Zeal 

MTS-3121

Zeal

“…and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.”

             II Co 9:2

 

     “Preaching to ten is a lot more difficult than speaking to a hundred,” I said to Kathy.

     “How so?” she asked.

     “There is no buzz created from the pews with only ten people in the congregation and I have to generate my own energy, which is quite laborious,” I replied.

     A fire will not last long if we don’t continue adding more logs to it. The fire at our English worship service seems to be fading quickly and, unless we recruit more people to participate, I am afraid the service will dissolve.

     There have been visitors to our ten o’clock service over the years, but none of them seemed to stick. We tried to be friendly to them and invited them to come back, but the result has been less than satisfactory.

     We all have a group mentality and we are very much impacted by the disposition of a group. This is indeed a Catch 22 situation, for we are too small to draw people to us, yet we will not grow bigger unless we attract more people to our church; therefore we continue to struggle.

     Zeal for the Lord is contagious. It’s not necessarily taught, it is caught. There must be some people within the church who are on fire for God in order for the fire to pass on to the rest of the people. Revival within the church almost always starts with one person.

     Am I that one person?

     Perhaps we need to be praying for that one particular person to surface in our English worship service. 

     “Am I that person? Lord.”  Instead of waiting and looking around, we may have to focus on ourselves and ask this probing question: Why am I not on fire for the Lord?

     I might have shown my discouragement about the church through the words I have spoken or my body language over the years, which might have been the major reason for people lacking enthusiasm toward our little service. No matter how many people are sitting in the pews, I need to be on fire for the Lord just the same.

     According to Philip Yancy, Dr. Paul Brand, a missionary doctor to India, often delivered sermons fit for Westminster Abbey to a small group of people who were afflicted with leprosy. The insignificance and smallness of the crowd didn’t dampen his zeal for the Lord in any way. We have a great deal to learn from this man who devoted his entire life caring for Indian lepers, who obviously generated his spiritual energy from the Lord while he was preaching to a very small crowd.                         

Friday, September 30, 2011 6:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Doing Right 

MTS-3120

Doing Right

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the
eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.”         II Co 8:21

 

     Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, for our inclination is to do what’s the most
natural to us, which isn’t always right. As a matter of fact, what’s natural is
most likely wrong. Our instinct is self-protection and self preservation, and
our actions motivated by it are, for the most part, selfish and self-serving.

     Doing the right thing is akin to swimming against a strong current or sailing against the wind. It takes great effort and
constant vigilance, but the reward is great if we succeed in doing so.
Happiness is to be what we are meant to be, not what we desire to be.

     Doing what’s right in the eyes of man is relatively easier than doing right in the eyes of
God, for we seem to fear the former more than the latter. Besides, we tend to
want to impress men more than God. Moreover, the consequences of doing wrong
before man are instant and being offensive to God doesn’t seem to have any
ill-effects on us. Some people seem to be doing just fine even if they ignore
God their entire life.

     Doing right in the eyes of God doesn’t seem to earn for us universal approval. In fact, it may cause people to mock us and
consider us outlandish and foolish.

     Are the Amish people doing the right thing in the eyes of God by being who they are and by
observing the lifestyle they are called to keep? People obviously consider them
peculiar; otherwise, their villages would never have become tourist
attractions. I am inclined to believe that they are probably doing the right
thing, for what they are practicing is against our nature, which is our flesh
and blood that drives us to sin. At least they have the courage to do what’s
right in the eyes of God, albeit their interpretation of God’s revelation may
be quite different from ours.

     Our primary task is to do what’s right in the eyes of God and be willing to suffer the consequence
of men’s mockery and disapproval. It’s quite rare that we can earn praises from
both God and men. There is only one Mother Teresa who was universally lauded,
but there are thousands of others who are just as dedicated and committed to
serving the Lord by helping the poor and the needy as the Catholic sister, but
they all remain unknown unto men their entire life.

     Doing the right thing is a divine calling, which is as natural as flowers blooming in
season and birds singing in spring, for that’s what they are created to be and
to do. We would be appalled if someday the grass were to turns red and roses were
to become black, yet that’s exactly who we are if we choose to do what merely
pleases our own sinful flesh, ignoring what our Creator has in mind for us to
do.

        

          

Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Willingness 

MTS-3119

Willingness

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable
according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”      II Co 8:12

 

     Evidently it’seasier to give to the Lord or toward the needy according to what we don’t have
than according to what we have. We may have an intention to do good, but actually
doing it is an entirely different thing. It’s only imaginative if we intend to
do something but lack the means to do it. It makes us feel good because we can
at least claim that we intend to give to charity, but simply are not able to do
it at the moment.

     Willingnesshas to be there for us to do any good work, but mere willingness isn’t enough.
There should always be action following after our good intentions; otherwise
doing good merely resides within our imagination, which brings no fruition.

     We will soon have paid off our debt and then we will be able to give more toward helping the
poor and the needy. This is just an idea that comes out occasionally and we do
have the intention to do it, but we may become reluctant to do it when the time
comes, for that will be the time when the rubber meets the road. It will not be
imaginative any more; it will become reality.

     Dealing with reality is always more difficult than handling something merely in the realm of
imagination. We can fancy this and that, but when reality strikes, we often
swoon.

     “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” the Lord Jesus said the disciples. The Lord was
simply telling the disciples that instead of thinking about what they would do
in the future, they should be focusing on the thing at hand, which was to put
their love for the Lord into immediate and concrete action. Mary took hold of
one precious opportunity and did what she considered the most urgent and most
precious. Meanwhile, the disciples were still dreaming what they would do to
help the poor in the distant future.

     Serving and loving the Lord is always in the present tense, for all the things that we plan
to do to serve the Lord in the future are uncertain and unpredictable. No one
can be one hundred percent sure that he or she will have another tomorrow;
therefore now is the time to turn our willingness into reality.

     The disciples might have deemed Mary impulsive when she broke a jar of perfume and poured it
onto the Lord’s feet, yet it was really a calculative move on Mary’s part. She
knew her opportunity of doing something extraordinary to show her affection for
Jesus was quickly slipping away and she swiftly did what she intended to do
while she still could.

     What the woman did was a beautiful thing, which the disciples could have done, yet didn’t, for
one reason or another.      

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Finish 

MTS-3118

Finish

“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”     II Co 8:11

 

     I did it once, but have forgotten whether I kept my promise or not. It’s likely that I did not. I had every intention to keep my pledge to the church, but I probably did not have enough income to cover what I had promised to give toward a certain church mission project. I regret having done that. I should have thought more about it before I made the pledge. The “faith promise” was probably quite small, but my income was a lot smaller. I was only a college student then. I was passionate toward God’s work, but did not finish what I had intended to do for lack of resources. I made a pledge beyond my means, which wasn’t a wise thing to do.

     My eager willingness didn’t match by my completion of it.

     It’s our emotions that do the talking when we are moved to do something in the initial stage, but our reason will cool us down if we give it a chance. Decisions based purely on emotion are usually not long-lasting, so we must let a cooler head join in concerning our decision making. Our reason isn’t as fleeting and unreliable as our emotions.

     We are called to give within our means, yet we are free to give beyond our means. We tithe according to our income, but we can certainly give ninety percent of our monthly stipend if we are able. But we should not pledge to donate ninety percent of our salary without careful calculation and deliberation.

     “Now finish the work,” Paul urged the Corinthian Christians. It was all good when they made the pledge to give certain sum of money in helping the Christians in Jerusalem. But it must have been a while since then and they didn’t seem to be making any move in carrying out their promise. Paul felt it was necessary for him to remind the Corinthians. It might have been a little awkward for Paul to do so at the time, but it was nonetheless essential. The matter was urgent.

     The promise had been made and what was left to do was for the Corinthian Christians to pony up and get it done. They were not rich by any means, but their situation was a lot better off than people in Jerusalem. Their promise would have easily been met had everyone in the church given according to their means.

     Our eagerness to do good work always comes upon us first, but the rest of it is hard work, which takes a strong will to please the Lord and a persistent effort to get the job done. Emotional strength can only carry us to a certain point, but going the distance demands our sweat and tears, blood and guts and, ultimately, it may demand our lives.       

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Grace of Giving 

MTS-3116

Grace of Giving

“…see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

            II Co 8:7

 

     Paul was commending the Corinthian Christians for their excellence in speech, knowledge, and love, but that wasn’t quite enough; he exhorted them to excel in the grace of giving as well. Of all the gifts Paul mentioned in this context, I guess the grace of giving is the most beneficial to needy people.

     It takes constant practice to master this grace. Very few people are born givers.

     There is a certain amount of my income that I have never considered mine and it’s relatively easy to give it up. In fact, I will feel extremely guilty if I touch the untouchable, for I am certainly not entitled to other people’s money - God’s money in this context. But anything beyond what belongs to the Lord I have a tendency to consider mine and mine alone, which is a grave mistake on my part.

     What I deem mine is very difficult to give away.

     We have to change our attitude toward our possessions before we can begin to freely give. What we have always believed to be ours isn’t really ours at all. Take our good health, for an example. It is something vital and without it we will never be able to earn a living. It is also something over which we have very little control. How can anyone accumulate anything through hard work without sound health? So let’s ask ourselves one important question: Who is the sustainer of my good health?

     What about our intelligence, on which we have relied to do well at school and to earn a good living. Is it genetic? Perhaps. But there is something beyond mere genetics. Many highly intelligent people have struggled their entire lives to make ends meet and have died paupers. Why should we be any different? Are we naturally smart and ingenious?

     Our action of giving will surely follow if our attitude toward our aptitude is altered. All our proceeds belong to the Master who has endowed us with all the “capital” by which we do all our investments. If we fail to do what our Master requires us to do, he may come back someday and instantly take everything away from us with no questions asked. What did Alexander the Great take with him at his death after he had conquered many nations and taken possession of half of the then known world? Not a cent, right?

     After we have excelled in doing all things, there is still one thing left for us to master, which is the grace of giving. Unfortunately, this is something in which most people rarely excel and, consequently, their excellence at all things becomes useless before God. Besides, they will be held accountable someday for not giving their proceeds back to the Master.

Monday, September 26, 2011 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Give First 

MTS-3115

Give First

“…but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”           II Co 8:5

 

     India and the African continent seem to be so much closer when I look at a coupe of pictures of the boys we sponsor on our refrigerator. They both look a little forlorn but appear to be well-nourished. I pray that our monthly support makes a slight difference in their lives.

     I only get to know these two boys by their names and photos and can’t say that I have a lot of affection for them, for I haven’t gotten an opportunity to know them personally. This doesn’t really matter, though, since they are both God’s children and the Lord knows them. As a matter of fact, one of the boys’ is aspiring to become a minister.

     We give out of our love for God, not out of our affection for people. Affection is a kind of feeling, which is very unreliable, and our giving will become very inconsistent if we base our giving solely on feelings. If we give ourselves to God first, we will be able to practice monetary giving consistently.

     We don’t usually ask non-believers to give, since they don’t really know the meaning of giving within the church. They may consider it charity work when they make any donation toward our church’s needs. It makes very little difference to them whether they give to the Buddhist temple or a Christian church.

     Giving toward the Lord is a heart thing based on our intimate relationship with God. We give out of our obedience, but there is still something severely lacking if we do so void of affection. “Where your treasure is, you heart will be also,” said the Lord Jesus.

     We can evaluate our spiritual state by looking at our checkbooks, for our money often goes to the place where our hearts lie. We spend our money on something or some people for whom we have the most affection.

     “Two of the three biggest checks I wrote every month for a number of years were to our boys’ school and our church,” Kathy mentioned to me the other day. It pleased me a great deal for we seemed to have spent our meager income for some fifteen years on the ones we loved the most. This is by no means boasting, for we simply do what most Christians do naturally. I am afraid there is something wrong with us since our mortgage payment has surpassed our tithe check by a couple of hundred dollars. We may have to do something to correct this “injustice.”

     Let’s just take a quick look at our credit card report or our checkbook and we will easily find out whom or what we love the most in this world. We can shout to the mountain top how we love and adore the Lord, but our spending habits will bring us back to the dark valley where our true spiritual condition is revealed. “Where your treasure is, you heart will be also.” Isn’t this the time we face up to the truth?  

           

Friday, September 23, 2011 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Giving 

MTS-3114

Giving

“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”         II Co 8:3

 

     Macedonian Christians were not rich by any means, but they insisted on participating in giving toward the needs of the Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. By their good example we know that monetary giving isn’t the honor of a special few, but the privilege of all people. It matters not whether we are rich or poor, we always have something to give and, the more we give, the richer we will become.

     I sometimes find myself giving an apology for our students’ inability to support our church financially. “They are just students with a very small income, if they have any income at all.” This is our standard line when we have any discussion with people about the finances of our church.

     I have gotten it all wrong. Our ability to give tithes and offerings does not have anything to do with the size of our income. Even beggars can generate some income by begging; therefore they do have the privilege to give tithes and offerings.

     We used to teach our boys to save ten percent of their weekly allowance and give it to God as their tithe at the end of every month. The amount was indeed very small, but if they weren’t taught to tithe when their stipends were small, they would not do it when their salary became bigger. In fact, it would become increasing difficult for them to give as their income increased.

     We are mere stewards of all our resources and God is the true owner of our money, therefore we ought to spend it according to our Master’s commands. The true value of wealth lies in how we spend it, not in how we accumulate it. Surely spending money on God’s kingdom and on relieving people’s suffering or starvation does increase the value of our money by a hundred fold, but using our wealth to buy bigger and greater toys for ourselves may reduce the value of our wealth to nothing.

     “Can a man rob God?” asked the prophet. Not only do we steal from God by not tithing, we rob from ourselves the honor, blessing, and privilege of giving to the Almighty. God is completely self-sufficient and has absolutely no needs. Therefore we do God no favor by giving; we actually do ourselves a great favor. It’s not for his own sake the Lord asks us to give; it’s rather for our sake that he makes this particular demand, for the Lord is well aware that his children can find true fulfillment by giving and they will become more and more selfish and fearful by hoarding.       

    Being wealthy or poor is only a false perception we conjure up within our minds by comparing ourselves with others. The true measurement of one’s financial state should lie in how much we give away, not on how many digits in our savings account. We don’t become rich by keeping all things to ourselves; we become the wealthiest by giving the most away.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Generosity 

MTS-3113

Generosity

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”         II Co 8:2

 

     It takes a lot of spiritual and emotional energy to go through trials and suffering; therefore when people are in any kind of trouble they are usually preoccupied with themselves and their immediate needs. It’s rare for them to be thinking about helping others during times of personal difficulties.

     That wasn’t the case with Dr. Paul Han, who was president of a medical college in Taiwan and a strong church leader, however. While he was dying with cancer, he invited many Christian friends to the hospital and together they spent time praying for the Taiwanese church and church leaders. Dr. Han did something he considered to be the most important and meaningful during the few weeks before he went on to meet the Lord.

     Preoccupation with one’s suffering may intensify the pain of one’s emotional or physical ailment.

     “O, I am so sick,” my brother-in-law always moaned when he had some sort of illness, which didn’t seem to alleviate his suffering in any way; it only made people around him feel a little awkward and ill at ease. Not so with his wife, though. Barbara has had a few bouts with major illnesses, but she never complained and acted as if nothing was happening to her and was always preoccupied by her children’s needs, even in times of illness.

     I came down with a cold a couple of days ago and was lying in bed all day yesterday, which was indeed quite miserable. I was little annoyed when Kathy came home from work a little later than usual. Didn’t she realize that I needed some TLC?

     What do poor people think about most of the time? Probably about their own poverty and ways to get out of it. This wasn’t what was happening to the Macedonian Christians, though. Their poverty seemed to have made them more sympathetic toward the poor and caused them to become more eager to help them in whatever way they could. They donated money toward helping the church in Jerusalem out of their poverty, not out of their abundance.

     We do have a lot to learn from the Macedonian Christians.

     Our suffering should make us more aware of other people’s suffering and, knowing how horrific it is, we should do all we possibly can to help relieve people’s pain. Misery does love company, but knowing that we are not alone in our sorrow does not in any way reduce our pain. In fact, it may increase it, if it does anything at all. I am positive that our misery may be reduced if we show compassion toward the needy in the midst of our sorrow, for by doing so, we may be able to escape from ourselves and cease to continue to dwell in our own problems and grief.    

              

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 7:07:00 AM

Worldly Sorrow 

MTS-3112

Worldly Sorrow

“…but worldly sorrow brings death.”

          II Co 7:10

 

     Godly sorrow leads to repentance and the end result is life, but there is no comfort given for worldly sorrow and the end result is hopelessness and death.

     There was not any hope left for Rachel when she wept bitterly in Ramah over the death of her children. She refused to be comforted, for nothing would mend her broken heart unless her children were brought back alive to her. The woman probably lived the rest of her earthly life a sad and broken woman.

     Worldly sorrow takes away our hope for renewal or recovery, which is something that has no positive effect on us whatsoever. It’s a dark cloud that does not bring any rain and vexes us with its foreboding heaviness, causing our hearts to sink lower and lower until they hit the ground.

     I seemed to be dragging my heart on the ground as I walked in and out of the hospital where my mother lay on her sickbed, with no hope for recovery. My sorrow for her was worldly, for I could see no hope for her renewal. Death would come a few weeks later and created a void in my heart that would never be filled. That was what worldly sorrow did to me.

     The Lord Jesus was afflicted with great sorrow while he was praying in the garden, pleading that his Father would remove the bitter cup of affliction from him. Yet such sorrow wasn’t worldly and the Lord’s joy was restored to him after he humbly submitted himself to God. “He learned obedience from what he suffered,” we read in Hebrews.

     We need to convert worldly sorrow into godly sorrow.

     Looking beyond the affliction that we are undergoing may not be an easy thing, but that’s the only option we have. Things don’t happen randomly and we may be able to endure better if we believe there is a purpose behind all our suffering. “Curse God and die.” This is the kind of worldly sorrow that leads to death to which Job refused to succumb. He was severely afflicted, yet he held on to his faith and was able to convert worldly sorrow into a godly sorrow. The difference was Job held onto his faith in God, even though the circumstances seemed to be pointing to the opposite.

     Death occurs when there is no hope left; but life happens when hope exists. When all medication fails and death seems to be inevitable, what hope is there for us still? If renewal and recovery become impossible physically, we can still hope that God will restore us spiritually. When earth is no more, there is still heaven; and while time vanishes, there is still eternity.

     Hope and faith in God is what makes our worldly sorrow godly, which leads to complete healing and recovery.          

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Godly Sorrow 

MTS-3111

Godly Sorrow

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…”          II Co 7:10

 

     I am sorry that I didn’t really fulfill my parents’ dreams and aspirations for me. It used to cause me pain when I thought about how they were disappointed about the way I have turned out. I did my best to make them happy, but I couldn’t have made the core of my being match the life that they had mapped out for me.

     Such sorrow was human sorrow that left me with a lot of regret.

     Had I been totally transparent with them while they were alive, things would have been quite different. There were some things about me that they dared not touch, and I was too cowardly to mention. I kept silent for the sake of maintaining peace and harmony within my family.

     Paul could have kept quiet about what was happening in the church of Corinth and things would have been alright on the surface. The carpet may appear to be clean after it’s been vacuumed, but there is still a lot of dust underneath. The rug may have to be removed in order to make the house clean.

     It was indeed a painful process.

     The perpetrator of the particular sin Paul mentioned in the letter had to be confronted and disciplined, which might have been a difficult task to do, for we have no idea who the man was. The person could have been one of the church leaders or a promising new believer, and taking any drastic action against him would have been excruciatingly painful and would bring the church people a great deal of sorrow. Yet had they not done anything about it, the purity of God’s church would have been compromised.

     The Corinthian Christians did the right thing and the issue was resolved according to God’s teaching.

     Godly sorrow is actually very beneficial to our spiritual growth. We can’t help becoming remorseful when we grieve the Holy Spirit by committing sin. We rarely sin intentionally, but we may sin knowingly. We don’t intend to sin against God, but we know what sort of things we do that displease the Lord, and sometimes still fall into the trap of sin by not being vigilant.

     Sweet things do have a strong aftertaste. No wonder we yearn to have a cup of water after we have eaten an ice cream sundae or banana split. This is nothing compared to the bitter aftertaste of the pleasure of sin we have often experienced. It’s akin to a severe hangover drunks experience when they wake up from their stupor in the morning, head-splitting and heart disheartened.

     Thanks be to God that he vexes us with godly sorrow that leads to repentance. It’s a great cause of concern if we feel perfectly at ease after we have done something sinful against God or men. We will never repent unless we have godly sorrow within our hearts, urging us to reconcile with the Lord through genuine repentance.     

    

Monday, September 19, 2011 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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