Removal 

~~MTS-4411
Removal
“They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.”             2 Ch. 30:14
    At the edge of our little village there is a small shrine dedicated to the “earth god” which is the guardian of the seaside village where I grew up. The shrine is more or less a tiny house; within it there is a table with an incense holder on it. I believe there is one just like that in every village on the island of Taiwan without any exception.
    I presume the shrine will not be removed as long as there are still people in our village, unless the whole village is converted to Christianity, which is quite unlikely. People have been practicing idolatry for hundreds of years since the time they settled down on the west coast of Taiwan.
    This idolatrous ritual, as far as I could tell as a little boy, was the women’s job, for they were the ones who prepared food and fruit for the idols. I have often seen my mother walking to the shrine on the edge of the village with a wicker basket in her hand to make an offering to the earth god.
    I have always been rather reluctant to witness to my mother, for fear of being scorned by her and was unable to conjure up sufficient faith to believe that it was even remotely possible for her to forsake her religion and turn to the true God. A few years ago, my mother passed away an unbeliever.
    There is, however, a vibrant Christian church in the village not too far away from my house and evidently there was a revival that took place years ago and a church was planted. So it isn’t all that impossible for some people to turn to the Lord after all. I should have been a little more aggressive in reaching out to my loved ones with the gospel message, come to think of it. It was fear of persecution, really, that made me so unwilling to witness to the villagers.
    The key to the issue was, and still is, that I lack a can-do attitude powered by strong faith in God. It appears to me that I should learn to transfer my head knowledge of the Lord into heart knowledge by putting into practice what I claim to believe. It’s as simple as that.
    
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 7, 2017 3:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Nevertheless 

~~
MTS-4410

Nevertheless

“Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.”           2 Ch. 30:11

    For a long while it appeared nothing was happening and it didn’t look like anything was going to happen. We were merely doing the routine things every week, such as holding ESL classes and Bible studies for the seekers. It might have been irresponsible on my part not to look into what sort of results we were producing by doing these, yet the truth was that I was too afraid to look, for fear of finding all we had been laboring for was all for naught.

    For all the couriers sent to spread the message all over Israel, the journey was arduous and long, and they might have become rather disappointed and discouraged, for they weren’t received by the people warmly. In fact, they were even scorned and mocked in the process, causing them to question themselves and the validity of their mission. Indeed, there were times when they were tempted to give up and return home. Yet that wasn’t a choice, so they continued on, rather begrudgingly.

    “Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.” Things weren’t all bad after all, for there were people who heard the message and humbled themselves. Surely there are God’s people everywhere, and what must be done is to reach them with God’s message. The chosen will always respond to the Father’s call, and his sheep will never fail to heed the Shepherd’s voice.

    When this man came to me after the church service was over, I knew something had happened to him and the time might have arrived for the church to harvest what she had been sowing. Indeed, a renowned professor from China was about to receive the Lord into his heart. Thing such as this have been few and far between, nevertheless it has occurred from time to time in the church, and every time it happened, I was always amazed and surprised by it, reminding me that the Holy Spirit hasn’t quit calling people to himself and the Lord is still in the business of saving lost souls.

    “Amazing, this woman’s blog has generated two thousand comments,” Kathy said to me at breakfast. There was no denial that I was a bit jealous, for the most responses that I have received for my daily blog from the limited number of readers has been merely one or two, if anything at all. Sometimes I wonder what drives me to keep on blogging year after year, as if there are people out there who really care.

    There is, nevertheless, a reader out there whose opinion really counts, and as long as he is still reading, I will continue to click away on my keyboard.

    It’s not the content that I have managed to produce that counts for anything at all, for the Almighty will never be impressed by men’s ingenuity or creativity; it’s rather the love of the Lord within me that drives me to all these, and that’s all the Master is interested in witnessing, and is pleased.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 6, 2017 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Ignored 

~~MTS-4409
Being Ignored  
“The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them.”          2 Ch. 30:10
    It was business as usual for most people in Israel and they simply didn’t like to be disturbed. Their equilibrium had long been established and it was a balance act to maintain it. People’s greatest desire was for things to remain the same, and for them to be left alone and not to be bothered by either the government or the religious establishment.
    If people were indeed heading toward the wrong direction, not to be disturbed was actually an awful thing, for a drastic change had become necessary. In this case, the Israelites did need to pay great attention, for something had gone terribly wrong. They had been neglecting to observe the Passover feast and had quit going to holy city of Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.
    “The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them.” The couriers who were sent by Hezekiah had been crying out from one village to another, urging people to wake up from their stupor and to set the priority of their lives straight. They needed to put first things first and to remember the Passover.
    How did people react at the hearing of the calling from the king? They scorned and ridiculed the messenger instead.
    Something such as making a long journey to Jerusalem would have been so laborious and troublesome during the season when their orchards and figs needed to be tended and their livestock was in need of care and maintenance. How could they quit making a living and do something that seemed rather superfluous. Religion was for the rich and the idle, and was quite unnecessary, so they thought. 
    Things have not changed after thousands of years, for the response and reaction we have been receiving from people when we call them to turn to the Lord remains essentially the same as before. Worse off, we are oftentimes treated with mockery and disdain, as if we are mere plague in their midst. 
    It gets to the point that we merely go through the routine by calling people to come to the Lord, without expecting any positive response from them. We tend to expect failure to occur after we have failed so many times witnessing for the Lord, and we become accustomed to doing things out of mere duty. Zeal for the gospel is nowhere to be found. 
    Perhaps a Sabbath from labor is badly needed, for we may be fulfilling our obligation in calling people to the Lord, yet losing sight of our own spiritual apathy. Indeed, for those couriers, a spiritual revival might have been needed. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 5, 2017 5:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Turning Face 

~~MTS-4408
Turning Face
“He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”          2 Ch. 30:9
    My apology came about forty years late, but I did it anyway. I was about seventeen years old and corresponded with a girl about a year or so, and we saw each other a few times during that period. The girl never knew my real name, for I was using my pen-name at the time, and she never found out who I really was. Forty years later, I thought an apology was long overdue, so I found out where she was and wrote her an email of sincere apology, hoping that she would forgive me.
    I received a nasty response from her and she accused me of being a hypocrite, for I told her in the mail that I had become a Christian. In fact, she herself had been poorly treated by her ex-husband who was supposedly a devote believer and I somehow became the target of her fury. I was dumfounded by how things turned out, yet my conscience was clear, for I had done what I deemed appropriate. Surely I have no control over how people are going to react to my apology in anyway.
    Come to think of it, it would have been rather horrific if the Lord had turned his face from me after I had gone to him to confess all my sins and pleaded for forgiveness. It does take courage and determination to ask for forgiveness from someone, and being given a cold shoulder can be quite a devastating experience.
    The ill feeling of vindictiveness can sometimes be rather intoxicating and we seem to want to hold onto it as long as we possibly can, knowing that an apology from the other party would automatically bring about reconciliation, something we may be trying to avoid. For some odd reason, having a few enemies is actually quite enjoyable, for by putting some people down causes us to feel more superior. Besides, we may not be all that eager to become reconciled with the ones for whom we have zero affection.
    After we have offended the Lord repeatedly, will we ever be offensive to him with our presence in heaven, and will he avoid seeing us, for our presence may become repulsive to him? This is, of course, pretty common among us humans, and we tend to think the Lord may be somewhat similar. Indeed, even though I have forgiven the ones who have offended me, yet the thought of being with them under the same roof remains rather unappetizing.
    “He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” For some reason, I have found this particular verse truly comforting. Of course, to be forgiven by the Almighty is a wonderful thing; but to be liked and embraced by him is even more exciting, for not only do we desire to be forgiven, we crave also to be loved and adored.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, August 25, 2017 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Submission 

~~
MTS-4407

Submission

“Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord.”    2 Ch. 30:8

    How long has it been since the Lord first indicated to me that something wasn’t quite right and action had to be taken to correct it? I guess it has been a while since then, yet the Lord didn’t seem to mind that much, for nothing bad has yet to happen. Perhaps it’s not such a big deal to him after all.

    We are experts in making apologies for ourselves, and all things that we desire to do can always be rationalized and justified. The last line of our defense has always been the Lord is compassionate and forgiving, which is something we can always rely upon. Indeed, he will always forgive and forget, won’t he?

    “Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord.” If we continue to look in one direction, our necks will become stiff and frozen, rendering us unable to turn around and see what the Lord wants us to see. It’s rather difficult for a stony heart to be softened again.

    The celebration of Passover had ceased for a number of years, and it gradually became a habit for people not to observe the holiday. The sacred day had quickly become a regular day when people carried on with their daily businesses, not realizing that they were committing a serious sin against God by ignoring the day when the Lord had performed a great deed in Egypt on their behalf. Not to observe the holiday was a sign that people had long forgotten what it meant to be grateful and thankful to the Lord. 

    What does it mean when you forget your wedding anniversary or your wife’s birthday? Obviously, she will be greatly offended, for forgetfulness of those red-letter dates, making her feel that you no longer care about the relationship that you once treasured.

    To submit to the Lord is to again remember your first love for the Lord that might have been waxing cold throughout the years. It is to do the things that you used to do when your zeal for him was just kindled, and you could hardly wait to meet him in the sanctuary every Lord’s day.

    When did attending worship service become such a chore and fellowshipping with God’s people turn into something so mundane and laborious? Does it break your heart when you recollect that your heart used to be filled with excitement and every fiber of your being became awakened at the hearing of hymns sung and God’s word proclaimed?

    I know no other solution to this predicament except this: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” What were the things we did at first? Celebrating the Lord’s Day should be a good start.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 24, 2017 7:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Horror 

~~MTS-4406
Horror
“…who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see.”          2 Ch. 30:7
    Is this what I have been envisioning myself to be? I have often asked this question. I guess this is a normal thing to do as one ages. We should not leave our lives unexamined and continue to lead a life void of clear direction and definite vision. There seems to some sort of design for our lives out there and we desire to conform to it.
   Indeed, we all want our lives to be worthy of honor and respect, don’t we? Even though we are rather ambiguous concerning the meaning of life, yet claiming that life has no meaning is borderline insanity. We will never ask this question if we truly believe that life has no meaning.
    Life is intrinsically meaningful, yet we may still have to create meaning along the way, and the way we make our life worthy of praise is to be always conscious of what God’s will is and remain faithful to him. We will never regret if we make every attempt in fulfilling God’s will every day.
    The Israelites were unfaithful to the Lord and consequently, “he made them an object of horror.” We can either become an object or honor or horror both to ourselves and to others, depending on how we think and act every moment of the day.
    I have always hoped that I have been faithful to the Lord and will remain so for the rest of my life. I may not excel in anything, yet one thing is really essential, which is being what the Creator intends for me to be.
    “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven,” proclaimed the apostle Paul toward the end of his life.
    I will deem myself a great success if I can make the same claim as the apostle once did, even though who and what I am as a person is miles apart from the greatest missionary who ever lived in human history.
    Ultimately, my worth as a person will not be gauged by what I have accomplished, but will be measured by whether I remain faithful to God or not my entire life.
                                             

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 22, 2017 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Celebration 

~~MTS-4405
A Celebration
“They decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, calling the people to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord.”           2 Ch. 30:5
    To celebrate is to remember special occasions or events when something extraordinary has taken place in the past, thus evoking a sense of awe and feeling of thanksgiving and gratitude.
    I have always been one who is ready to celebrate whenever there is any reason to celebrate, for Chinese festivities are closely connected to having big banquets with tons of delicious food to eat. Chinese New Year is, of course, such an occasion which is very much akin to the Jewish Passover, come to think of it.
    Something came into my mind while we were celebrating Taiwanese Father’s Day a few days ago: I suddenly remembered it was exactly the day my father-in-law passed away about eight years ago. Shouldn’t his children remember do something to celebrate his life, which is worthy of celebration and remembrance in every way? Indeed, to celebrate grandpa’s passing is to once again call his life into being and to emulate what great things he has done with his life.
    The day came and went, and we did nothing.
    It’s a shame for the entire family to not remember and to celebrate the life of their beloved which was so worthily lived. Yet it’s a small thing compared to what the Israelites as a nation failed to do for so many years. The failure to celebrate the Passover was an indication they had entirely forgotten what great things that Lord had done for them.
    That was the first thing that King Hezekiah determined to rectify after he assumed the kingship. He called the entire nation to once again gather together in Jerusalem to remember their past when God had performed miraculous events on their behalf.
    So much of our Christian life is remembering, and apart from it we will lose the essence of our spirituality, for who and what we are is entirely through the grace of God and not to call it to remembrance through various kinds of celebrations on important occasions is the ultimate ingratitude. Celebration is always a reminder of the memorable past and we must keep on observing important days of the year lest we forget.
    Yes, lest we forget. So I decide to circle in red August the eighth and from now on and do something to celebrate the life that made such a difference in so many lives, mine included. I will even have a small feast to commemorate the special day, for it appears to me, eating has always been the most straightforward form of celebration.
       
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, August 18, 2017 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Celebration 

~~MTS-4404
Celebration
“They had not been able to celebrate it at the regular time because not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem.”        2 Ch. 30:3
     “I hope that I will be able to finish preaching the Gospel John before all is said and done,” I didn’t mean to say this in my sermon, for I was still pondering whether to retire or not.
    Even so, I can’t help counting down the months, the days even, before I quit the church ministry for good. Twenty-four plus years should be long enough ministering in the same church. There will be no regrets when I fold this up, really. The church deserves to have a fresh voice and a new vision. I am running out of ideas and have found myself dragging at my work.
    A new bag of communion bread will be sufficient for a coming months, I remember thinking after I picked up the last piece for the Lord’s Supper. I have always considered it a great privilege to conduct monthly communion service and the thought of not doing it did bring a tinge of sadness in my heart.
    Of course, no one is indispensable in God’s kingdom and the Lord himself will consecrate another person to take over what I have been doing in this small congregation over the years. God’s workers may cease to exist, yet his work will continue until the day Christ returns.
    Is retiring from church ministry even biblical, I caught myself thinking. I once thought it would be such a beautiful thing if I passed away behind the pulpit. I suppose the hardest thing to leave behind when I finally retire will be the preaching ministry, which is something I enjoy doing the most. Being relative unknown in church circles, I doubt I will ever be in demand to fill the pulpit elsewhere.
    The Lord has called me to preach. Will the calling suddenly cease?
    My father-in-law retired at age seventy, yet his ministry was ongoing, since he continued to do what had always been doing as a minister of God, except he did so without a monthly stipend. I have been consecrated to perform the sacred task and the calling and consecration will never cease as long as I still breathe and walk about.
    I may lose an audience, but will never lose the message, and even though there isn’t anyone listening, I will continue to speak, both with my mouth and my hands. I have gotten rather accustomed to speak to a very small audience over the years; I believe I can continue to preach to a congregation of one or two. If the desire is there, we can always find a listening ear on the street corner or on a busy street.
    Indeed, this has always been one of my favorite verses: “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness…” If we have ears to hear, we can even hear a small voice uttered by the lips on a platter.  
     
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Willingness 

~~MTS-4402
Willingness
“So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings.”        2 Ch. 29:31
    The essence of offering is a deep awareness of who we are and who God is, and apart from this knowledge, we will always be rather reluctant when the time comes for us to part with what we have always considered ourselves.
    What things we consider belong to us aren’t really so, for we will either lose them by unnatural calamities that often occur in life or by natural death, which is a sure thing, in the end.
    Material things in and of themselves are never our purpose; they are always the means by which we accomplish certain purposes in life, and their value is determined by how they are utilized. Wealth is value-neutral and its worth is multiplies by how it’s used; its value can increase and decrease by the way it’s spent. The single coin that was given to the Lord in the temple was obviously far more valuable than the large amount of money donated to the Lord by the rich man.
    Indeed, we can increase the worth of our money if it’s given to the Lord or spent for the kingdom’s sake.
    Who am I, then? Am I this money-making machine whose sole purpose in life is to make a better living for me and my loved ones? Or I have been created for a specific purpose and whatever I do is aimed toward glorifying the Lord and fulfilling his intention for me? If I consider the latter to be true, the way I use my material resources is part of the greater scheme of honoring the Lord, and offering to him my wealth in merely a natural extension of who I am. If not, I would be living a lie and a contradiction void of consistency between my action and belief, my faith and practice.
    “So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings.”
    What caused these people to make sacrifices and to offer thank offerings so willingly? They must have been convinced that all they possessed had been given to them by the Almighty, and the act of giving was actually returning to the Lord what they owed to him. Besides, it was also a deed of faith, for they must have believed the more they gave to the Lord, the more financial resources they would be entrusted with. To put it more bluntly, the more they offered to the Lord, the more they would be blessed with wealth.
    If we truly believe the Lord owns everything we possess and we are actually stewards who are entrusted to manage God’s abundant wealth, not to give to the Lord his due simply doesn’t make any sense at all.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, August 14, 2017 7:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gladness 

~~MTS-4401
Gladness
“So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.”    2 Ch. 29:30
    It didn’t just happen that way; there seemed to be reasons behind the whole thing. For a period of three years after I claimed to believe in Christ, never a single time did I step inside God’s church to worship and, as far as I can recall, I never missed it.
    That was the way it was. Attending worship service was something out of the ordinary, and there was simply no reason to do it. Indeed, there was a ton of other things to do on Sundays besides going to church to worship God. I would have been overcome by boredom had I gone at all.
    “So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.” How foreign this feeling was to me at the time! Singing praises to the Lord with gladness. How peculiar it was. Worship the Lord with gladness. This was something that had no rhyme or reason at all.
    I was actually looking forward to going to the church to teach children’s Sunday school and later attend the worship service. By the time I went home to rest it was long pass lunch time. A few months later, I found a job in a museum that required me to work on Sundays, yet I still managed to teach Sunday school before I went to work. I was so glad to do it and it wasn’t at all burdensome.
    What brought the dramatic transformation? It was nothing short of miraculous, yet it seemed to take place so very naturally, as natural as morning dew appearing on the meadow and as the wind starting to blow. I was transforming into something, yet wasn’t even curious to examine the reason behind it. Such was the way things should have always been and would remain the same the rest of my life, and doing otherwise would cause me to feel so awkward and unnatural.
    Wasn’t it so natural and enjoyable to take a walk with the Lord in the garden when he paid the first couple a daily visits in the cool of the day? Why did they even have to hide themselves among the figs unless they had done something that caused them to become so frightened and afraid?
    To worship the Lord is the main reason why we have been created and not to do so is a form of escape. Corporate worship is one of the main components of worship that we do, and it signifies that something is awfully wrong with our religion if we miss it regularly and worse off, we don’t even feel anything is missing by missing the gathering with the saints.
    This is such common phenomena I have observed over the years being a minister that’s proven true almost every time when it happens: the dwindling of attending worship services always signifies that someone is about to lose his or her faith. Well, to put it more bluntly, they might not have had faith to start with at all.
    Attending Sundays or the lack thereof does tell more about our faith than we care to realize.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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