Fullness 

~~MTS-4508
Fullness
“ … and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”           Col. 2:10

    I guess I have grown to be too old to dream any dreams and, if there is still a dream left to dream at all, what will it be? I often wonder.
    There were plenty of excuses to be made in my youth if my life was full of holes, yet by this time I seem to have run out of pretexts to make to apologize for the incompletion and imperfection of my life. There is really very little I can do to fill up the holes in my life if they have not been filled already.
    Many people whom I admire a great deal had already passed away at about my age, Lewis and Eliot included; why should I be any different? And what I have achieved up to this point pales so much compared to what the aforementioned people had done. Indeed, my life has been rather incomplete, and there is just so little time left to make up the difference.
    What else can I still do to make my life fuller as I am rapidly approaching my retirement age? I am wondering.
    I was surprised to see that there was gap of one month before I posted my devotional. How did it happen? I was greatly puzzled, for it had never happened before. There was only one constant in the previous fifteen years or so that I seldom failed to post my daily devotionals. Am I quitting? I ask. Will my life even be complete without me “writing through” the entire Bible?
    One thing that I am pretty sure of at this point in time is that I may not have sufficient time to finish what I have started and, if this turns out to be the case, will my life still be fulfilled?
    The apostle Paul might have been convicted that he should end his earthly ministry in Spain, yet there is no definite answer whether he made it there or not. If this particular wish wasn’t fulfilled, was his life fully fulfilled just the same?
    Whether we are fulfilled or not, a person’s life shouldn’t be determined by what we do but by who we are. We can only be completed “in Christ” really, for “in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Therefore, my main focus should always be on whether I am in Christ or not, not on what I can do to bring about my fulfilment as a person.
    Will I be able to finish the mission the Lord called me to do years ago? This is the question I am wrestling with constantly, and it seems to become increasingly difficult to compose, yet I will continue to dwell in him, and what I may produce in writing will be the direct result of my relationship with Christ, and my fullness as a person will ultimately be the fullness in him. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 31, 2018 8:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Bodily Form 

~~MTS-4507
Bodily Form
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,”       Col. 2:9

    What we see in Christ does make the greatest difference in our lives. There is absolutely no doubt when I consider the life of Christ and how he was radically different from all of us. What else could he be except what he claimed to be - the Son of God?
    “We really have no other option,” I said to a visiting researcher who was seriously thinking about believing in Jesus. Unfortunately, her time is running out, for she will be going home in a couple of weeks. It’s really a now or never kind of thing, humanly speaking.
    “Either Jesus was what he claimed to be or he was the greatest imposter in human history,” I continued. “If he turns out to be genuine, we really have no other choice but to follow him.”
    The lady became teary a few times during our lengthy conversation after church, and every time it happened I looked away. I have always had trouble dealing with women’s tears. The Holy Spirit evidently was knocking at the door of her heart, yet she wasn’t about to open it.
    “I am a Party member and it will surely make things very complicated after I return to China,” she said with a sigh. The issues she will be encountering are unavoidable if she does decide to put her trust in Christ. I had no idea what to tell her to do at this juncture and the conversation ended without her making any definite decision.
    I prayed afterward that the Holy Spirit would reveal to her who Jesus really is, for unless she has a glimpse of Jesus’ deity, making a choice to follow the Lord would become almost impossible.
    “What can the lady do?” I ask. The persecution she will be facing in the future is far too real to her if she believes and gets baptized, and she won’t be able to overcome the fear unless the appearance becomes absolutely real and transparent in her eyes. There is very little I can do at this moment but to continue to pray for her.
    “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Isn’t this the key thing for anyone to know to follow Christ? Yet isn’t this too much to ask someone to do who only recently heard about Christ? Isn’t this something we sometimes have difficulty believing, even though we have known the Lord for so many long years?
    I was actually tempted to apply a little pressure on her to utter a profession of faith, yet I thought better of it, for the timing might not have been right, and it really isn’t my job to take on the task that rightly belongs to the Holy Spirit.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 30, 2018 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Deception 

~~MTS-4506
Deception
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition…”     Col. 2:8

    There is just so much self-deception going on in the composing process that I can no longer write with a clear conscience. Is there still anything left worth speaking that I haven’t already spoken before, I ask myself.
    “Lord, isn’t this enough? I have written so much and anything more is mere superfluous,” I uttered to the Lord as I was walking to Starbucks this morning. I have never ceased speaking and anything I say will be repetition of my utter ignorance.
    Then a thought came into my mind that does make a lot of sense, and it seemed to be a perfect response to my puzzling question: “The sacrificial lamb placed on the altar seemed to have remained the same year after year, and the offering the Israelites offered the Lord appeared to lack severely originality.”
    It’s my arrogance and pride that stand in the way of my moving forward in this meager enterprise, really, for I have always wanted to impress the Lord with what I have to offer - something original and new.
    Indeed, “there is no new thing under the sun,” and all things beautiful are mere duplicates of something that graced the earth before. The creation of the world, performed by the Almighty, is the only original act, and we are merely copying what has been done before.
    Is there anything new to know about the difference between good and evil? Not at all, yet it seemed to be such an enticement that Eve and Adam could hardly resist. The evil one has been doing it from the very beginning and those who follow hard after him are doing exactly the same thing, which amounts to nothing but fantasy and human deception.
    “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition…” We must heed Paul’s warning and be very vigilant, guarding ourselves from straying away from the eternal truth uttered from the mouth of God and recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
    Therefore, I will continue to observe the seasonal rituals by offering to the Lord the same sacrifices of lambs and goats, figs and grapes, and all that my meager talent can ever afford. Offering to the Lord a small coin is far better than not to offer at all, for it is not out of his need the Lord demands us to give, it’s rather out of his love for us that he even allows us to offer to him our paltry gifts.
    How many varieties of our gifts of thanksgivings can there be, I ask myself. Not all that many, really.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 26, 2018 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

rooted and Build 

~~MTS-4505
Rooted and Build
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him…”             Col. 2:6
    To live our lives is to have our lives decentralized and dislocated, when we are no longer the masters of our souls anymore, and our beings are uprooted, dislocated, and placed elsewhere.
    This is a revolutionary change, isn’t it?
    I have never been much of a thoughtful or a calculating person before I was converted to Christianity, and I primarily led my life by instinct, and often took the route of the least resistance. That was just me as a pagan.
   Did coming to the Lord make any meaningful change in my life? Surely it must have. Yet the Lord seems to have been working with me more on the level of feeling and emotion than the rational. The Master knew quite well how best to get things done in me and steered my life toward the right and desirable direction.
    Eventually, I had to learn to root my life on the Word of God and continue to build upon the solid foundation of the eternal truth. My emotions and powerful feelings were rather unreliable and was leading me nowhere. Upon this shaky foundation nothing could have been built.
    What’s more challenging than anything else is not to blindly follow my emotions and feelings and do what comes natural to me, but to will myself to do what’s right and true, which has proven to be much more daunting that I had ever imagined. I have found myself wanting to follow my emotions more than anything else as far as my decision making is concerned. Consequently, my spiritual growth has been rather stagnant and painfully slow. Our lives must first be rooted in Christ and his holy Word before we expect it to grow.
    I was quite ill before I followed my reason to seek medical help, even though my feelings and emotions continued to wage war against my better judgment. The truth of my health condition couldn’t have been altered no matter how hard I tried to fool myself. My feelings were leading me nowhere and unless I started to do the right thing, things would have become worse and worse until they became irredeemable.
    I suppose that was what the Lord was trying to teach us when he told the parable about erecting our house on the solid foundation of the rock. For sure the reason behind my lack of spiritual progress lies squarely on my insistence of doing thing based on my feelings, and resistance to do things according to the unchanging truth.
    At my age, I am not so sure that there is still sufficient time for me to make a drastic transformation concerning the issue at hand. If not, what choice is still available except to continue to trust the Lord and believe his grace is adequate for me, despite my innate character flaws.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 25, 2018 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Present with You 

~~MTS-4504
Present with you
“…I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”             Col. 2:5

    The Apostle was always on the move and never stayed in one place for a very long time, yet he seemed to be rather “omnipresent” as far as his spirit was concerned. No matter where he was, his constant care and thoughts were for God’s church everywhere, and his parish appeared to cover the entirety of Asia Minor and the far corner of Europe. After a church had been planted through his tireless labor, his heart would never depart from there ever though he might have left the church physically. He truly loved God’s church and his affection for God’s people was undeniable.
    Paul appeared to have possessed a pastoral heart that I have found wanting in myself throughout the years. In fact, I am actually rather ashamed to be called “pastor.” I am no shepherd to the flock in the small congregation I have been pastoring for the past twenty-five years. One thing that puzzles me a great deal has always been why in the world God hasn’t removed me from the position.
    As a matter of fact, I am about to remove myself from the post. Well, the Lord is removing me in a couple of months to be more exact. Yet twenty-five years is simply far too long to be wasted on my own negligence and lack of motivation. There hasn’t been a single day during this period that I ever felt that I was doing my job to the best of my ability. I have been serving more like a hired man than a faithful servant of God.
    Indeed, Paul’s every word only serves as a reminder of how short I have fallen as a minister of the gospel and how unfaithful I have been. There is no more opportunity to redeem myself since I will be retiring, and what has been composed by my own hand will never be erased. The ship has already sailed.
    “I will soon be a retired pastor, but I will never tell when I am asked,” I said to my wife.
    “What will you tell people, then,” she became curious.
    “Well, I will just tell people that I used to teach a little, write a little, and preach a little. That’s all.” Surely my life can be summed up perfectly with this word, just a little bit. I have led my life on such a small scale that there will be nothing to show when I appear before the throne. I am merely a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and it doesn’t amount to anything at all.
    The only comfort that I will still have, ultimately, is the Lord Jesus and his precious blood, and his amazing grace that says all my deficiencies and shortcomings, all my imperfection and my sins, have all been forgotten and forgiven. Isn’t this quite enough?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 24, 2018 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fine-sounding Argument  

~~MTS-4503
Fine-sounding Argument
“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”
                                         Col. 2:4

    Making small talk has never been my kind of thing and it bores me rather quickly. One thing that I enjoy doing the most even in casual conversation is to develop some sort of argument. I am by no means argumentative; what I like to do is to engage in meaningful dialog.
    Besides some practical functions, words should always be employed to explore meaning. Surely meaningless chatter is merely a waste of time, for it achieves no purpose except to occupy space and crowd out important things from our minds.
    Meaningful conversations don’t just happen; they must be created intentionally. If we just go with the flow, our dialog will inevitably go toward the direction of least resistance, which is composed mostly of mindless talk.
    We must turn to Christ for the meaning of all things, since in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Life is not a journey to search for a final destination and a sort of on-the-job training in which we make out the meaning of things as we travel; it’s rather a passage toward a goal that has already been predetermined. We aren’t seeking for an undetermined destination; we are merely journeying toward home.
    Haven’t we all done the same thing before in our formative years when we were so idealistic and life seemed to be full of promises and we were so optimistic that we could easily carve a path that led to eternity? How many fine-sounding arguments have we formulated thus far and will continue to do so until the end? I ask.
    Indeed, I have experienced them all: I have sat in the hallowed halls of a university, listening to great lectures delivered by renowned scholars and famous poets, and they might all be finely-crafted and well-argued, yet in essence they were bellowed out, full of wind, for they consisted of only knowledge generated by human invention, and there was absolutely nothing left if investigated from eternity’s perspective. They were merely words void of meaning. Yes, I have attempted to create meaning of things with poetic diction and ended trashing them all, for they embarrassed the poet himself at the second reading, and further revisions became impossible, because upon the fancy structures of words no solid foundation was found. Indeed, the emperor had no clothes.
    It frightens me toward the end of my earthly ministry that the Lord seems to be handing back to me my long forsaken self and I find myself seeking meaning and exploring reality with words, and I seem to be experiencing a sense of aimless wandering, rather similar to what I have experienced before.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 19, 2018 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Mystery 

~~MTS-4502
Mystery
“…in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”          Col. 2:2

    To know Christ is to know God himself, which in and of itself is a mystery beyond measure. What a thrilling experience to know and to experience the reality of “Christ in me”, yet this is something often taken for granted, as if it were merely a commonplace kind of thing.
    What we know about Christ, compared to what we ought to know about him, will be an eternity’s endeavor for us to gain, and the process will be endless. What’s euphoric about this is the more we come to know him, the more we will love him. Indeed, when knowledge about him increases, love will increase as well.
    Even so, we will become so much wiser in worldly affairs if we seek to know Christ more deeply every day, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
    We are all eager to become worldly wise and may be striving to gain new knowledge to keep up with the rapid pace of progress the world is making, yet “all neglect monuments of unageing intellect.”
    Come to think of it, the college I attended wasn’t even accredited by the Taiwanese government, yet Bible was a vital part of the core classes students had to take. Therefore, this fact alone might have made the student body of the college the wisest among all the students on the island. I might not have been overly impressed by the academics while I was there, yet I am grateful that the school at the least did one thing right, which made the study of God’s Word am absolute requirement.
    There is one thing that I have learned through the reading of the Scriptures, which is an important lesson of humility. We can’t help but to become utterly humble when we have an encounter with an infinite God, and we have no choice but to bow down to him in worship and adoration. Indeed, Eliot was exactly right when he uttered in his poem “humility is endless.”
    There is no other way to become truly wise except through the study and meditation of God’s Word, and the older I get, the better I know this to be true. All the knowledge that I have gained in the process of acquiring an education doesn’t seem to do me any good in times of crisis, and it will vanish with the vanquishing of my physical body; yet spiritual knowledge that I gained through God’s word will still remain, and it will remain until eternity.
    Our spiritual wisdom and knowledge of the almighty God is the only bridge that will bridge the gap between the vast chasm of time and eternity. 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 17, 2018 7:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Contend 

~~MTS-4501
To Contend
“I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.”      Col. 2:1

    After I had decided to retire from church ministry that has lasted close to twenty-five years, I suddenly came to realize that I didn’t change a bit as a person. I remain who and what I was and will be. The things I have been doing to serve the Lord, and to earn a living at the same time, do not define me as a person in any way. Even though I will lose my job as a minister of the gospel, I will nonetheless continue to keep my identity as a servant of God.
    I won’t be preaching every Sunday anymore, so it will be strange for me to be sitting in a pew, listening to spiritual nourishment from other people. I have no idea how I will handle such a thing, since I have never been a good listener. Strange to say, listening is a far more daunting task for me than speaking. Yet it’s an important lesson I will have to learn.
    “Will you continue to help if we cannot find a pastor in due time?” someone asked.
    “Most likely not,” I replied. I guess it will take further self-scrutiny to find out the real reason behind my decision. I am sure my not wanting to continue to speak from the pulpit might be caused by the lack of positive response or feedback from the pews over the years. “It’s rather vindictive, really,” I said to my wife, feeling a little uneasy. Perhaps I was hoping the church would finally come to her senses and start to realize how much they have lost in my leaving. Isn’t my decision to retire a form of revenge, a sort of protest against whatever was opposing me within the church, real or imagined?
    If this is truly reality, I may have to reevaluate my position.
    “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” Have I given up “contending for” the congregation I have come to know and love for so many years? Indeed, people have taken the news of my impending departure with resignation, indifference, sadness, or other sorts of emotion, yet the fact still remains: the decision I made feels so much like desertion, as if I have given up the fight for the Lord, and for the people whom I was serving.
    Even so, what will take place is inevitable, for I have often thought no one in God’s church is indispensable or irreplaceable. My position will soon be replaced by someone far more capable and I will quickly be forgotten. What really matters to me is that I remain to be what I was and will be - a servant of God. My office title may be stripped away, yet my servanthood still remains. We should never be defined by our job titles; we are what we have been called to be.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 16, 2018 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fully Mature 

~~MTS-4500
Fully Mature
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  Col. 1:28

    This is as mature as I am going to be, since at my advanced age, I will probably not be doing a lot of growing.
    I have already reached my ceiling, haven’t I? I have never been all that ambitious as far as my career and academic pursuits. Of course, I seem to have reached my limits on both. I am quickly approaching my retirement and have pretty much quit reading books. Old age is rather depressing in general, and I seem to spend most of my days musing about superfluous things and becoming anxious about the inevitable.
    This isn’t maturity at all; it’s digression if anything. If aging is this boring and monotonous, I have no idea what eternity is going to be like. Indeed, longevity is what we crave, yet there was a one hundred and four-year-old Austrian scientist, evidently tired of being old, who flew to Switzerland not long ago to end his life legally. If this life becomes intolerable, there is at least a way out; yet there is no such choice in eternity. Isn’t annihilation a far better option than having eternal life?
    Life simply becomes unbearable and void of joy if we cease to grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus. I think this is the issue I am encountering. What makes life exciting and exhilarating is the fact that we are still growing into something and we continue to have something to look forward to in the future. What do elderly people have remaining in their lives to be looked forward to except the end of their earthly journey? Indeed, life is not worth living if growing isn’t a part of it.
    I suppose that’s what makes retirement so very depressing. Indeed, there are a lot of retirees nowadays who do nothing everyday but stare blankly at the TV screen between their waking and sleeping. They seem to spend a lot of time waiting, yet having no earthly idea what they are expecting.
    Did the Apostle Paul ever complain about being old and having nothing to do? What’s amazing is he seemed to be busily doing something while he was sitting in a damp and dark dungeon, waiting to be executed. In the last letter he wrote to Timothy he was reminding his spiritual son to bring the parchment to him so that he could continue to study and to grow into full maturity in Christ Jesus. He wrote: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”
    If I cease to grow into the full maturity in Christ here on earth, will I still find it exciting to grow spiritually after I enter into eternity?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 13, 2018 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Christ in You 

~~
MTS-4499

Christ in You

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

    The people we think about constantly are the ones who dwell within our hearts. They are the most beloved of our lives and apart from them our lives will be void of excitement and joy.

    We can count them on our fingers for the number within the inner circle is rather small, and we feel pain when one happens to be missing. What makes life so much more joyful and meaningful are the few loved ones and friends by whom we are always surrounded.

    We can’t help but keep on counting the days before the red letter day when we will be reunited with our loved ones or the how long before our husbands or wives return from their business trips or vacation. Indeed, we all have a few special people whom we consider persons closest to our hearts.

    I suppose by this time you should know the point I am driving toward. How often during a given day does the thought of Christ enter into your mind? Are you keenly aware of his presence when you are busily engaged in various activities at home or in the office? This will not occur if Christ is not your beloved or and he is not in you.

    This is, according to Paul, “the riches of this mystery, which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Isn’t this the time to ponder on this important truth and, if this isn’t the reality in your life, should you do something about it?

    When my parents were growing older, I used to dread getting phone calls from them, for there was always a chance that I would hear some bad news. Sad to say, my love for them had long turned into obligation and they seemed to have turned into some sort of liability. The reason why I am saying this is it appeared that my love for them was waxing cold and there wasn’t much joy when they happened to come into my mind. This is obviously one of my greatest regrets concerning the way I treated my parents, and the same result may occur if I treat the Lord the same way. Our relationship with the Lord should always be based on mercy, not law, so there is always affection and joy when we think about the Lord, not what he requires from us. Therefore, “Christ in us” will become a thing of beauty and joy, not a sense of obligation and bondage.

    There is always joy and loveliness when we think about the ones we dearly love, why does it have to be different when the thought of the Lord surfaces in our minds?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 12, 2018 8:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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