Sent by God 

MTS-3334

Sent by God

Paul, an apostle —sent not from men nor
by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father…”                 Galatians 1:1

 

Paul had a very strong sense of mission even before he was converted. He must have felt he
was called to do something great. Indeed he was groomed to be the leader of
Israel, one of the members of the Sanhedrim, the ruling council of the nation.

He also had a sense of entitlement since he was born into a prominent family and his father
somehow had obtained his Roman citizenship, which was a hot commodity. The
education he had received as a young man was first rate and his teacher of the
law was none other than Gamaliel, the master teacher.

Why was the man so zealous for the law of Israel? Surely he wasn’t seeking fame and fortune
by observing and promulgating the law. The man must have honestly believed it
was the Lord who had called him to do what he was doing, and he would never
have changed the course of his life unless God revealed to him otherwise.

That is exactly what happened. We are very familiar with what transpired in the man’s
life when was travelling on a desert road leading to Damascus.

The young Saul’s mission before his conversion was a misled one, but at least he had a
sense of mission while most of his peers might have been hotly hunting for fame
and fortune.

The man was admirable not because he was pursuing a lofty course; we admire him, for he at
least had a course, be it right or wrong. His ideal might have been wrong, but
unlike most people, he was at least idealistic, which was something we might
not be able to claim for ourselves. Most of us are realists and pragmatists

My intention was to major in either Chinese literature or English literature in college and the thought of
making a living had never entered my mind. I might have chosen to do that out
of necessity, since I have dyscalculia and there was no other goal in choosing
the particular study than the fact that it was the only thing I could do. I
wasn’t idealistic even though I would like to think so. Mere survival was quite
difficult for me and I simply could not afford to entertain any other
unrealistic ideals.

Life would have been quite meaningless had Christ not found me and given me a sense of direction. I have
remained poor for the majority of my days, but being poverty-stricken didn’t
seem to deter me from answering to a higher calling and seeking to fulfill the
mission from above.

Do I have a sense of mission in life? This is a vital question that we must all answer. On his way to
Damascus the Lord got hold of the apostle Paul and replaced his misguided ideal
with a righteous one. I pray the Lord will do the same thing for you.     

Friday, August 31, 2012 6:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sacrifice 

MTS-3333

Sacrifice

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

             2 Sam 24:24

 

Araunah, the owner of the threshing floor and the oxen, was willing to give these
possessions to the king for free, so that the king could make his sacrifice to
the Lord. But David declined his offer by replying: “I will not sacrifice to
the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Do the sacrifices we make to God cost anything at all? I guess we need to know what
kind of sacrifices the Lord demands from us. We obviously don’t make burnt
offerings to the Lord anymore, but that does not mean that we no longer make
any sacrifice to the Almighty.

Paul taught us in the book of Romans that we must present our bodies to the Lord as living
sacrifices. Does making a living sacrifice cost us anything?

I can’t imagine any other sort of life than the life that I have been leading for the
last thirty seven years and will continue to lead until the day I die. Being a
Christian is more of a lifestyle than anything else. How can I change my
lifestyle if I can’t alter the core of my being?

“I am a squirrel,” a young girl who was staying with us said to me with a straight
face.

“No you are not. You are a human,” I replied.

“No, I am a squirrel. Don’t I look like a squirrel?” she insisted.

As you can imagine, the conversation wasn’t going anywhere. People who think that way
should never be taken seriously. They have no earthly idea what being a
squirrel is really like or how costly it would be for a human to change into a
squirrel.

Becoming a Christian is no joking matter, however, and making a daily sacrifice does cost
us something. I am not speaking about the worldly pleasure that we must forsake
in order to follow the Lord and to live for Christ as a living sacrifice; it is
the giving up of the ownership of our life to which I am referring.

How costly is it? It costs us nothing and everything. We merely return to the Lord what he
has given to us. No life is more joyful and exciting than a life of receiving
and giving. It seems costly, yet it costs us nothing; it seems demanding, yet
its only demand is for us to surrender.

“Does the loss of freedom bother you at all?” some may ask, thinking that Christians are
not free to do certain things, to be more exact, not free to sin.

“It’s just the opposite. The truth has set me free and I feel truly liberated.” This will
be my response.

I am almost feeling guilty for not paying more for what I have received from the Lord. I
guess the cost has been paid by Christ so that I get to enjoy the gift of
salvation for free. To tell you the truth, making a daily living sacrifice to
the Lord is quite enjoyable.    

 

 

 

Thursday, August 30, 2012 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sin and Punishment 

MTS-3332

Sin and Punishment

“I have sinned; I, the shepherd,have
done wrong.”

           2 Sam 24:17

 

The commoners in Israel were just minding their own business of tending their farms and
raising their families. Their daily concerns were their crops and the wellbeing
of their families, and what the king was up to was the farthest thing from
their minds. Their greatest desire was for the government officials to stay far
away from them and not to bother them with heavy taxation of their hard-earned
harvest and conscription of their beloved sons.

Why were they even punished because of the king’s decision to number his fighting men? What
had they done to warrant the calamity that fell upon their heads? Seventy
thousand of them perished as a result of David ill-conceived action.

Was it possible that the plague took place and they traced the cause back to what the
king did? If that was truly the case, David was still guilty since the Lord had
spoken through the prophet.

Countless numbers of people have died through various plagues in human history. Who was to blame?
Can we trace the catastrophe to one particular person’s sin? Were the rats and
fleas brought to the European continent from overseas through trading the
culprits that brought death to one-third of the population of Europe or were
there certain people who were responsible for the utter devastation?

The Lord only knows.

There is always collateral damage with sin. Adam sinned and all his children in the
following generations perished with him. Humanly speaking, it’s the utmost
injustice, isn’t it? It was thousands of years before we took our first breath
when Adam took his bite of the forbidden fruit, yet our breathing would be
severed entirely because of it.

That’s something theologians coin in
their study: “the imputation of Adam’s sin.” I don’t even try to understand
what it really means. Somebody else sinned and, consequently, I am punished. Indeed
“the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.”

   
Here I am treading on a dangerous ground, because I am starting an
argument against the Potter who has formed me and has given me the ability to
think and to reason. Obviously there are perfect reasons for all human affairs
to transpire as they do and, ultimately, all things will be resolved and united
under the headship of Christ. Faith must speak when human reason hits a snag.
At least, this is what I have learned after years of juggling with issues
concerning conflicts between human and divine reasoning, the tug of war between
the finite and the infinite. The struggle will not end unless we submit to the
lordship of Christ and wait on him patiently, for our grumbling eventually will
thrust us into utter darkness.  

Therefore I prefer to ponder on the collateral blessings of Christ’s death on the cross.
Surely, I wasn’t there when Adam sinned; by the same token, I wasn’t there when
Christ submitted his body to be crucified. 
             

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 5:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Options 

MTS-3331

Options

“I am giving you three options. Choose
one of them for me to carry out against you.”               2 Sam 24:11

 

The Lord revealed to David through Gad the seer the punishment that was going to be
exacted as a result of David’s sin of numbering his fighting men. Why were
there even options given, we wonder.

The Lord is sovereign over all, therefore he doesn’t consult with people pertaining to what
he intends to do. Which was David supposed to choose among the three options,
since they were equally bad?

There were options given nonetheless.

We do make choices all the time, and every choice we make does create a ripple effect. One
thing leads to another and, we can probably trace an effect to a certain choice
we made years ago.

Is there room for freewill?

Obviously David chose to number his fighting men on his own, which appeared to be quite
innocent. But the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. David, however,
chose to do what was displeasing to the Lord out of his own volition and was punished.

Did the king know that such action was an insult to God? He wouldn’t have done it had he
known the seriousness of it.

David chose to take such an action not entirely unprovoked; there were various factors that
led to the final decision. David’s freewill was bound by his sin, therefore it
wasn’t really free.

Yet the Lord asked him to choose from the three options.

Was there a tinge of selfishness in David’s choice?

“Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do
not let me fall into human hands.” This was David’s reasoning before he made a
choice.

“Three days of plague in your land.” This does not seem to be a good option, it appears.
Seventy thousand Israelites died as a result. Many people’s lives might have
been spared had he chosen to be pursued by his enemies for three months.

It was a selfish choice, even though David made it sound so spiritual. Plague and war
are equally bad, yet unlike plague that kills people randomly, wars take peoples’
lives a lot more selectively.

We will always choose the option that is more advantageous to us if there is a choice
to be made. We do have freewill, but it’s gravely contaminated by our
selfishness and sin. David’s choice in this context was no exception and people
suffered greatly because of his choice.

The Lord was gracious enough to provide David with options, which produced seventy thousand
dead. David made his choice and people died. What a sorry affair!

  

 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

conscience 

MTS-3330

Conscience

“David was conscience-stricken after he
had counted the fighting men…”

              2 Sam 24:10

 

It been several months since David ordered Joab to carry out what he intended to do. The
Lord must have spoken to him through his conscience and the king was convicted.

“What have I done?” he asked himself.

The Lord had been with him every step of the way in his journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem
and from being a lowly shepherd to a king over a nation, yet at the end of the
long and treacherous journey, the man was making an attempt to take
credit for all things the Lord had done in his life. By counting his fighting
men the king was obviously focusing on what his men could do for him, not on
how the Lord could perform his mighty acts in his life, as he had done before.

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you
now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Paul exhorted the Galatian
Christians.

I was beginning to feel a little more comfortable about my
preaching before the Lord convicted me that I still had a long way to go as far
as proclaiming the word of God was concerned. Natural talent will always fall
short in the area of preaching. It was about thirty seven years ago when I
delivered my first sermon to a handful of people in a fishing village. I think
I did a pretty good job, even though I had no idea what I was doing. It was
about a year removed since I had become a true believer and my zeal for the
Lord was leaps and bound over my Biblical knowledge. Yet it didn’t seem to make
a lot of difference.

I will become a much better preacher if I learn to rely on the
Lord more. “It’s more like catching a wave when we learn to surf,” I told
Kathy. “The wave of the Holy Spirit,” I added. Of course I was speaking about
preaching. Beware if you start counting how many people you have saved through
your ministry.

All the sins David had committed in his life, including his
adultery and murder, paled compared to the sin of numbering his fighting men.
How so? You may ask.

The sins of adultery and murder were indeed very heinous, but
they were still carnal in nature. By numbering his fighting men David appeared
to have committed a spiritual sin, in which a human was competing against the Divine
for dominance. There was no need for David to continue to rely on the Lord if
he could depend on himself, therefore rendering the Lord superfluous and
expendable in his life.    

Indeed that was a great affront to the Lord.

We ought to be more careful not to feel too comfortable about
ourselves. We may have built up some human strength after years of
laboring, or have accumulated some wealth through our ingenuity, which may give
us a false sense of security, but we should never ever consider our strength or
wealth adequate for anything unless the Lord lends us his helping hand.

Instead of numbering his
fighting men, David should have spent his old age counting God’s gracious acts
one by one, which is something we ought to do every day.    

Monday, August 27, 2012 5:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Numbering 

MTS-3329

Numbering

“But why does my lord the king want to
do such a thing?”

                2 Sam 24:3

 

Thanks to my wife’s consistent efforts, we finally paid off our credit card debt a few
months ago and I was starting to feel pretty good about our financial
situation. Without having to pay a big chunk toward our credit card debt every
month, I thought we wouldn’t have to pinch every penny anymore like we used to.
In fact, I began to count the money that Kathy and I would be generating in the
coming days and feel pretty secure about our future.

We were poor compared to a lot of people, but being poor didn’t mean we were always in want.
Actually, the Lord had been providing for our needs and we were able to raise
our three boys. By counting the money that I was going to be making in the
future I seemed to have forgotten it was the Lord who was providing for me in
the past. You may be a little confused by this, but the logic is quite clear to
me.

I had lived by faith, at least with respect to finances, for I wasn’t able to provide for
all our needs through human means or efforts in years past; but now I suddenly
felt that I no longer needed to lead a life of faith since I was going to earn
enough to meet all our necessities and more. Nothing is farther from the truth.
A life of faith is absolutely required no matter how capable we are or how much
money we make.

David must have been feeling pretty good about himself at the time since all his enemies
were kept at bay and the country was in good shape, so he was starting to lose
sight that it was the Lord who had brought him to that point of ease and
security. Numbering all the fighting men he could utilize seemed to indicate
that he was relying on his own strength, forgetting what the Lord had done for
him in the past.

Even Joab, who wasn’t particularly spiritual, was against the idea.

Did the king really believe from then on he could wage wars on his own and win battles on
his own strength? It was by God’s grace he became who and what he was; yet he
seemed to be determined to finish his earthly mission by his own strength. It
was obviously an affront to the Lord and we know what the consequence was.

Just when I was feeling good about our financial situation, our AC unit started to leak and
everything in our old house seemed to break at the same time. There was a leak
in our basement and the aging pipes appeared to either break or to get stuck,
allowing no cold water to come out in our bathroom faucet. After all was said
and done, we found ourselves in debt again, which might not be a bad thing
after all, for we were reminded once again that our financial security and everything
else should be totally grounded on nothing else but the Lord’s mercy and grace.
    

 

Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Anger 

MTS-3328

Anger

“Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them…”           2 Sam 24:1

 

It sounds like the Lord was trying to find an excuse to punish the Israelites because he
was angry for some reason, and therefore he incited David to do something that
was displeasing to him, eventually resulting in the entire nation suffering the
negative effects of the king’s ill-advised action. This logic doesn’t really
add up, does it? It seems to create an impression that the Lord is a capricious
God who becomes angry for no particular reason and is constantly trying to find
a reason to bring misfortune to his people.

How can anybody put their trust in this kind of deity?

Maybe we should look at this incident from a different angle and certainly we will come
up with a different verdict. The reason for God’s wrath wasn’t stated in the
context, but we know there must be good reasons for the Lord to become angry
with his people. The Lord is a just God and it’s against his nature to do
anything otherwise. A righteous God simply cannot to anything unrighteous and a
holy God is absolutely incapable of doing anything unholy. Therefore, all
things the Lord chooses to do are both just and holy.

There is no point for us to look into the reasons behind the Lord’s anger against his
people, for we know there must have been good causes. The Israelites, being
unrighteous and unholy like all human beings, simply couldn’t help but do evil
things to provoke God’s anger, and any punishments they might have received
from above were never undeserved or unwarranted. They deserved much worse than
what they were going to receive from the hands of the Lord.

David should have been the one who was afflicted by the Lord, for he did what was an affront
to God, yet seventy thousand people died as a consequence and David himself
appeared to come out of this unscathed. Wasn’t this the utmost injustice?

The Lord was in fact targeting the entire nation of Israel, for they must have committed
some sins collectively. What exactly did they do to warrant such atrocity? I
don’t have many clues.

   
It’s a good idea to curb our curiosity concerning this, since the Lord
does not do anything without a perfectly good rationale behind it and,
ultimately, his intention is always for our benefit. This is obviously not very
convincing, since seventy thousand people died before God’s anger was appeased.
Indeed many of them have died prematurely and didn’t get to live a full life on
earth, but all of them would have died anyway. Billions of people have died by
various causes in human history, some mild and others violent; are we going to
hold our Creator accountable? There must be a good reason behind all deaths
that have taken place and will continue to take place if we look beyond the
boundary of earthly time and space.   

 

 

   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Undeserving 

MTS-3327

Undeserving

“But he refused to drink it; instead, he
poured it out before the Lord.”

             2 Sam 23:16

 

David should have drunk the water with gratitude, for the three warriors had risked their
lives fetching it for him. But the king refused to drink it because, all of a
sudden, he felt so undeserving and unworthy to drink the precious water. He was
merely a man and it was never his intention to demand such loyalty from his
subjects.

No one deserves such loyalty except God, David must have thought. Had he drunk the water, he
would have usurped the position of the Almighty among his people. He did the
right thing by not drinking it and poured the water out instead before the
Lord, as if he were offering the holy water to God.

I always have a sense of unworthiness, embarrassment even, when someone says something good
about me or what I do. If I serve the Lord with the spiritual gifts he has
bestowed on me, then the honor and praise generated by a job well done should
all go to the Giver, not to the one who has performed the task.

I fear for some popular preachers and tele-evangelists who often bathe in limelight and
seem to accept all the cheers and applause without the slightest reluctance, as
if they themselves deserved every bit of the honor. I guess there is nothing
left for them in heaven, since they have received all their rewards here on
earth.  

David couldn’t have helped but develop a sense of entitlement after he assumed the kingship of
Israel, yet he had learned to keep it in check for the most part. He was
constantly reminded that he still had feet of clay. Had he not done the
checking on his own volition, the Lord would have allowed some suffering to do
the job for him, making him feel lowly and humble.

 What tribulation and pain do to people is to strip layer after layer away from them until there is nothing left but the core
of their beings, which is only a thin layer of dust. We know what happened to King
Nebuchadnezzar when he perceived himself to be the greatest on earth. The Lord
quickly brought him down to the lowest, revealing to him that he was nothing
but a beast unless he lifted the Lord up by glorying him in all he did.

David would have been poisoned had he drunk the water.

He would have been poisoned by arrogance and conceit, perceiving himself to be what he really
wasn’t. There is such a grave danger when humans perceive themselves to be
divine and allow people to treat them as such.  

We all know how vehemently Paul and Barnabas reacted when the people of Lystra were trying
to worship them as gods. It was an anathema to them, wasn’t it?    

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Water 

MTS-3326

Water

“So the three mighty warriors broke
through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of
Bethlehem and carried it back to David.”

              2 Sam 23:16

 

This wasn’t the king’s idea for sure; the three warriors decided on their own to break through
the lines of the Philistines and to draw some water from Bethlehem for David.
Was it a foolish thing to do? Indeed it was. David wasn’t thirsty at the time;
he was just yearning for the water from his hometown. Being young and
impulsive, the three warriors decided to risk their lives drawing water for
David behind enemy lines, which was extremely dangerous.

We can tell by this incident that David was very much beloved by his people, who were
willing to sacrifice their lives for him. Their blind loyalty was admirable; it
was, however, an ill-advised action. Had the king known what they were going to
do, he would have kept them from taking such an action.

I suppose one must be a little reckless in order to become a warrior. A calculative person
would never have done such a thing. Risking one’s life for a cup of cold water?
Sheer foolishness.

They must have found something in David that was so admirable and loveable that it
demanded them to be willing to make the utmost sacrifice. Their action must
have been motivated by their love and respect for the king.

They must have known death was a distinctive possibility by entering the enemies’
territory, but they seemed to have done the thing with their eyes wide open.
All things considered, they believed the risk was well worth it.

They found their calling in serving the king, and although it might have been foolish for
them to do that to win the king’s approval, they still managed to win some
praise from the king, which was their greatest reward. It brought great joy to
the king’s heart, knowing he commanded such great love and respect.

Are we willing to sacrifice our life to bring a cup of cold water to the least of our brothers
or sisters?

There is no danger in doing so in most cases, but we sometimes are reluctant to do just
that. It may be a kind of stooping for us, for we may perceive ourselves as
masters, not servants. What the Lord Jesus did in washing his disciples’ feet
was to show his followers how to become a servant and how to stoop when
stooping became necessary. Serving others always involves a certain sense of
self-denial.

What the three warriors did was an action of utmost self-denial, which is something we
are called to do, be it to bring a cup of cold water to our brothers, or to lay
down our life on the altar to be burnt as a sacrifice.      

 

Monday, August 20, 2012 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Shammah 

MTS-3325

Shammah

“But Shammah took his stand in the
middle of the field.”

              2 Sam 23:12

 

The Philistines were banding together in a field full of lentils and the Israelite
troops fled from them, but there Shammah, son of Agee, took his stand in the
middle of the field, defending his homeland and the Lord gave him a great
victory against the enemies.

Shammah, one of David’s mighty warriors, refused to give in to his fear when he encountered great
danger, while most Israelites were running for their lives. The urge to follow
all the others must have been quite irresistible; Shammah, however, didn’t
succumb to the temptation. He was the last one in the line of defense, and the
line of resistance would surely have collapsed had he left the field.

Do we have the courage to take a stand while most people are withdrawing?

The sea of faith has withdrawn; so has sound ethics and morality. In the midst of moral
chaos, with the boundaries between right and wrong increasingly vague, are we
going to follow the masses who seem to tolerate all wrongs and mock the ones
who believe otherwise?

A meaningful conversation with the X generation has become almost impossible. Not only is
there “generation gap” between us, which is hard to bridge, there is also a moral
gap that causes us to drift farther and farther apart. How can I have a
dialogue with the young people in the post modern era if I am constantly being accused
by them of being intolerant and bigotry?

I often find myself tiptoeing when I speak to my children’s friends, for fear of saying
something offensive.

Am I tempted to run away from my moral convictions and inch closer to moral ambiguity, which
a lot of people, including Christians, appear to be doing?

“Here I stand. I can do no other,” proclaimed Luther at the Diet of Worms, defending
his strong convictions derived from the Bible, refusing to budge even an inch,
even it meant his imprisonment and death. The battle lines had been drawn and there
was no retreat for the reformer, for he simply couldn’t compromise the eternal
truth found in the Scriptures.

Had Shammah given up and escaped, the hope of an entire nation would have been destroyed.
The Philistines were indeed threatening and he put his life on the line by
holding his ground, yet it brought no small comfort to the warrior’s heart,
knowing that he was on God’s side and what he was doing was God’s work.

If there is a God, where do we turn except to the way of God? If there is no God, we can turn
all ways, and they will all be right and wrong at the same time, which doesn’t
make the slightest difference either way. 

 

       

 

Friday, August 17, 2012 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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