His Dwelling 

~~MTS-4232
His Dwelling
“I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever.”    
2 Ch. 7:16
     It was the Lord who chose the temple and he also consecrated it so that his name would be there forever. Of course, the temple had to be built first for the Lord to dwell there. It was through human effort the holy building was erected and then the Lord did his part after people did what they were moved to do.
    What must I do to get ready to welcome the Holy Spirit to come into his temple, my body, and make his residence within?
    Even though we have been predestined to be saved before the foundation of the world, it doesn’t mean that we can remain still and wait for something to happen. It’s always a corporative effort between man and the divine, and one must move before the other, or the two parties must move at the same time. Perhaps the Holy Spirit takes the action first and then we simply follow suit, yet since what he does remains invisible and our action visible, we often claim that we take the initial action of moving toward him.
    Does it really matter who starts the operation first? Even though we are fully aware that, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do absolutely nothing, yet we would like to claim that we make a conscious decision to call on Jesus’ name and to accept him into our hearts.
    What matters the most isn’t what transpired before we were saved; what’s really vital is how we get our body ready daily for the Holy Spirit to dwell. It never ceases to amaze me that the infinitely holy God is willing to stoop down so low as to inhabit a filthy cell in a human body.
    Surely, daily cleansing by the blood of Jesus is absolutely necessary in order to make a suitable residence for the Holy Spirit to dwell within our heart. Therefore, we must go before the throne of grace every morning to be cleansed and to usher in the Holy Spirit anew. Even though the Holy Spirit will never depart from us, we may have to continue to ask him to remain within our hearts by making him feel more welcome and by making his dwelling more comfortable and inviting.
    The daily cleansing by the blood of the Lamb includes repentance of our many sins and renewal of our resolution to follow Jesus. Besides this, we need to always take heed to the bidding and calling by the Holy Spirit and always be available to do what we are called to do. Only by doing all the above can we make the Holy Spirit feel truly treasured and welcomed. When he makes a residence within our lowly bodies, he intends to become the master, not merely a neglected guest, or even a servant.
  
      

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 29, 2016 7:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Eyes and Ears 

~~MTS-4231
Eyes and Ears
“Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”        2 Ch. 7:15
     I wrote a Chinese poem entitled “Three Strings” years ago, speaking about my three sons as if they were three tightly wound strings on a heart-shaped musical instrument, and they all made different tones when they were touched ever so slightly. The cords of my heart do create a loud sound when they are touched by any news concerning my children. I concluded the poem by asking a probing question: “How many children does God have?”
    I often lay awake at night worrying about my children and becoming particularly concerned if they are dealing with any important issues. I can’t imagine how our Heavenly Father can even get any rest at all with so many millions of children in the world, all demanding his attention.
    The Lord is never rushed and he doesn’t become concerned about anything. Surely there is no need for the Omniscient to be anxious over the future, for the future is always the present to him and the Omnipotent can bring all things to pass to his satisfaction. “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” This isn’t an empty promise at all and only the Almighty has the mighty might to make such promise.
    I meant to give my son a call this morning to check whether he was driving carefully back home after an overnight shift in Weatherford, about an hour’s drive from Dallas, yet I managed to keep myself from doing so, for fear of being an annoyance to him. Such are the trials and tribulations of being a dad whose heart cords are constantly fingered by his children.
    Our heavenly Father’s heart can never be disturbed no matter what happens to all his children, for being disturbed implies the loss of inner equilibrium, a loss of control even. His eyes will forever be on his children, yet he doesn’t blink when things seem to go wrong; and his ears will never ring at the drop of bad news. The Almighty will always have perfect composure, for he knows exactly what he will do under any given circumstance. 
    “Children will never fully know their parents’ hearts until they become ones themselves,” goes a Chinese saying. By the same token, we will never quite appreciate our heavenly Father’s heart toward his children until we become parents ourselves. If the Lord’s love for his earthly children is anything like my love for my children, being the father of all must be quite a burdensome thing, yet the Lord is and can never be burdened by earthly affairs.
    O how I wish that I could be more like the Lord in the way he loves, whose love for his children isn’t cumbered or tinted with anxiety. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 28, 2016 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Healing 

~~MTS-4230
Healing
“…then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”        2 Ch. 7:14
     The ones who went to the Lord Jesus and asked for healing might have gotten rather disappointed when they heard the Lord said to them “your sin has been forgiven.” It was understandable that they felt that way since they were seeking healing for their physical ailments, whatever they were; and yet what they received was spiritual healing, which they might or might not have realized that they even had the need.
    Of course, our physical illnesses are obviously closely related to our sin, since death entered into the world at the time when sin was ushered into the world through Adam’s disobedience. Therefore, our diseases and death are indirectly caused by our sins.
    Our spiritual healing should always take precedence over our physical recovery. Unfortunately, this isn’t what we witness in the world. Physical wellbeing is what we are concerned with the most and billions of dollars have been invested in finding cures for all sorts of diseases.
    “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” cried out Jim Valvano, former basketball coach of NC State who died of cancer at the peak of his career, urging people to not give up the fight against the deadly disease. Since then, a fund drive has been started in his name, raising millions of dollars for cancer research. Surely, no one will give up the fight for their lives if there is any hope at all. Yet, to be very honest, we all lose the fight ultimately. We don’t fight to become immortal; we merely want to prolong our life for a few more years, period.
    Why in the world don’t we devote more money and energy into fighting for our eternal destiny? Don’t we realize, compared to eternity, time on earth is but a drop in the bucket?  
    Being a spiritual physician, I haven’t always felt that I am all that wanted or welcomed by society, for people feel what I have to offer is superfluous at best. If people don’t have any inkling that they are seriously ill spiritually, there is absolutely no need for them to seek help from pastors. What makes it so hard for our profession is not only are we required to prescribe treatment, we also have to convince people that they are truly ill. In most cases, the latter is a more challenging task than the former.
    “I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” promised the Lord, as long as people turned to him in true remorse and repentance. Besides, instead of spending so much time caring for our bodies, shouldn’t we spend at least an equal amount of time caring for our souls?  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 27, 2016 6:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

If 

~~MTS-4229
If
 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…”         1 Ch. 7:14
     Humility always comes first, and then repentance follows. Apart from humility true repentance becomes impossible.
    Humility is a deep awareness that one is incapable of saving himself, therefore people ultimately trust in a power a lot higher than themselves. I guess this is what “man’s ending is God’s beginning” means. People only turn to God for help when the divine becomes their last option.
    Why seek the Lord’s face if we still have other viable options?
    Being humble isn’t really a onetime thing, yet humility doesn’t always have great staying power. Anyone can be humble for a short while when they encounter anything beyond their capability to overcome. But they tend to become their old salve when sticky issues are resolved to their liking.
    Humility is an attitude that people possess toward God and themselves. It’s how they perceive the Lord and themselves that determines whether they are truly humble or not. I doubt seriously atheists can be truly humble, for since there is no higher power, they themselves become the center of the universe.
    The realization of God being infinitely great and we being infinitely small is something that causes us to become humble. We can’t help but bow down to the ground when we stand before the awesome God, can we? Feeling immensely grateful toward the Lord often follows after we have any encounter with him. Why? Because we always come to realize how unworthy we are and how utterly undeserving we are to receive any attention or grace from the Almighty. No wonder the prophet Isaiah cried out “Woe is me” when he saw the vision of the Lord in the holy temple. How can anyone still have a sense of entitlement when they meet the Lord face to face?
    We should be overjoyed that we are not scorched after we have encountered the Lord, who is a burning flame and consuming fire.
    What the preaching of a cheap gospel and the propagation of the prosperity message does is to give us a sense of entitlement, and develop a false sense of security, thinking that the Lord is beholden to us, and all things will be well, because God is all loving and all caring. I am afraid some people are in for a great surprise, for they will soon discover that reality simply doesn’t jell with this kind of thinking at all.
    “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…”
    This verse provides us with a time-tested formula, revealing the way to be reconciled to the Lord. It always starts with a radical change of mindset, transforming from arrogance and self-righteousness to self-disdain and humility, and then “turn from their wicked ways,” which is true repentance. There is just no other way provided for us to get right with God. Surely, “humility is endless.”   
  
  
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 26, 2016 9:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

After 

~~MTS-4228
After
“On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people to their homes, joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done…”      2 Ch. 7:10
     How very thrilling it must have been for the Israelites to have taken part in the celebration and dedication of the holy temple and to witness the glory of the Lord coming down from heaven and covering the entire temple. It must have been quite a letdown for the festivities to be over, for they had to go back to their separate homes and continue the daily grind and their lives of monotony. O how they wished the celebration would never come to an end and they could continue to live in such an amazing emotional high.
    Surely what has gone up eventually must come down. We can certainly climb up and touch the heavens on Jacob’s ladder, but we won’t be able to remain there, and the Lord might have considered it rather strange that Peter suggested that they build three structures so that they could forever remain on the mountain.
    It was definitely very enticing for Peter and the others to remain there where the air was crystal clear and there were no voracious beasts seeking to devour them or Roman soldiers threatening to butcher them. It was almost a heaven on earth and they could certainly make a sweet home out of it.
    Yet after a brief epiphany, almost an out-of-body experience even, they had to come down to the world to meet all the challenges, dangers, and even death head on. All the rituals, celebrations, and festival meals were over, and awaiting their weary bodies and exhausted souls were long journeys through the desert and the dullness of laboring for a living when they finally arrived at their hometown. 
    O how they must have wished life was an endless celebration and they could remain in the holy temple forever and ever!
    Surely all of them had to leave all the holiday festivities behind, yet that didn’t mean they had to quit celebrating God’s grace and mercy. Of course, they didn’t even have to leave the presence of God behind after they departed from the temple, for God’s presence was everywhere. Life was indeed worth celebrating if the divine presence was present wherever they were.
    People often find themselves dissatisfied with their local church’s services and activities after they return from retreats or revivals of any sort, for after they have had a mountain top experience, life in the valley where ordinary things happen and where they rub shoulders with the hoi polloi seems rather unbearable.
    Such is the world we are called to live and life in the valley is still worth celebrating if we are able to witness the glory of God even in the dark places. It’s also our calling to come down to the earth from the mountains to lift her up from the pit of ashes.     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 25, 2016 7:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Overflowing 

~~MTS-4227
Overflowing
“…because the bronze altar he had made could not hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat portions.”         2 Ch. 7:7
    Our coffers will certainly be overflowing with God’s abundance if we overflow his altar with our sacrifices and offerings. This just sounds so simple and matter-of-fact, doesn’t it? Of course, some of us just can’t muster enough courage to venture out into the deep and to see if the Lord will do his part as long as we do ours. This is understandable, for what we offer to God is concrete and real, and what the Lord would do to reward us for our offerings can only be conjured up in our imagination by faith.
    The bottom line is: do we offer to God our sacrifices in order to get tangible rewards from him?
    In the old days, it might have been a great honor and privilege for a small country to pay tribute to a great nation in order to be sheltered by her or to be included in her great empire. In fact, the great nation might not have any need and the tribute she received was extremely meager considering how immense her resources were. The ones who paid the tribute should have been thrilled that they were granted the privilege to contribute and to become a part of a great nation.
    Our opportunity to pay tribute to the almighty God is in itself a great reward, and we shouldn’t be asking for anything in return. It’s rather presumptuous for us to assume that the Lord owes us anything after we make a small offering or donation toward his kingdom on earth. This is what it means when the Lord Jesus said: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Our sacrifices and offerings to God should always be made disinterestedly and devoid of any expectation of getting anything in return. “Joyful givers” are the ones who give merely for the sake of giving, and there is nothing beyond that. The joy we receive in the act of giving is quite enough and anything we get beyond that is a bonus.
    This is not to say that the Lord will not do his part by meeting all our needs if we give our tithe and offerings faithfully. From my personal experience in the past, not only does he provide for us according to my needs, he often gives to us what we want as well.
    Offering to the Lord in a tangible way is the ultimate expression that we give to show our profound gratitude toward the Lord. It’s also a heartfelt recognition that all we ever possess, including our physical health and talent by which we make a living, is bestowed on us from the Lord, and apart from his grace and mercy, we would have absolutely nothing.
    Looking from this perspective, making sacrifices and offerings to the Lord is indeed the most reasonable and the wisest thing to do.      
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 22, 2016 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Worship 

~~MTS-4226
Worship
“The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the Lord’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord…” 2 Ch. 7:5
     The temple was meant to become a place of prayer and worship and all the ones who were assigned to serve there were facilitators whose duties were to bring people closer to God by using whatever means they could employ. Of course, musical instruments were essential when the worship service was conducted. Music lifted up people’s spirit toward God and ushered God’s spirit down from heaven to his people.
    In most cases, unbelievers who frequent the church worship service aren’t usually moved by the preaching, for it’s directed more to people’s minds, yet they are often moved by music and hymns during the service, because those things speak more to the heart.
    Our faith is rational, yet it’s beyond rationality; it’s reasonable, but it’s not bound by human reason. Indeed, we can approach the Lord through both mind and heart, reason and emotion, and worship him accordingly.
    It is more of a falling-in-love kind of thing when reason seems to be suspended for a short while, and when it finally catches up with emotion, reason doesn’t seem to have the audacity to raise any objection against what the heart has done. Most people are ruled more by their hearts than their heads, really, and more often than not, the Lord seems to choose to speak to his children through warm emotion rather than cold reason.
    Therefore, music becomes utterly necessary in our worship services, for through it the Spirit speaks to us. God is love, and love can easily be felt yet is difficult to be comprehended. God is mysterious, because love is mysterious. Consequently, we often choose to proclaim the glory of God more through singing than anything else, for compared to singing praises to God, other means seem to pale quite a bit. David was not called a man after God’s own heart without reason. Being a poet and a musician, the king’s heart seemed to be more in tune with God’s heart than most of us. Love is truly a heart to heart thing.
    We can’t hardly imagine what Christian worship would become if music and singing were taken away. I am often amazed that some high churches appear to hold onto their music during their worship services, even though the word of God is no longer proclaimed. Indeed, music may actually be the last line of our defense against Satan’s assault against our spirituality. Our hearts can continue to sing praises to God even if we lose our heads.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 21, 2016 7:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Dedication 

~~MTS-4225
Dedication
“So the king and all the people dedicated the temple of God.”
           2 Ch. 7:5
     The holy temple was finally finished and dedicated to the Lord and, from then on, the Israelites would have a place to go to meet the Lord. The Lord who was invisible to them had suddenly become more concrete and tangible, and the holy temple seemed to appear before them whenever they tried to bring God’s presence into their lives. Finally, the Lord who dwelt in heaven had gotten an earthly address, and he became more accessible to his worshippers.
    Some people who lived far away might have to travel hundreds of miles on their annual pilgrimage to meet the Lord in Jerusalem, which might have demanded a lot of them, both spiritually and physically. The ones who had less means might never get to make the trip at all. Even though the Lord had been brought down to earth, he seemed to have remained rather inaccessible to many.
    The incarnation of the Lord Jesus has made a great difference. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again I three days,” said the Lord Jesus. The temple of the Lord was ruined, yet there is really no need to rebuild, for God’s temples are present all over the world.
    “It will be nice, but I really don’t have a burning desire to make the journey to Israel,” I told my wife, who seems to want to travel to the Holy Land if she has a chance.
    Why make the long journey to meet the Lord if I can just turn inward and meet the Lord who dwells within my heart. Of course, there is one important condition, however. I need to dedicate myself to God and make my body the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Unless I do so, the Lord’s presence may be absent when I try to visit him.
    Making sacrifices to the Lord is one of the ways to dedicate the temple of our bodies to the Lord. Indeed, the ultimate sacrifice has been made, which was the body of our Lord Jesus; therefore there is absolutely no need for us to offer another blood sacrifice to make a propitiation for our sins before God, but we must present to the Lord another kind of sacrifice, which is the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
    Giving thanks to the Lord is the first thing that I do in the morning and the last at night, and it’s also something that I do throughout the day. That is the way that I dedicate the temple of my body to the Lord.
    Even though the temple has been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, it has to be kept clean and holy by our clean living and daily upkeep. How can we expect the Holy Spirit to dwell in a filthy and unkempt place? Besides this, the daily gifts that we must offer to him are what I just mentioned- our sacrifices of thanksgiving. These are the two things that we should do to make sure that Holy Spirit feels at home living within our hearts.   
  
    
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 20, 2016 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fire 

~~MTS-4224
Fire
“When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices…”    2 Ch. 7:1
     Grandma never gets tired of listening to the articles she wrote years ago read to her, and never fails to utter to Kathy who does the reading over the phone: “Aren’t they good!” “Of course they are!” my wife always responds.
    The frequent interactions between mother and daughter over the phone always make me jealous. Being an author myself, I would very much like to have my writings read to me. As a matter of fact, I enjoy immensely reading my own works repeatedly, and the more I read, the better they seem become.
    I guess most writers are narcissists who consider their own works superior to any others. “Men of letter have been looking down on one another since ancient times(文人相輕, 自古皆然).” We are all quite familiar with this ancient Chinese saying and deem it a tried and true statement.  Indeed, composing is for the most part an act of self-expression and a demonstration of self-love. If this is so, writing is probably more harmful to my spiritual growth than anything else and the more I write, the more self-absorbed and self-intoxicated I will become.
    Shall I quit writing once and for all?
    If I quit writing, what sacrifices and offerings can I present to the Lord every day? If I believe my life to be a “living sacrifice” presented to God, my writings in any forms should be the sacrifices and offerings that I place on the altar to be consumed by fire. I will have nothing to offer to God except my words and writing, for that’s mostly what I do all day.
    Making sacrifices to the Lord is a process, not an end itself, very much akin to a living for Jesus kind of thing. It’s an ongoing thing, and we should put it out of our minds after the act is done. Making sacrifices to the Lord should always be in the present or present progressive tense.
    It means that I should quit looking at the ashes left on the altar, imagining how splendid the sight was as it was being eaten up by fire after the sacrifices were scorched. I should also stop checking my e-mail to see if there were any positive responses after the writings have been consumed. All these are indications of my self-absorption and self-infatuation which is the antithesis of true spiritual sacrifice-making.
    This is going to be an ongoing struggle that most of God’s servants will always experience when they present their sacrifices on the altar to God. The tension between moods of self-congratulatory and self-forgetfulness will always be present when we serve the Lord, and the way we handle it will determine whether our offerings will be accepted or not. The Lord has never been in the business of sharing glory and honor with others.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 19, 2016 7:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

When and How 

~~MTS-4223
When and How
“Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”         2 Ch. 6:40
     It seems to me humanly impossible for the Lord to be attentive to all the prayers offered to him from all over the world at the same time. Even if he does, how does he process all the pleas of all sorts, and determine how to respond to them? I can’t help wondering when I am on my knees how many millions of people all over the world are doing exactly the same thing as I am doing. Their requests may be a lot more urgent than mine; therefore my prayers might just be on the backburner. Of course all this is vain human speculation which may not have anything to do with reality.
    What we consider real down below may just be imaginative in heaven above; and what’s solid up there may be deemed stupidity here on earth. Prayer ultimately is an act of faith which cannot be penetrated through human reason. Whatever and whenever we utter a prayer, we believe the Lord has an ample amount of time to listen and to process it according to his sovereign will.
    The script has already been written before the play is acted on stage, and the director of the human drama is never caught by surprise. Every line and conversation are accounted for and all issues have already been satisfactorily resolved.
    The Director has never been hurried or coerced into any sort of rushed action; he is completely in control concerning things great or small.
    If the Lord’s time frame is always the present, he is never under any time constraint at all, and he will always meet the deadline imposed by the ones who live in time and space.
    It’s not a matter of time whether our prayer will be granted according to our wishes or not; what really matters is the Lord’s intention concerning the matter. Therefore, what we should labor to do is to pray according to God’s will and not to occupy ourselves by vain speculation concerning the logistics of how the Lord conducts his business. When the Lord wills it, it will be accomplished instantly.
    We seem to have been wasting our time by figuring out cunning ways to force the Lord into a box so that he will have no option but to answer our prayers according to our wishes. Isn’t this exactly the thing that I am doing right now? Instead of getting on my knees and praying, I am just wasting time speculating on the meaning of prayer, and how in the world the Lord can work all things since all his children seem to be needing him at the same time.
    Ultimately, it’s my pleasure and responsibility to pray, and it’s the Lord’s business to figure the issues of when and how. All we need to know is Christ is able, which is quite enough.     
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 18, 2016 7:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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