Being Chosen 

~~MTS-4060
Being Chosen
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him…”        Eph 1:11

I know the feeling all too well, for I have experienced it many times. It was a sense of total helplessness and nothing I could do but waited for the inevitable. Whether I would be chosen for a certain position or job was completely out of my control. Someone with greater authority would make the final call, and there wasn’t any opportunity for me to appeal the decision; I just had to accept the final verdict, either good or bad, and move on from there.
Of course, before the final decision was made, I was given a chance to promote myself or to boost up my résumé, so to a certain degree I might have had something to do with my final destiny, albeit I had no way of knowing whether my merit as a person had anything to do with the final verdict. There are basically two groups of people in this world - the deciders and the ones being decided upon - and the majority of us fall in the latter category.
Concerning our eternal destiny, all of us appear to fall in the latter category. We are either chosen or not chosen to be saved before the foundation of the world. This is the doctrine of predestination which most of us find rather puzzling, especially when we bring our freewill into the equation. If we have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be saved, our freewill choices of accepting Christ’s salvation in time are no longer free and, in the scheme of things, we have nothing to do with our own salvation at all.
For sure we can always look at this issue from two different points of views and avoid looking at this from an either-or type of perspective and accept one in exclusion of the other. It may appear to be paradoxical, but God’s predestination and human freewill both can coexist without opposing each other. Obviously it’s entirely possible that both can be valid if it’s looked at from a different time and space and by different people. Besides, if the Lord considers our freewill choice valid, it’s valid indeed.
How can anyone choose the Lord if he or she isn’t chosen first? Obviously this is a legitimate question to ask and it’s totally logical according to our rationality. If we, however, look at the two separately from two different spheres, they both make sense, for the actions are made by two entities freely and under no compulsion. Whether we are among the elect or not, we cannot deny the fact that we have made a choice, and upon the basis of our choice we will be judged. Besides, when we make the choice whether to accept the Lord’s salvation or not and ultimately decide not to, we don’t do so on the basis of us not being predestinated to be saved; we do it with hostility toward God and deem what the Lord Jesus has done on the cross merely a myth conjured up to fool us by the early Christians. How can we not be judged by harboring this kind of idea?

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 30, 2015 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Unity 

~~MTS-4059
Unity
“ …to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”     Eph 1:10

There are diversities in this world but true unity is lacking. We have been taught to be tolerant and respect views and ideas that are opposing to ours; and the ones who fail to do so are commonly perceived as bigots. Where do we draw the line, then? Are we becoming all embracing and all accepting no matter how erroneous all the views are?
We have become such politically-correct people that we are so afraid to speak out on what we truly believe. Our opinions are swept away by the flood of the dominating beliefs of this world, and we find ourselves becoming more and more isolated.
In truth, we are not activity taking part in God’s work by bringing “unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Instead of resolving the dilemma, we may have become part of the problem, for by remaining silent, we seem to be in one accord with what worldly people believe. Our inaction may be taken as a stamp of approval on all the ungodly things currently running rampant in this world.
Perhaps the time hasn’t reached its fulfillment yet and the unity under Christ won’t become a reality until then, but that doesn’t mean that we can cease working toward that end as Christians. Obviously we need to bring all things within the church in unity under the headship of Christ, which still remains pretty far from reality. There seems to be all kinds of dissension and conflicts among our churches which demand our attention.
We at the least can work on promoting unity in our local churches by being peace-makers, and avoiding becoming someone who ruins church harmony by gossiping and stirring up trouble and strife within the congregation. Be it great or small, whatever we do or say as church members creates a certain effect, either good or bad, positive or negative. We are either a divider or a unifier in our churches.
The Lord has brought all his children under the unity of God through the blood of Christ Jesus who is the only One who makes church unity possible. Non-believers are not involved in this unifying process, for without Christ, unity becomes impossible. We should never be unified under the name of diversity, for unity and diversity are mutually exclusive. We obviously can have variety within unity, but the perception of truth remains constant and unchanging. There is nothing real in the world but the truth, which is rooted in the attributes of God.
In light of this, perhaps we need to work hard in promoting unity rather than trumping diversity and tolerance all day long, as if they were the epitome of all virtues.   
    

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 29, 2015 6:52:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Wisdom and Understanding 

~~MTS-4058
Wisdom and Understanding
“With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure…”       Eph 1:8

I still feel remorseful when I think of my dog Katie, for I might have put her to sleep prematurely. It all started out with a stroke and she could barely walk, and then she quit eating for a week and the vet told me there wasn’t anything they could do for her. I could have kept her for another week or so, but I decided to end her suffering. She appeared to be angry at me when I dreamed about her some time later, which might have been a reflection of my guilty feeling more than anything else. O how I wish I could have communicated to her concerning what I was going to do and, if it were at all possible, asked for her opinion about her final destiny. There was obviously a chasm between us that I could never have bridged. Our communication remained rather rudimentary at best. She might have understood when I told her to sit and to bark, which was about it. I think Katie communicated more by smelling than anything else.
The gap between the human and divine is infinitely wide, yet the Lord is able to communicate with us if he so desires. He is the One who revealed himself to us and he also made sure that the interpretation of his revelation was exactly what he intended to say.
We are rational beings and we certainly have a strong desire to know the essence of things. The Lord could just have told us the way to be saved, period, yet he took such great effort to explain all that’s involved in us being redeemed through the blood of Christ Jesus and the reasons behind it. By his wisdom he was able to make divine mystery accessible to human understanding, which is nothing short of miraculous. How could mere flesh and blood comprehend the mystery of incarnation unless the Lord revealed it so that we are able to embrace what our minds fail to penetrate. We may become puzzled when we try to process the way we are saved rationally and it all sounds too far-fetched; yet it seems so natural and matter-of-fact when we ponder it with our hearts. I guess Pascal was right on target when he uttered: “The heart has its reason, which reason does not know.” 
It’s tremendous to not only know that we are saved and also the mysterious way we are redeemed, starting from the revelation of the blood sacrifice in the old dispensation among God’s chosen people to the coming of the lamb of God who was slaughtered on our behalf. The way of salvation was deemed foolishness by the Greeks and the wise, who considered Christ’s resurrection mere myth and wishful thinking, yet to us believers it’s God’s revelation “with all wisdom and understanding,” intended to communicate to us the deep mystery of his eternal plan, which was to bring all things in heaven and on earth under his lordship, and the salvation of sinners was  merely one of the acts of the divine drama. 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 28, 2015 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Grace 

~~MTS-4057
Grace
“…in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
              Eph 1:7

After three years of military service with all the bad habits that I had collected over the years, the Lord decided it was time for me to be transformed into a new person in Christ. At age twenty-two, I was really a broken man who was hopeless, helpless, and directionless. With my hair still shaved and appearance haggard I often wandered up and down the alleys and streets of Taipei, probably looking more like a zombie than a man. If there was one who was completely unworthy of God’s attention, it should have been me. Yet it was during this time the Lord reached down from heaven and turned me into a man who was quite foreign even to myself.
What had I done to warrant such grace? Absolutely nothing. I was just a broken man with every intention of keeping the sinful lifestyle I learned in the service. Even though I had heard the name of the Lord, I didn’t want anything to do with him. I should have been forsaken and cast aside, if divine justice were served. That wasn’t what took place, though; God decided to lavish his grace on me.
It was forty years ago when all these things transpired, and God’s grace seems to be increasing more and more even as I am aging. The whole salvation enterprise started out with grace and it will end with grace as well. By God’s grace I was saved, and by the same grace I am able to follow his footsteps and I will need his grace to continue my walk with him until I am no more. Apart from God’s grace, nothing is possible.
How was it possible that a man of my lowly status and limited resources could accomplish all that I have accomplished? What accomplishments? You may be curious. Isn’t following the Lord for forty long years a great achievement? I could have easily turned aside a thousand times had the Lord not sustained me at every turn. Is it a small matter to serve as minister of the gospel at the same church for twenty-two years? It may not amount to all that much to others and may be rather insignificant from a human perspective, yet to me it’s an accomplishment, since nothing greater could a man do than to be a servant of God and a herald of the gospel. 
Apart from God’s grace, none of the above would have been accomplished, knowing how fickle and frail I am as a man.
How was it possible that my wife and I were able to raise a family and bring up three sons on just a small income, doing whatever was necessary. Time after time the Lord came to our aid and he became our main provider when we ourselves became unable to do so. How was it possible apart from God’s grace?
How is it even possible that my heart is still pumping and my mind is still spinning out words, attempting to justify the ways of God to men, even at my age and, by God’s grace, to finish what he has called me to accomplish?
Nothing but grace.  

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 25, 2015 7:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Forgiveness of Sin 

~~MTS-4056
Forgiveness of Sin
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…”
          Eph 1:7

Adam was created perfect in every way, yet his disobedience ruined everything. He became imperfect in all ways. We all sinned in Adam and from our first father we inherit the original sin. This is all too far-fetched, isn’t it? It’s the utmost injustice done to us, if anything. Why should we suffer the consequence of someone else’s sin?
We can argue over this point till the cows come home, yet it still doesn’t do us any good. We may consider the original sin that we have inherited rather unfair, yet there is something for which we may be held accountable- our actual sins. Don’t we all sin and fall short of the glory of God?
It all depends, some may be arguing. Sin isn’t really sin if we merely do what comes natural to us. How can we be accused of committing sins if we do things according to our instinct? Indeed we are part of the long food chain in which we find all kinds of brutalities committed in the name of survival, and there is no sense applying our sense of morality to what’s happening among beasts and people every day. Who is going to hold a lion accountable for hunting down a deer or a zebra for food? Should it be charged with murder? If not, why do I have to stand trial for stealing some food or beating up my neighbor out of anger? Am I not merely acting according to my animal nature?
Our belief in Darwinian evolution and its practical and ethical applications doesn’t seem to be always consistent. We seem to hold the highest form of evolution – man - to a set of completely different standards of behavior. When did something called morality suddenly enter into the human psyche, as if we invented some rules and regularities to regulate our every action and make our lives miserable for failing to keep them? If this isn’t enough, something so foreign and intrusive called “conscience” entered into our minds out of the blue and uninvited and its voice has became a constant annoyance if we attempt to do something against its will.
There is no escape from sin and the annoying feeling of guilt, even if we manage to convince ourselves that we are no different from the lower forms of species in the long process of evolution. How we feel emotionally toward sin cannot be altered by the force of powerful intellect and we often find ourselves struggling with fear of death and what it may entail if there is something beyond.
I find the alternative offered by Jesus more plausible and much easier to process. If we call sin sin and divine justice demands it to be punished, we may run for solution to the One who died for our sin. Then we will find this verse extremely comforting and reassuring: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 24, 2015 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sonship 

~~MTS-4055
Sonship
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”       Eph 1:4

We are God’s sons and daughters by spirit and image, not by blood. We are created in his own image and, by virtue of the creation, we all have become children of God. Yet because of our sins in Adam we lost the sonship and we can only become children of God by adoption through the merit of Christ Jesus. It goes without saying, there are privileges and entitlements that come with the sonship and the honor of being called the children of God is beyond compare.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” wrote the apostle John in his letter.
What have we done to merit the privilege that we are enjoying? Absolutely nothing. We may be born into an aristocratic or wealthy family and get to enjoy the fame and fortune all our lives merely because we happen to be born into certain families. Indeed, we had absolutely nothing to do with into which family we were going to be born. Same as our spiritual birth, really; it’s all done “in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
Therefore we have no reason to be arrogant about our upbringing as persons and, by the same token, we have no cause to be proud of us being adopted as children of God. What and who we are is entirely through God’s grace and nothing else.
How can we not be extremely humble and thankful in light of the fact that we have been adopted out of a vast multitude of people?
There are quite a few children wasting away in orphanages all over the world, waiting to be adopted and ushered into homes where they will be loved and cared for, yet only a select few are fortunate enough to be chosen. By virtue of adoption their lives will become entirely different from what they used to be. The orphan girls and boys probably can do nothing to boost their chances to be chosen in front of the adopters except to smile and to present their best selves if they are old enough to do so. I can’t even start to imagine what it feels like to be put in such a dire situation. Come to think of it, weren’t you and I among the multitude sitting in the dark orphanage waiting to be adopted by the Heavenly Father? We were lonely, miserable, and desperate to be chosen, yet couldn’t do anything but wait for the inevitable, either good or bad.  
O what a difference it made when we were chosen and adopted to be children of God! I have no idea what it did to you; I sure know what the adoption did to me when I was very young and utterly lost. Becoming a son of God gave me a sense of worth that I had never experienced before and I immediately came to realize which direction I should be heading in life and what ultimate goal I should be seeking as a child of God. I was lost, and then I was found.  

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 23, 2015 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Chosen 

~~MTS-4054
Chosen
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”           Eph 1:4

Contrary to what we believe, the Lord chose us before the foundation of the world to be something, not do something. He chose us “to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
Aren’t we all task and achievement oriented? We somehow believe that the Lord chose us to perform great tasks and achieve renown in this world. Not so at all; he called us to become holy and blameless in his sight.
We need to reorient the priorities of our life if we are convicted this is truly the case, and focus more attention on our interior life than our exterior, our thought more than our action, and our attributes more than our achievement.
What was the purpose of the Lord creating the first man? The Lord created him to be holy and blameless so that he could have perfect fellowship with him. Indeed, Adam had jobs to do, but they were more diversions than anything else; the first man’s main purpose of being was to have sweet fellowship and union with his Creator. The union was lost because of Adam’s sin, and the Lord intended to have the relationship restored by sending his own Son to have the issue of sin resolved. Therefore, the purpose of creation remains the same.
“Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we read in the book of Hebrews. Surely we don’t have holiness of our own; we are clothed in Christ’s holiness and by his merit we are able to see God. But this doesn’t mean that we can quit pursuing holiness as long as we live in the flesh. We have been chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and his holiness has become our own, yet we are called to become more and more like Christ.
No matter what our earthly professions are and wherever the Lord places us on earth, our main goal in life is to strive to become holier and more blameless in his sight and all things that occur in our lives seem to be pointing to this particular goal. Whether we are promoted or demoted at our jobs, the purpose of what happens remains the same - our holiness. Whether we are well or ill, the goal is still unchanged - our holiness.
No wonder so many people feel so unfulfilled and become remorseful on the death bed, mourning that they have wasted their lives. Why? They have squandered their entire lives seeking the wrong things and neglecting what they had been chosen to fulfill as God’s children.
Such is the occupation of all eternity, even after we are glorified, for Christ is immensely holy and our eternal striving is to be more like him. In the meantime, it should be our primary occupation here on earth as well.                                     

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 22, 2015 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Spiritual Blessings  

~~MTS-4053 (Ephesians)
Spiritual Blessings
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Eph 1:3

Of course we desire to have both blessings, earthly and heavenly, but if we can have only one without the other, most people will probably choose the former.
“Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” Isn’t this short line from Frost’s “Birches” what we feel toward the world as well? The earth is the place we have come to know and love so dearly, and all others apart from her are speculations at best. Therefore, we continue to seek worldly blessing and hold onto it as if it will last forever and ever.
Deep inside we know full well that it doesn’t last, yet what else is better than the tangible, the things we can feel and touch and can also give us physical pleasure? I suppose the ones who have collected the most toys in this world will have the last laugh.
A boxer who had the biggest payday in boxing history recently purchased the most expensive car in the world, which must have excited him greatly, yet the vehicle will likely be sitting in his garage most of the time, collecting dust and the euphoria it had generated will quickly fade away. I am sure the boxer will move on to other things, for he has the means to do so, but his capacity for excitement and happiness will be wearing thin and it will take a stronger dose of worldly opium to generate for him the same amount of happiness. Such is the nature of world pleasure, really. It’s a lot more pleasurable and long lasting if we take in a small dose each time.
I recently started a small watch collection, and the one I acquired at $75 doesn’t seem to generate in my heart any sort of pleasure; instead it serves as the evidence of my greed for earthly things.
Earthly pleasure is still earthbound and it does not transcend the physical realm. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” Paul wrote in the second letter to the Corinthians. Given the choice between the temporary and the eternal, it seems totally logical for us to choose the latter, yet this doesn’t seem to be the case at all, for we are all drawn toward the tangible and deem what’s invisible nonessential.
Do we have any inkling of what Paul was referring to when he spoke about blessings from the “heavenly realms?” Even if there are truly blessings from above, their attraction to us seems to be minimal at best. What eludes our eyes and escapes our mind will always fail to appeal to our senses. We are indeed made of dust and need to be constantly reminded that there are spiritual blessings that we ought to be seeking as well.

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 21, 2015 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Death 

~~MTS-4052
The Death
“He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”
          1 Ch 29:28

Seventy wasn’t really “a good old age” from a human point of view. “Life starts at seventy,” goes a popular saying. “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures,” we read from Psalm 90. So a seventy-year life span seems to be what we can count on. Of course some may hang on longer, but that’s not a given. By this calculation, I most likely only have seven years left, which is only one tenth of my life. If this is the case, why do I act as if it’s an accident that my eyes are starting to fade and my teeth are beginning to fall out one after another? I guess they are made to last about seventy years, and if I last longer than that, they will be replaced with man-made ones. In fact, my dentist just informed me that tooth implantation will be needed soon.
David seemed to have lived a lot longer than that, considering how much he accomplished with his life. He apparently packed the years with a lot of heroic activities, starting from the confrontation with Goliath to fighting against Saul’s army and the Philistines and, in the meantime, he was able to take many wives and start a rather large family. Besides his military campaign, the man still found time to make beautiful music and composed many beautiful psalms. Seventy years might not have been all that long; surely those years was quite an abundant.
When it comes to leading this life, we should take quality over quantity, so people say. Yet who determines the quality of our lives is subject to debate. David might have been a great man who lived a full and good life from his friends’ point of view, but his enemies might have strongly disagreed with such an assumption. Who is to give the final and definitive verdict of the man?
The verdict belonged to the Lord and we read: “He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”  This final assessment of the man is something we are all craving for, isn’t it? Seventy years may be a little short compared to some, but “wealth and honor” surely is quite enticing. This comment on David’s life, however, does sound more human than divine, which should not be something we aim for in this life. David’s life obviously transcended all that.
The man reigned for forty years and he obviously enjoyed all the honor and privileges that came with the crown, and he was duly honored at his death. Yet such shouldn’t be how he is ultimately defined; the man should be defined by how he related to God, which should also be the way we are defined as well. It matters very little whether David was a pauper or a king, what really matters is he was a man after God’s own heart. That’s exactly how we will be defined as well.   
  

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 18, 2015 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Desire 

~~MTS-4051
Desire
“…keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.”        1 Ch 29:18

There is still hope if I still desire the Lord, for by the desire that’s in my heart I know the Lord is still at work in my life. No matter how far and wide I have strayed from his love, the Heavenly Father is still by my side and yearns for me to return to him and to embrace his mercy and love. He will never forsake me even if I seem to have forgotten him.
There is the filth of sin if I look inward and there are actions of rebellion if I look outward and there is not an inch of cleanness in me. Woe is me, I mourn as the prophet Isaiah did when the glory of the Lord was revealed to him. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,” the prophet cried out.
Indeed, who in the world can look at himself or herself and be completely happy with the inner state? One has to be totally blind or self-deceiving to feel that way. We are ruined if there is a sovereign judge who will hold our every thought and action accountable.
How can’t there not be, considering all the injustices taking place every day in this world? It has to be the greatest abuse of justice if people are able to get away with murder or other offenses great and small. A couple of intruders got into one of our neighbors’ house through an unlocked window. They duck taped the owner, beat him up mercilessly, and ended up taking all his valuables away. Are they going to get away with this heinous crime if they are not caught and brought to justice?
“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” The Lord proclaimed.
O how important it is to still have the thought of repentance in our hearts, when we can still hear the calling from our conscience to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness! Isn’t that a sign that the Lord has not given up on us and is still reckoning us redeemable? Isn’t it a sure indication of God’s mercy, reminding us there is still hope of salvation?
“…keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” 
Since we do have a strong desire to please and to serve the Lord, is it a given that we will feel the same way tomorrow? Is there an absolute certainly that we will love the Lord forever? Some may have such confidence, but I am not one of them, knowing how fickle and frail I have always been and will ever be. Surely I dare not base my confidence in my flesh and my constancy on my strength; I will instead depend on the Lord’s grace and sustenance to remain faithful to him, which is my only hope of remaining in him till the end.
Therefore I am greatly comforted when I find myself still having the desire and thought to repent and to continue following the Lord, even at the very moment after I have sinned against the Lord.               

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 17, 2015 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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