Left Over 

~~MTS-4421
Left Over
“…we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.”          2 Ch. 31:10
    People seem to be so amazed to witness Ma Yun, the Chinese tycoon who is one of the richest people in China, eating a bowl of instant noodles, thinking that such a diet is beyond a man of his financial status. What must the man of great worth eat? I wonder.
    What should I eat? I ask myself this probing question. Compared to Ma, I am merely a peanut financially, yet as far as eating is concerned, I do have many options. But I have often found myself eating a bowl of instant noodles exactly like what Ma often does. Indeed, what’s the most enjoyable doesn’t have to be the costliest, does it? If that were the case, the poor would be deprived of any pleasure in life and we might bring a charge against the Lord for being unfair toward his children.
    Of course, the Lord does always make sure that his children have enough to eat, but the question remains: does he do anything beyond that? It appears to me, as I speculate, that if providing for our basic needs is a divine obligation, then giving us a little extra is God’s generosity.
    Being an earthly father, if I can afford to be generous, I will certainly be rather extravagant to all my loved ones, particularly my children. Come to think of it, my dad was a poor farmer, yet he managed to buy me a new car when I returned to Taiwan after three years of study in the States. I don’t think he could afford to be so generous to his son, yet he did it anyway. Why? I guess he wanted to make sure that I would have something left over.
    Don’t we all desire to be spoiled by the ones who love us?
    There were twelve baskets full of bread left over after the Lord Jesus fed thousands of people. There was no need for that, really, yet he did it anyway. There was no explanation other than to show that the Lord’s generosity has no limits. Indeed, life is not merely to be lived, but to be celebrated. Therefore, there are six days, and there is the Sabbath, which, it appears to me, is the “left over” of the cycle of seven days.
  The Sabbath is the time to rest; it’s also meant to be celebrated, and to remember divine abundance by thanksgiving is the best kind of celebration.
    Had I been able to, I would have made my children, when they were under my roof, feel that we always had money to spare and there was some left over if we ever needed it. I guess if we have sufficient faith in our Heavenly Father, having an abundance leftover must be the way we feel at all times, since our Father does own “cattle on a thousand hills.”
    It’s simply amazing! As a person with such merger financial resources, I was able to open a savings account, and leave it untouched for several years.   
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 29, 2017 5:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Tithe 

~~MTS-4420
A Tithe
“They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.”         2 Ch. 31:6
    Tithing isn’t just giving one tenth of our income; it’s rather the important indication of our overall mindset, our attitude toward our wealth. By willingly parting from ten percent of our worth, we simply reveal to the Lord and the world who the true owner of our wealth is.
    We are in reality mere tenants of what we supposedly own, yet we often act as if we possess them permanently, not realizing that the owner of all we ever own can claim it whenever he deems fit. Giving one tenth of our money to the Owner of our wealth seems to be a much better deal than turning to him all we have in one fell swoop, doesn’t it?
    Giving our tithe to the Lord is to offer to the Lord what rightly belongs to him incrementally, which I believe is a lot easier than handing to him all we own in a lump sum. Besides, we learn how to give by giving, which will make it easy when we are required to give up all things. Tithing is, in essence, a spiritual exercise, teaching and reminding us who we truly are, and what genuine wealth is in this world.
    There are so many factors contributing to our ability to make a decent living or to amass sizable wealth, and the purpose isn’t solely for our own pleasure of enjoyment. We ought to address the crucial question as to what is the true end of our prosperity and fulfill it accordingly. Indeed, with wealth comes responsibility.
    “I am happy that I am not wealthy,” my wife often says to me.
    “Why? Isn’t that a sour grapes mentality,” I question.
    “Well, I don’t like the responsibility of being rich, for their obligation of giving is far greater than most people.” This does make sense, doesn’t it? Cutting a heavy check may demand a heavy hand, and I am not so sure it can be done light-heartedly. Wealth does not automatically make one generous; monetary giving requires spiritual discipline and constant exercise and, most importantly, a transformation of mindset.
    “After we retire, our tithes and offerings will be greatly reduced,” my wife said to me.
    “Well, we may have to stop giving to some of the missionaries we have been supporting,” I replied, feeling a little sad. For years I have been taking tithing and giving toward missions and charity for granted, and to give it up for lack of a steady income creates a deep sense of sadness. We may not be aware of, or think about it consciously, but what a great privilege it is to be able to give our tithes and offerings until the day we lose our ability either by old age or by disability. 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 28, 2017 5:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Provision 

~~
MTS-4419

Provision

“He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord.”  2 Ch. 31:4

    “Our daily provision shouldn’t be an issue when you consider retiring from church ministry,” Kathy said to me yesterday. It was indeed a declaration of faith, since she has always been the one between us who is more concerned about our financial state, which is understandable, for she’s been the one who pays all the bills. For years I have been rather oblivious about our household’s money matters.

    I suppose, after years of experiencing God’s abundant provision, my wife’s faith in the Lord concerning our daily provision must have been greatly strengthened. Surely the Lord has been merciful to us and he has never failed to provide for our needs.

    How did the Lord accomplish the task? Unless God’s people in the congregation had continued to give their tithes and offerings to the church, my source of income would have dried up. My annual stipend might be meager from a human point of view, yet the Lord has always come through when we had any need. Indeed, it was the Lord who has been providing for us, and the means by which he achieved the goal was through his people’s generosity.

    When we first arrived, there were only a handful of families in the church and the rest of them were students. The financial situation of the church was rather shaky to say the least. Yet it was the Lord who made sure that we had all the essentials and a little bit more. Twenty-four years later, not only do we own our own church building, we are able to contribute toward missions and charity work. Never was there a single time in the past years that the church had any difficulty paying my salary.

    All things considered, this is nothing short of miraculous, and it all came about by church people’s faithfulness in their giving. I am often amazed over the fact that a church such as this has remained viable and has thrived year after year. Up to this day, the church is merely composed of several families and the rest are students and visiting researchers from overseas, yet we are not in want in any way. Surely the Lord has been gracious.

    “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” sad the Lord. This is mathematics of the divine and can only be apprehended through constant practice. In fact, the Lord may bless us in sundry forms and different ways, of which we may not be fully aware, yet one of the blessings is financial prosperity. I am somewhat reluctant to make this pronouncement, but for the fact that it has been proven true through my personal experiences over the years. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 27, 2017 4:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Contribution 

~~MTS-4418
Contribution
“The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths…”       2 Ch. 31:3
    Is it easier to give financially from one’s abundance or from one’s scarcity? This is a good question to ask, isn’t it? It may be contrary to what most people believe, which is the former. We seem to think that it’s much easier to give when one becomes prosperous; therefore, people tend to delay giving either to their church or to a charity until their financial resources grow to a certain point.
    “Well, I will wait until I am able to give.” This has become a common excuse that people employ for not giving faithfully.
    “My goal in life is to make more money so that I can donate money to the church,” a Christian brother told me about fifteen years ago, and I remember applauding him for making the bold statement. The man has since become rather wealthy yet, instead of giving more of his earnings to the church, he had since vanished from God’s house. He probably found that coming to the church with all the obligations attached to it rather inconvenient; therefore he chose not to attend. For some odd reason, I still remember the promise he made years ago quite vividly, but I have long quit waiting for his generous donation toward the church.
    The man might have been sincere when he made the pledge, thinking that giving would automatically become easier if he somehow became wealthy. Of course, we know full well that’s not the case, for the first thing the wealthy man we read of in the gospel intended to do was to build a bigger barn to store up his grain. People’s wealth decreases when they give, which is contrary to their natural tendency, so unless they discipline themselves by going against the grain of their natural affection by constantly giving toward the church or other worthy causes, the act of mercy will never take place.
    “The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths…” At the least, Hezekiah was striving to be consistent in his faith and practice, and contributed “from his own possessions,” thus setting an example for the people in the nation to emulate. God is entirely self-sufficient, therefore it matters very little to him the amount of our donation; what matters to him is our genuine desire to love him and our heartfelt gratitude toward his abundant provision.
    Giving our tithes and offerings to the church is an act of gratitude and thanksgiving, considering all we have earned belongs to God and, apart from his blessing, we would be completely deprived of everything. Therefore, giving is actually returning to God what rightly belongs to him, and not to do it is actually a form of robbing and stealing. 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 26, 2017 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith and Action 

~~
MTS-4417

Faith and Action

“When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”  2 Ch. 31:1

    The Passover celebration was finally over and there was probably quite a letdown after all the excitement subsided. It was time for people to pack up and return back to their flocks and farms. The holiday had come to an end and there was tedious daily work awaiting. Besides, there was a long journey home ahead of them, which was something they weren’t looking forward to undertaking.

    All manner of celebrations in life will eventually come to an end, and when they do, the drudgery of doing our daily routine will start. Why can’t life be an endless celebration? We may sometimes wonder.

    As a matter of fact, the celebration didn’t come to an end, even though all the Passover festivities were over, for the Israelites seemed to have found something important to do afterward. They decided to stretch the spirit of the revival that they had just experienced to a new level and put their faith to work.

     “When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”

    They determined to get rid of all the traces of idolatry in the land by going from town to town to smash the sacred stones and chop down the Asherah poles. Such is the decisive action people undertook, attempting to make sure the practice of idolatry would never surface in Israel again.

    I made a clean break from my past when I was converted, yet, unfortunately, the break might not have been drastic enough, and the remnants of my past life seem to have continued to haunt me over the years, which might have greatly hindered my spiritual progress.

    Action is what makes our faith complete, and without it faith will forever remain “head knowledge,” having very little to do with the formation and function of our heart.

    There was, come to think of it, a rather severe lack of strong determination to follow the Lord single-mindedly when I was saved, which is the reason why I pretty much have remained “half-baked” after years of attempting to follow the Lord.

    Unless drastic actions are taken to compensate our faith in God, it will remain rather incomplete.

       

 

 

  

      

 

  

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 22, 2017 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Great Joy 

~~
MTS-4416

Great Joy

“There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.”       2 Ch. 30:26

     The Holy City didn’t instantly become prosperous, and there was really nothing occurring at the time to generate so much joy among the residents in Jerusalem. There was only one thing that was causing such a resounding exultation, which was directly related to what the Lord did for them long ago and their subsequent remembrance of it.

    It’s absolutely a joyful thing to witness what the Lord has done on our behalf, which indicates that the Almighty does care for us.

    The people who resided in Jerusalem, together with all the ones who came from afar to celebrate the Passover, must have been laboring in their orchards or tending their flocks in the fields most of the time, doing what was required of them to do in order to make a living. Passover holiday came and went year after year, yet they hardly ever noticed, for they were entirely occupied by their immediate concerns and it seemed just too farfetched to bring to their memory what had taken place so long ago in history.

    If we intend to find reasons for celebration, they can easily be found, for even if there is no cause for us to rejoice in any way, we can always celebrate the love of God which is clearly manifested everywhere.

    “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” Why wasn’t there joy and celebration such as that in a span of hundreds of years?

    The answer to this is actually rather simple. There is really nothing to be joyful about if the Lord is taken out of the equation of our daily lives. This was exactly what had taken place in the city, for the name of the Lord was not evoked and people’s aspiration and affection was nesting elsewhere.

    Had people known what true joy was and the One who could impart it to them, they would have sought him with all their heart, yet they were beguiled by the evil one and turned to false gods, which became their root of sorrow.

    Indeed, all worldly things are dispensable and the only thing irreplaceable is the Lord. As the Psalmist clearly tells us: “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.”

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 21, 2017 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Good Understanding 

~~MTS-4415
Good Understanding
“Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites, who showed good understanding of the service of the Lord.”        2 Ch. 30:22
    Rituals are relatively easy to keep but the essence of rituals is not that easy to comprehend. I think a good understanding of the service of the Lord must involve both.
    “Being a monk for one day is to strike the bell for one day’s worth,” goes a Chinese saying. Why even sound the bell early in the morning and late at night? They are not necessarily required to know and their superiors probably don’t even care; yet people immediately find out if the bell fails to sound at a certain time.
    Being there and doing what was required of them was the primary thing for the Levites to do and, as far as the rest went, it probably didn’t matter all that much.
    Being there in person is the first thing in all things, without which hardly anything can be accomplished. This is, in essence, voting with our feet.
    As far as I can recall, this was the first time in all the years since I became naturalized that I failed to vote in the presidential election, for I thought my vote wasn’t going to make a difference. After all the votes were counted, I was proven right, yet by not casting my vote, I was deemed a non-participant of an important political process and an irresponsible citizen.
    Doing the right thing may not always produce instant results or even a desirable outcome, but failure to do it generates an undesirable consequence, which causes me to become a loser and a mere spectator of worldly affairs. The more I fail to do the right thing, the colder my heart will wax and I will gradually become a skeptical prig.
    I don’t necessarily always enjoy doing all the routine church work and don’t always perform them with joy and gladness, yet I go through the motions day after day, for not doing them isn’t really an option. Toward the end of my twenty-five years of church ministry, I am afraid “I have always been there” will become my only boast and claim of fame. I guess one can do much worse than that.
    Baseball people are notorious for attending to the details of the game and keeping meticulous records and statistics. One of the records is how many consecutive games players complete on the diamond. They may not be the best on the field, but they are the most durable and faithful. Indeed, being present does count for something.
    Isn’t this also an indication of showing a “good understanding of the service of the Lord?”

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 20, 2017 7:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Resounding Praise 

~~MTS-4414
Resounding Praise
“…while the Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with resounding instruments dedicated to the Lord.”       2 Ch. 30:21
    What’s the purpose in life? This is such a basic question that all of us must have thought about it and have come up with an answer.
    “The purpose of this life is to remain alive by making a living, and after we are able to sustain our lives, making a better living.” This is likely a response people will give when they are asked.
    To live cannot be a purpose itself, for to live is to live for something beyond merely staying alive. To live is merely a means by which we achieve an end. To live is a journey and the end is our destination. Indeed, life must have a purpose, just like a journey must have an end.
    Whatever we do daily must be reflected upon so that the essence of our daily chores will be revealed.
    Obviously, the goal and meaning of life is a self-created if life is indeed self-generated over a period of billions of years. The logic here is rather simple and self-explanatory. Yet the outcome is entirely different if we are indeed God’s creatures, and our Creator made us with a clear purpose in mind. Our life is completely futile if we fail to fulfill that particular purpose.
    So the essential question that we should ask ourselves every day is whether we have accomplished the goal for which we were created, which is to magnify the Lord by giving him praise.
    We are created to glorify the Lord and to enjoy his presence forever and unless we fulfill this purpose, our life will be a total failure.
    At this very moment you may be hard at work, doing something to make a living or to keep your household running, I suggest you pause for a brief moment and ask yourself a question: “Why am I doing all these things?”
    Why am I writing this piece anyway? I question. This can be a rather discouraging question for me to address to myself, for my composing is so elementary, my diction plain and rough, my thoughts primitive and basic and, looking at it purely from worldly point of view, it’s a complete disaster and failure. Yet what makes this a worthy venture and something worth doing is simply this: this is being done for no other purpose than to bring the Lord praise.
    Therefore, I have never failed to utter a prayer before my fingers touch the keyboard that may my composing purpose be a form of making a living sacrifice unto the Lord, a form of offering praise to the Lord.
    May it be so with you as well, and together we make a resounding shout of praise unto the Lord who has created us for this very purpose.
  
   
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 14, 2017 3:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Even If 

~~MTS-4413
Even If
“May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God…even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.”   2 Ch. 30:18
     They could have been kept away from the temple and the privilege of celebrating the Passover with the rest of the Israelites taken away from them, since they were ceremoniously unclean according to the law. Even so, they themselves were to blame, since they weren’t fully prepared for such a solemn occasion.
    Indeed, they had made great effort by travelling a long way to the Holy City for the event, and it would have been quite a letdown if they weren’t allowed to eat the Passover meal with all the others. Evidently, it was out of their ignorance of the law that they weren’t sufficiently prepared for the ritual, and King Hezekiah took the matter into his own hands by interceding for the people so that they could take part in the ceremony. What the king performed on these people’s behalf made a lot of sense, for he appeared to be well-versed not only in the letter but the in spirit of God’s law.
    What was essential, the king thought, was that people had set the hearts on seeking the Lord. If it wasn’t so, they wouldn’t have made such an effort by making the trip to Jerusalem. Their hearts were in the right place, albeit their knowledge concerning the law and the rules of the sanctuary was somewhat lacking.
    No matter how knowledgeable we are about the law of God, there will always be blind spots in our perspective that keep us from seeing the whole truth. In dealing with the sacred affairs of the Lord, grace and mercy are what we need. Surely no one can stand before him if the Lord demands perfection from all of us.
    Of course, we are all clothed with the blood-stained robe of Jesus, and are reckoned perfect because of the perfection of the Lamb of God. Even at the present moment, the Lord Jesus is still interceding for us before the heavenly throne; therefore we can approach God with boldness, fully assured that we are entirely accepted by the Almighty, even if we are still afflicted by our actual sins, and are laboring daily to become holy and unblemished in our thoughts and actions.
    We do need the covering of the Lord Jesus’ redemptive blood while we are still in the flesh, and we will never be liberated from our weaknesses until we are glorified someday.
    Our redemption from sin has been completed, yet we are still in need of being redeemed daily, both by our effort and God’s grace, for our striving in this life has always been and will always be perfection and holiness, and any less than that is unacceptable.
    We may never get there in this life and will constantly need the covering of God’s grace. Even if we fail in all our attempts to become perfect, we are still accepted by the Lord, for Jesus is our perfection.
      
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 11, 2017 5:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Regular Positions 

~~MTS-4412
Regular Positions
“Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God.”         2 Ch. 30:16
     After close to twenty-four years of doing the same thing at the same church, everything I do seems to have turned into some sort of rhythm, things that people do without even thinking about it. As I was buying another package of bread for communion service, I remember thinking that I might be retiring before the bread is used up. I was in fact counting down the mouths before I leave my “regular position” as a minister of a small church.
    “I am thinking about retiring from church ministry, but before I do, I need to discuss it with you boys,” I said to my youngest son over the phone.
    “Well, that’s a good idea, and you will be able to devote all your time to writing,” he replied.
     But after a brief pause, he added: “You may miss the preaching part after you leave the church. Isn’t it something you enjoy doing the most?”
    “Well, no one is entirely essential; anyone, it doesn’t matter who they are, they can always be replaced,” I answered. My voice cracked a little bit, feeling as if I was about to leave the battlefield while the war is still raging. Am I a deserter? I question.
    The truth did surface as I was contemplating about ending my church ministry. I believe the decision has been made, or will soon be made, not really on my own behalf; it’s rather for the church’s sake that I should step down, for I am quickly becoming a liability and a dead weight for the congregation to bear by not doing what I should do as a minister of the gospel. The church needs young blood to fulfill the duty and to inject fresh energy into God’s house.
    What I have done over the years? I started to reflect on the bygone years spent as a minster in a single staff church tucked away in a small corner on the High Plains of West Texas.
    “Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God.” Indeed, this verse pretty much sums up all I have done over the years, and if I have done anything worthy of praise at all, this is probably it. I have always taken my regular position and did what I was called to do both in preaching and teaching. Not until this year rarely did I miss a single Sunday service, and although my sermons might not have been first rate, I have been preaching two sermons in both English and Chinese without fail.
    In view of what I was contemplating, I suppose I could have done far worse than what I have been doing, yet by the same token, I could have performed a lot better than merely holding my regular position.
  
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 8, 2017 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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