But Now 

~~MTS-4527
But Now
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander…”           Col. 3:8

    What kind of person was I yesterday, last month, or even last year? Am I merely repeating what I was and what I will be as a person?
    Don’t we all get a little discouraged when we look at ourselves and how few changes we have made over the years? I do.
    I was determined to do things differently at the latter stage of my church ministry, for I was rather dissatisfied with what I had been doing as a pastor. I was hoping that I would get an opportunity to redeem myself before I ultimately retired. Yet things basically remained the same even after I made a decision to step down from church ministry. I didn’t make a meaningful change about the way I was doing things at the church, and I don’t think I will get another chance to make a difference.
    What I should have done at the time when I was pondering about making a change was to formulate what concrete steps should be taken for the transformation to take place. If nothing is being done to make things happen, we will always fall back to the old pattern of conducting our business and things will remain status quo.
    I have always had difficulty doing the pastoral care part of my church, such as visiting the sick and comforting the distraught, for I don’t seem to possess the spiritual gift to do the work consistently. Yet over the years I have done nothing to make a change. Therefore what should have been done with the church has remained undone, and I will leave the twenty-five-year ministry with a guilty conscience. I simply have not done my best.
    Indeed, a great transformation did take place when I made a decision to follow the Lord, yet that was over forty years ago. What has happened during the years in my Christian walk? The Christian life isn’t a thing of the past; it takes place at the present time. The apostle wrote: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…”
    I doubt seriously anyone of us is perfectly happy with our spirituality. There are always things in our lives to be gotten rid of or to be implemented, and the time to do it is always now. Procrastination is one of the worst spiritual vices we all suffer one way or another.
    It’s human tendency to either turn to the right or to the left in our thoughts or actions, and the appropriate thing to do is to take a small step moving to the middle. Meaningful changes in life, be they physical or emotional, always happen on a small scale and in moderation; they may never take place if we try to do them in big chunks. Isn’t this the time to make a bite-sized change to grow our spirituality?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Used to 

~~MTS-4526
Used to
“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”        Col 3:7

    My life was transformed such a long time ago that I can hardly remember what it was like to lead a pagan lifestyle, and I have never dreamt of going back to what I used to be. It’s not all that pleasant to entertain such an idea, let alone to actually do it.
    I have become a new man, yet this question still remains and haunts me every day: Is my life being renewed daily? Am I still the person I was some forty years ago when I was regenerated? This is the question I must face and the answer may not be all that pretty.
    Have I become complacent in my Christian walk?
    I found myself regurgitating the same old stories that took place years ago when I was giving my personal testimony, and I had to apologize to the ones in the congregation who might have heard them before. There surely won’t be any new testimony to share if my inner life isn’t being renewed and rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit every day; I will just continue to rehash the old tales that happened to me forty years ago.
    Can these dry bones come back to life? I ask myself.
    What am I going to write? I pondered. It was a little past four a.m. and my mind was yet to wake up. I spoke a few words to the shiny computer screen yet it didn’t come to life and I dropped my Apple pencil with a sigh. I am so frightened that a day may come when I have absolutely nothing to say and the writer will cease to exist. As far as I am concerned, to live is to utter something and to create reality with words, and my life ends when I cease to speak.
    My oldest son was still in high school when I started to write, and he has since become a father of three, and it has always been my intention to keep on writing until I breathe my last. Yet it seems to be getting more and more difficult for me to utter meaningful words, and everything I write appears to be a mere repetition of what I have spoken before.
    I know the solution to this dilemma I am encountering, and what needs to be done is to put it into concrete action. My inner self must be renewed through abiding with the Lord, and I will have nothing to compose unless I do so continuously.
    Surely, you are not interested in listening to an old man rehashing his stale old tales, are you? Certainly I am not, and I will henceforth shut my month if I do nothing to renew myself to gain a fresh voice.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 19, 2018 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Wrath 

~~MTS-4525
God’s Wrath
“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”         Col 3:6

    Isn’t the wrath of God always in the future tense, something that will take place at a distant time and space far, far away? If this is really so, why even bother at all? Since by nature the future is vague, to be so concerned about its uncertainty is rather foolish and far-fetched.
   It’s like the people from the land of Chi, who, according to a Chinese legend, were very frightened that the sky was falling, not realizing that the sky wasn’t the roof of the earth, and therefore it could never fall.
    “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Because of what? we ask. Simply put: it’s because we indulge in the pleasure of sin.
    O we know all this full well. The pleasure of sin is sharp, acute, instant, and always leaves a lasting impression on our minds, causing us to seek the same sensation repeatedly. What will this longing to experience the same euphoria end up with? It’s something called addiction.
    Indeed, the wrath of God doesn’t lie in the distant future; it’s getting closer and closer to us. In fact, it follows hard after us, and when the fleeting pleasure of sin vanishes, the wrath of God immediately begins.
    For sure, we all have experienced God’s wrath demonstrated on a smaller scale in our lives. I was a heavy drinker in the service, and occasionally became drunk. One time I passed out and had to be carried to bed by my comrades. The worst thing about being drunk was the moment I woke up the next day. Besides a headache and physical discomfort, the most unbearable was the sense of emptiness and regret, and the ill-at-ease feeling of having done something wrong. Wasn’t that the wrath of God exhibited and illustrated?
    The wrath of God is cumulative by nature, and it increases and accumulates as we continue to sin. The anger of God can only be appeased and decreased through our repentance, for the death of Jesus on the cross has taken away the wrath of God. Therefore, the only remedy for our sin is true repentance to Christ Jesus and our plea for divine forgiveness.
    Sin does pay, doesn’t it? It repays us with physical pleasure that lasts but a few moments, yet the debt of unredeemed sin accumulates, and it charges lofty interest. If we feel the wrath of God demonstrated in our lives on a small scale, can we even imagine how severe it will be when it falls on us in its full strength and force?
    Isn’t it a warning sign that things are not well when we are accused by our conscience, whispering to us that God isn’t pleased with us, and his anger against us is accumulating more and more by the day?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 18, 2018 7:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Greed 

~~MTS-4524
Greed
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”   Col. 3:5

    Isn’t our worship a kind of exchange? We pay homage to the deity who in turn gives us something back, the thing which we earnestly desire to have, be it fame or wealth.
    Isn’t this the essence of the so-called prosperity gospel, which is being propagated all over and embraced by so many. It really doesn’t matter whom we worship as long as the object of our adoration is an omnipotent benefactor who is able to grant whatever is asked of him liberally and unconditionally.
    There is always a piece of red cloth hanging at the entrance of every little shrine on the island of Taiwan that says: “Pray, and it will be granted to you accordingly.”
    Of course, the things that people pray for the most are wealth, health, or other material things. I suppose greed for things is the primary force that causes people to kneel down before their gods. In essence, greed for earthly things is idolatrous.
    Why do we worship the Lord?
    The worship of the Lord can never be idolatrous since he is the true and only God of the universe. Yet, what motivates us to bow down before him can be idolatrous.
    We worship the sovereign Lord because he is true, not because he can bestow upon us all the blessings we are craving. This is hardly an original idea and it wasn’t originated by C.S. Lewis, even though he once made a similar remark. This should be universally recognized common sense, yet so many of us seem to choose to ignore it. We are very reluctant to examine the reasons behind our worship for fear we might find out our motivation isn’t as lily white as we have imagined.
    We worship the Lord merely because of who we are and who he is, and anything beyond this is a bonus, something superfluous even. We are children of our Heavenly Father and the main goal of our worship is to restore an intimate relationship with him. What inheritance we will be receiving from him should always be an afterthought. What we desire the most is the intimate and harmonious relationship that was broken by our original and actual sins.
    What else can be more fundamental than this and can this basic need be granted to us by bowing down to idols, be they human or “divine”? Yet our greed for fame and fortune is what drives us to them. It’s rather unfortunate, really, for the line separating true worship and idolatry has become increasingly ambiguous.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 17, 2018 8:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Put to Death 

~~MTS-4523
Put to Death
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust…”         Col 3:5
    To die is to lose the ability to act. Dead people can’t do anything, can they? To live as a Christian is to continue to put to death our inner desire to do any immoral, impure, or lustful things.
    How do we do that, then? Carnal people are incapable of doing such a thing, for the flesh cannot keep itself from what not to do; yet our spirits have been revived through regeneration, therefore, our inner renewed selves can surely take control of our flesh and direct its action.
    When I by chance find myself engaged in doing anything filthy, there is always a soft and small voice whispering in the ear of my conscience, accusing me of doing the wrong thing. I can either quit doing it right away, or keep on suppressing the movement of the Spirit, and thus continue to lead a life of fear and misery.
    How can any regenerated person continue to live in sin? This just doesn’t make any sense at all. A sinful life may be ignored for a short while, but it can never be suppressed for long, or be justified in any shape or form. Sooner or later, we will have to face the music and call sin by its rightful name.
    We can either lead an earthly or a heavenly lifestyle, and either they will produce joy or misery in our lives. People cannot be truly joyful if they lead a sinful life. There will always be something lacking if we do not make room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to dwell. Happiness is indeed a choice, and we choose happiness if we choose to obey the Lord and lead a heavenly lifestyle, which is to keep ourselves pure from pollution and contamination from the customs of this world.
    Bodily pleasures are essentially instantly acquired with sharp edges, yet they tend to wear out rather quickly and they leave a bitter aftertaste in our mouths. Haven’t we all experienced this? Why do we often have a sip of water after we have an ice cream cone or a piece of cake with frosting? Desserts can be so sweet that they turn bitter. Indeed, too much of a good thing isn’t really a good thing after all.
    If only we would think about things logically and rationally, we would come to realize that sin doesn’t yield what it has promised, and it’s always a little too late to make amends when we finally find out what awful damage it’s done to us.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 13, 2018 8:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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