acceptable, beautiful even, to sacrifice all things in the name of romantic
love. Well, this is a lie, yet many lives are ruined as a result of taking this
as an eternal truth.

Truly duty, honor, and responsibility are just as important, if not more so, as erotic love
between men and women, yet many of us seem to believe all those virtues can be
sacrificed on the altar of Venus.

“I have never felt like this before.”

“I finally know what love is.”

“Well, I have finally found my soul-mate, and I will never give her up.”

Lies, and more lies.

Indeed we can find justifications for our lies with very little effort. We just believe
what we want to believe, caring very little about the truthfulness of it.      

How in the world did the old prophet find justification for his lie? Easy enough. He
merely told himself that he wanted to learn some spiritual truth from the man
of God, or he wanted to build a relationship with the godly man to forge his own
spiritual growth. Weren’t those perfect reasons to entice the man to his house?

What we consider good may not be so good from a divine point of view, for we often deem what’s
expedient good, yet the Lord may believe otherwise. When we consider something
to be true, it’s wise to look at its opposite also.

  

 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 7:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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