Put to Death 

~~MTS-4521
Put to Death
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”  Col. 3:5
     We are very much alive, so how do we put to death our earthly nature? This is rather difficult, isn’t it?
    Or perhaps you have never experienced this before. We don’t really know how powerful the current of our bodily desire is until we start to resist it. Swimming against the current is always hard and, if we cease to fight against the flow, we will instantly be carried away by the wave.
    To submit to the power of our flesh is a lot easier than to fight against it, yet the end result of our surrendering is bondage. We may be flowing down the river happily for a season or two, but ultimately the current will plunge us down to the cliff, and suck us down to eternal perdition.
    Fighting against “immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” takes no convincing at all, for deep inside we know it’s the right thing to do; yet succumbing to it needs a lot of persuasion and justification from us, because moral issues are by nature unjust if they need justification at all. We are usually wrong if we need to convince ourselves that we are right.
    “Is this roast duck fresh?” I asked the owner of a local Chinese grocery store.
    “Yes, it’s fresh,” he replied, without looking directly at me. I knew he was lying to me, for I was fooled previously by him about two weeks before.
    “Are you sure?” I persisted. “Well, yes…” he murmured something as he was walking away. By this time, I was fully convinced he was lying, because he didn’t even try to defend himself. This is rather obvious, isn’t it? How can anyone defend what’s indefensible?
    If all those moral failures will endanger us and ultimately bring us death, why don’t we fight against them as if they were our mortal enemies? Why befriend those who seek to destroy us?
    I guess instead of severing the illicit relationship or ceasing to do certain obvious immoral things, we seem to prefer to fight the losing battles by formulating some intricate argument to justify our actions. I can guarantee that this will never work, for moral law is akin to natural law and it can never be altered by our persuasion or cunning reasoning.
    The wisest and the most logical thing to do, it appears to me, is to put to death the things we consider morally wrong, and continue to get rid of them if they happen to resurrect again.
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 28, 2018 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Things Above 

~~MTS-4519
Things Above
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”         Col. 3:1

    It’s hard for flesh and blood to rise above themselves, for by nature we seem to only be concerned about earthly things, things that we come in contact with every moment of the day.
    How much time do we spend every day contemplating about things above? Not a whole lot at all - a few minutes at best when we pray or read the Bible during our so-called quiet time, if we observe it at all.
    Our minds and hearts are occupied by mundane things and the business of heaven is easily crowded out by earthly affairs. We do have jobs to do and children to feed, don’t we?
    Learning to transform earthly things into heavenly is the key to rise above ourselves and to set our minds on the things above. The secret lies in the inner power and strength that motivate us to do all things. All the things we do daily, in or out of the home, be they great or small, we should do them unto God’s glory.
    We may set short term and long term goals for ourselves, yet we should also realize that whatever we do daily has a short and long term impact as well. Therefore, instead of considering the immediate influences that our actions may generate, we should focus on their long term effects. Better yet, we should contemplate the eternal consequences of all our actions. It will make a great difference in our lives if we make it a habit to do so.
    Such is the habit of “storing treasure in heaven,” which is making a connection between time and eternity, between now and forever.
    I have been writing for close to twenty years, primarily for my own children’s edification, and my goal has always been unto God’s glory, intentionally keeping my audience rather small. This has been a spiritual exercise and discipline more than anything, and I seldom pay any attention to what sort of impact it has created on me. Yet only recently I have been amazed to find out I couldn’t care less how my works are received and whether they will be published. I guess after years of spiritual exercise, I am finally able to write for God’s glory, to a certain degree anyway.
    I have always started out by uttering a prayer when I write, yet I have yet to learn to end my composing of each article with praise. This is something I am determined to do. I believe this is a good exercise to “set your hearts on things above.”
    Indeed, contemplation of heavenly things doesn’t come natural for any of us; it takes daily spiritual exercise to make it so.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 23, 2018 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Appearance 

~~MTS-4518
Appearance
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship…”             Col. 2:23

    What was the original form of church worship? The little bit we know about it is mainly through speculation, and we have been trying our best to imitate what we consider the way the early Christians worshipped. We may get some of it right, but to duplicate it in its entirety is an impossibility.
    Why does it even matter anyway? There is no doubt that their worship must have included the elements of prayer, singing, homilies, and the Eucharist, and whatever beyond these is anyone’s guess.
    The inner spirit of worship is obviously far more important than the outward forms expressed during the process. Indeed, what’s more important than anything is we must worship in spirit and in truth.
    Whom we worship primarily determines the effectiveness and validity of our worship. No matter how sincere and devout we may appear to be, our worship will remain ineffective, an affront to the true God even, if we fail to worship according to the truth with our spirit within.
    Whether we have faith or not, and we may not fully aware of it, the way we lead our lives is a form of worship. The ones who don’t believe in the existence of any deity are actually self-worshippers. Someone must take the place of God, so why not we ourselves? Why, then, are we even amazed by the fact that many atheists are rather arrogant and self-centered? People must place themselves under someone far greater than themselves to be truly humble.
    It’s rather prideful for people to create a set of regulations and rules by which to govern themselves, isn’t it? By the same token, if there is no deity in the universe, meaning must be self-created and self-generated; therefore, to lead a meaningful life is a training-on-the -job of sorts and it becomes necessary for atheists to justify their every move.
    “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship…” Isn’t this really so? The way people conduct their lives may appear to be wise, and their self-imposed “worship”, which is the lifestyle they choose to lead, may look rather plausible and pleasing, yet it’s merely an empty shell, signifying nothing but their wishful thinking and ignorance.
    Unless we go back to the origin of worship, not the form but the substance, I have no idea where we can turn to locate the essence and meaning of our lives. If Christian orthodoxy no longer exists, to whom shall we turn to sustain our lives and make living a worthy endeavor?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, August 22, 2018 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

These Rules 

~~MTS-4517
These Rules
“These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.”         Col. 2:22

    Rules are good, for they tell us the proper things to do and as long as we keep them we will have a sense of security. As far as our religions are concerned, we prefer to be rule keepers.
    Unless they are spelled out clearly in the Bible, all rules are formulated by people according to their understanding of the Scriptures or of other so-called inspired literature they happen to come across.
    How are we going to apply the rules and stipulations found in the Old Testament to the new dispensation? Certainly we are not observing all the rules governing the observance of the Sabbath, and we are not even sure about the proper way of keeping the Lord’s Day. Indeed, rules are made to be broken, if they are merely created by humans for their convenience or by their understanding of divine intention.
    Human rules are easily manipulated, abused, and, oftentimes, employed for selfish purposes.
    Surely rules are created to maintain order in society, for they are absolutely necessary and without them chaos would definitely ensure. People often complain about the government, yet they will find the difference out rather quickly if they even experience anarchy for a single day.
    Spiritual rules must be simplified, and can even be reduced to one simple rule, which is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength. In fact, this rule, to love the Lord and follow your heart, can be applied to all situations. If we indeed love the Lord with all our heart, the voice of our heart will direct our path without fail, and whatever we choose to do will be in accordance with God’s will.
    There was only one rule that governed Adam and Eve in the garden, wasn’t there? The rule wasn’t about what the first couple was to do, but what they were not to do. Adam and Eve might have done all the right things, yet all the things they did were moot because they violated just one rule.
    Perhaps our lives aren’t actually defined by what we do, but by what we fail to do. This is something worth pondering.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 21, 2018 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The World 

~~MTS-4516
The World
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules.”   Col. 2:20
    We are in the world, but not of the world. This is a rather basic concept, yet it’s very difficult to implement in our daily lives. We can hardly tell the difference between Christians and non-believers, and the only variant between the two seems to be church membership and nothing more.
    Do we still belong to the world? This is the question we don’t dare to ask, for the answer to this may not be that pretty.
    We have gone through the assembly line of worldliness just like all people in the world and the final product remains the same throughout. We look and smell the same as all the others in the world, and appear to be heading in a similar direction. Have we ever developed a Christian world-and-life view that is drastically different from worldly people?
    Our value system is engendered by our philosophy, which is our world-and-life view, and we remain the same as worldly people if our value system hasn’t been converted. Transformation of life is nothing but conversion of one’s value system, and by examining what we truly value we will quickly find out who we truly are. Where does our value system lie? Simple enough. Just take a look at our checkbook and it will become crystal clear.
    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” said the Lord Jesus. We are how we spend our money.
    I don’t usually have any desire to buy big ticket items, yet I do like to dine out often, and people may conclude my belly is my God, for I seem to be controlled by my bodily appetite. There may not be anything wrong in this, yet consider how much money I can save and give to starving children in Africa by not eating so much. What do I really value? My full belly or the bellies elsewhere in the world which constantly remain half-empty and the little ones who go to bed hungry. My value system is mainly constituted by what I have valued in life.
    “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules.”
    Who we are is whom we submit to in life and the basic rules to which we adhere, such as the way we manage our finances and the manner in which we perceive things. If we claim to have died to the world, it doesn’t make any sense if we still conduct our lives according to its philosophy and beliefs. Our inner selves have been renewed by the Holy Spirit and we should think and act differently from people of this world.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, August 20, 2018 8:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Reality 

~~MTS-4515
The Reality
“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”            Col. 2:17

    Things such as a new born baby surfacing from its mother’s womb, or the first smile on an infant’s face, or dew sparkling on a newly-mowed lawn, or the joyful singing of cardinals, or the dancing of finches with tiny red heads and yellow beaks, things such as these seem to evoke a kind of feeling which we can scarcely depict. From these ordinary occurrences we seem to be able to catch a glimpse of something otherworldly.
    The things that are real in this world may not be what we deem vital to our daily existence; they may be the ones we reckon entirely unnecessary.
    What’s tragic in life is that we appear to be controlled and dominated by our physical needs and most of our time is spent to meet those needs. Most of us have spent our entire youth preparing ourselves to make a living, and that’s not the end when we finally achieve the goal, for our living can always be improved and raised to yet another level. Our primary goal in life is to make a better living for us and our family.
    Are those things we do to sustain our physical lives mere shadows, or concrete realities? If they are only shadows, our entire life may be constituted merely by vanity and what we passionately pursue is nothing but shadows.
    This is not to say that doing what’s necessary to sustain our physical life is superfluous, for without them nothing can be attained. To live always comes first in life, but to live well isn’t necessarily the condition by which we can lead an abundant life. What’s vital for us to do in life should always be to strive to locate the real and the truly essential and to discard the vain and unnecessary.
    We are all into physical fitness, aren’t we? It’s appalling how much time and effort we spend on it, yet we neglect to get our spiritual selves into shape by reading the Bible and saying our daily prayers. It is totally logical to me, really, that we should put more effort into shaping the life that will last eternally than molding the one that lasts no more than eighty years on average.
    “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” What’s the reality in life? This cannot be any clearer: “the reality, however, is found in Christ.” The pursuit of knowing Christ is something real and vital for us, for the knowledge we possess about Christ and the things we have done in his service will follow us from time into eternity.
    This is indeed something worth pondering, and I pray by meditating on this it will bring a meaningful change in your life.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, August 15, 2018 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Drink 

~~MTS-4514
To Drink
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival…”              Col. 2:16

    I thought I had taken my last drink when I became ill after I took a drink in a restaurant when I was about twenty-three years old. Drinking had become a habit for me after spending three years in the military. I had just been discharged not long before and I seemed to have kept up the bad habit as a civilian. I didn’t think much about my drinking habit, for it wasn’t deemed as a bad thing at all in my circle of friends. It was just something all my friends did routinely.
    Then something rather unusual took place in my life during that time and drinking seemed to become quite unnatural and unacceptable. I started to go to church and church people in Taiwan appeared to consider drinking alcohol some sort of vice. I was new at the church and had no idea that I had a choice to make - which was to give up drinking.
    Before I had yet to make a decision to quit drinking, by God’s grace, the choice was made for me, and I took my becoming ill as a sign that I must become a teetotaler. I drank no wine from then on and remained so for the next forty years or so. I occasionally drank some non-alcoholic beer if I had any craving for wine. That was about all.
    Had I actually considered drinking wine something sinful? The issue really didn’t concern me, for I simply accepted the church culture and tried not to offend anyone by drinking. It wasn’t a necessity for me and whether to drink or not was rather inconsequential. I merely chose not to be offensive or a stumbling block to anyone.
    I have no inkling of the time frame when I picked up the habit of drinking again. Well, it can hardly be called a habit, for it has never been a daily thing for me. I suppose the church climate concerning alcohol consumption has loosened up a bit and I no longer feel condemned when I take a drink. Even so, I will not take a sip of wine in front of anyone who reckons drinking sinful or un-Christian. Drinking wine, it appears to me, is a morally-neutral kind of thing, and whether it’s beneficial or harmful is determined by how it’s handled by every individual, and by how they are motivated when they drink.
    It is something, however, to be avoided like the plague if anyone has any propensity toward alcoholic addiction or is a recovering addict. One must keep it in mind that all alcoholic addicts start out by taking a sip of wine or spirits. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 14, 2018 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Public Spectacle 

~~MTS-4513
Public Spectacle
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”          Col. 2:15

    It was a public display of victory commonly practiced in ancient Rome, celebrating victories won by the Roman soldiers. There was usually a parade on the street and, if the victory was great enough, an arch of triumph would have been erected as a memorial.
    “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The apostle Paul must have had this in mind when he spoke about the “public spectacle.” Shouldn’t we Christians conduct this kind of public spectacle as well, since we have won a great victory against our foe?
    Why do some of us often act dejected as if we have been defeated by our enemy? Didn’t the Lord triumph over his enemy by his death and resurrection?
    I was somewhat reluctant to do what was necessary when I found out a Chinese lady seemed to be possessed by demons. I wasn’t afraid by any means, for I am well aware of the fact that the Lord has overcome the power of darkness, and my job at hand was actually easy enough. It was going to be an opportunity for me to make a “public spectacle” of such a victory. 
    That was the thing I did. Twice.
    I had a distinct sense of oppression when I stepped into the apartment, which wasn’t all that unusual, for the lady had been contacting the evil spirits through various means for quite some time now. I presented the gospel to her and did what I considered the most crucial at the time, which was to encourage her to usher the Lord into her heart, so that she would be occupied by the Holy Spirit. She agreed to it and I led her to say a prayer of profession. In the meantime, I made an attempt to cast the demon out from her, if she was truly possessed. Things seemed to be going well afterward and she started to attend church worship services.
    Things took a turn for the worst after a couple of months, and this time she demonstrated every sign of being possessed by demons and I was called upon to deal with the issue. I guess what I did for her the previous time might not have been enough. The woman was still vexed by evil spirits. 
    I went back to her apartment for the second time and performed the ritual again, fully believing the Lord would come through for this poor woman who was really struggling with many issues, both physically and emotionally. Her relationship with her husband was on the brink of breaking.
    I haven’t heard from her since then, but I believe she will have turned the corner if she continued to trust the Lord and not make any contact with demons through any means. We must act victorious in our battle against the dark forces and make spectacles of Satan’s defeat.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, August 10, 2018 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Made Alive 

~~MTS-4512
Made Alive
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.”         Col. 2:13

    Being alive is able to see things in their essence, not merely their appearances. Indeed, what we see is who we are. This isn’t merely a cliché; what we see in things actually reveals what we are inside.
    I continued to see, yet I wasn’t really seeing, for I was actually blinded by the philosophy and custom of this world. And I was greatly puzzled by what I was beholding after I was converted. It was a new world that I had never encountered my entire life.
    It was during this time my personal resurrection took place. In a matter of weeks, I turned into an entirely different person with whom I was yet to get acquainted, and it would take years for me to readjust to my new identity. I guess that is what it meant to be “made alive with Christ.”
    I became truly alive for the very first time in my life, and started to lead the kind of life that was designed to be led.
    I am not speaking about something foreign at all, for such is the collective experience that most Christian have tasted at one point in their lives after their conversion. Whether we are aware of it or not on the conscious level, the so-called born again experience is absolutely essential. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” uttered the Lord Jesus.
    On the other hand, dead people have no idea that they are dead, for death means the unawareness of things. Unless people are exposed to the light, it’s natural for them to deem dense darkness normal and to become rather accustomed to it. Sea creatures obviously have no idea that they are wet.
    Does the newness in Christ ever wear out in our lives?
    It will never wear out or wax old if the newness continues to be renewed and revitalized. So much like a love relationship, which needs to grow for it to remain viable and enjoyable.
    Yes, we are alive in Christ, but being alive is merely a beginning, and the process of growing in Christ and into his likeness is what makes the Christian life so worthwhile, so exhilarating and breathtaking. Indeed, the Christian life is a thing of eternality; it is also an experience of moment by moment. Indeed, the best is yet to come, and what we will see in the future will be something we have never witnessed before.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 9, 2018 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Flesh 

~~MTS-4511
The Flesh
“Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ…”            Col. 2:11
 
    The key to this is to figure out how our flesh always functions over the years and develop a strategy to react against it. To believe in the Lord is to formulate a new habit of doing things so that we don’t always fall back to doing things the old way. This is a lot harder than we realize, for our flesh will not give up her absolute control over us. The Christian walk in essence is revolutionary in so many ways.
    For instance, there are certain sites on the internet we often visit without thinking, and within them we may encounter some things that are unsightly or unbecoming. So concerning this, are we going keep on following our instinct and succumb to the tyranny of our flesh or root out the ungodly ingrained in the fertile soil of our emotion?
    “When will this end?” we ask. This feels so much like an endless journey and there is still a long way to travel the moment we think we have finally arrived. No sooner do we overcome a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle in our spiritual struggle than yet another arises, far greater than the first, and our end turns out to be merely just a beginning.
    “Woe is me,” we often cry out. Will our struggle against our flesh ever end? We wonder.
    Yet there is just so much we can do with our bodies and they are such wonderful instruments which we can utilize to do so much good if they are willing to be obedient to our every command. Our flesh isn’t all bad after all. What’s important is to bring it into complete submission to the intent of the spirit.
    We can start out by cultivating good habits of the heart. If we exercise some godly things consistently, we will be surprised to find out we can actually be obedient to God’s will unaware. So much of leading a holy life is building up daily routines.
    One thing I have determined to do is to utter a word of praise every morning after I get up out of bed, and after doing thus for a while I can’t seem to do otherwise. It has become second nature for me to do so. Another thing is I always pray when I take a walk alone and this has become so natural that I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t do it.
    It’s a constant battle to bring our flesh to submission, which demands our daily attention, yet nothing is as rewarding as our spirit and flesh working in unison in serving and praising the Lord. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 9, 2018 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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