To Boast 

MTS-3416

To Boast

“May I never boast except in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

                 Gal 6:14

 

What are the things that I consider the most precious in my life? My wife and my children.
Can I boast about them? Well, I don’t mind if people ask about them. In fact, I
am dying for people to ask about them so I can talk about them.

Both my wife and my children are gifts of God. I have done absolutely nothing to acquire
them.

Do I have some talents of which I am proud? Not all that many, but there are a few of
them I don’t mind showing people. I enjoy listening to myself talk and sing.
Have I done anything to cultivate my talents? Nothing. They are all God’s gifts
if they are indeed talents at all.

Have I earned some academic degrees and a few accolades along the way? Well, I have earned
three post-graduate degrees and one of them is terminal. Did I accomplish those
through my own efforts? No so at all. I could have done nothing apart from
God’s help along the way.

Am I proud of my clear mind and sound health, even at my somewhat advanced age? Compared to
some, I am doing pretty well, but it’s not through my own doing whatsoever. The
Lord has been sustaining me over the years.

What have I done to earn the most valuable thing in my entire life, my eternal life?
Absolutely nothing. It’s through Christ’s death on the cross that true
righteousness has been imputed on me.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote the apostle, who could
have boasted about all he had done, since he seemed to have achieved a great
deal for God’s kingdom.

Whenever he was attempting to do so, he was reminded of Christ’s cross and how the Son of
God suffered on the tree, and how disastrous his life would have turned out,
apart from the revelation and merit of the cross.

I don’t even have to envision what my life would have become had God not revealed himself to
me; I can see it “lively portrayed” in the lives of my friends and neighbors.
Such is a life without the joy of Christ and hope of salvation.

“But by the grace of God I am
what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”

Is there any room for boasting? People who boast have no idea who they really are. Indeed
they rob God of his glory by heaping something that rightly belongs to the Author
of life on themselves. They are robbers and thieves. How dreadful it will be
when they meet their Creator someday!

We rob the Lord of his glory if we boast about anything, as if through our sheer effort
and ingenuity we have accomplished anything worthwhile. In fact, we steal God’s
honor and admiration if we lead a life of ingratitude and discontentment or
develop an attitude of arrogance and pride. I think the Lord Jesus’ greatest
fear while he was in the flesh was that he might rob his Father of his glory in
any way.    

 

 

   

Friday, January 11, 2013 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Cross 

MTS-3415

The Cross

“The only reason they do this is to
avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.”              Gal 6:12

 

The Christians in the Roman Empire were accused of practicing “atheism,” since,
unlike most in the empire who practiced polytheism, they only worship one true God.
Thus they were being blamed for the many ills of the country, including the
fall of Rome by the hands of the barbarians from the North.

Many Christians became martyrs because of their belief in the supremacy of Christ
and the absoluteness of salvation through his death on the cross. “Salvation is found in no one
else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be
saved," proclaimed the apostle Peter. Indeed believing in a bold
proclamation such as this could get you killed during that time!

Buddhism was introduced to China about the same time as
Nestorian Christianity was brought to the nation by missionaries during the
Tong dynasty. Yet, unlike Buddhism, the latter left no trace on Chinese soil
except for a monument with an inscription on it. I suppose Buddhism was
absorbed by the Chinese because of its all inclusiveness, and Christianity was
excluded by the masses for its exclusivity. I believe Christ Jesus would have
been welcomed into shrines and temples in China had he not claimed to be the
one and only God.

Shall we make a compromise to avoid persecution and to win
acceptance by the mainstream? People consider us bigots and fear-mongers
because of our unwillingness to embrace other deities and their ways of
salvation. The persecution surely will continue unless we give up the claim.

Christ would have suffered and died in vain had it been
possible for people to earn their salvation through observing the law or
heeding the voice of their conscience. We merely try to avoid being persecuted
or being excluded by the mainstream if we deny this absolute claim. We are
justified by faith alone, not faith in Christ plus something else.

“This is just way too passive. What else can I do if all
things have been done for me already?”  I
have been asked this question more than once by students from China. For the
most part, they are high-achievers, and doing nothing to contribute toward
their salvation is quite unthinkable to them. They might feel more at ease if
circumcision were required of them to be saved.

What we do for Christ has nothing to do with our
salvation, but has everything to do with our sanctification; yet whatever we
employ to cause us to become more sanctified is empowered by the Spirit. Therefore,
God gets all the glory for both and we get the benefits of his grace and mercy.

It’s really hard for me to fathom how it can be such a
daunting task for us to remain God’s children and to rest in his love and
mercy. It may be that we prefer to become hobos who roam freely in our sin than
to be God’s beloved children and dwell in his house forever. 

    

Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Impress 

MTS-3414

To Impress

“Those who want to impress people by
means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised.”         Gal 6:12

 

Getting circumcised was a way for the Gentile Christians to show people that they
wanted to play a part in earning their own salvation. Doing nothing to enhance
their position in God simply wasn’t an option. By nature many of them were proud
people and nothing made them feel more uncomfortable than getting a free lunch.
One way or another, they desired to make some sort of contribution toward their
own redemption.

It made me a little uneasy when I was listening to this lady professor speaking about her
indulgence in various perversities before she was converted to Christianity.
Obviously she wasn’t proud of what she had done as a pagan, but it would have
been much better had she kept those things hidden. She wasn’t trying to impress
anyone by bringing up her sinful past, yet there appeared to be a tinge of
“showmanship” in her when she was narrating her not so glorious past.

Forgiveness of sins is God’s glorious act; but sin itself doesn’t bring glory to God. We
should never bring up the things done in the flesh to bring glory and honor to
God. In fact, we should keep them buried underground, never to dig them up
again.

We have absolutely nothing to offer to God except our praise and gratitude to him for
all he has done for us.

What did I do to earn my father’s love for me? Nothing at all. My dad would have loved me
just the same, even if I had turned against him. The father in our Lord’s
parable didn’t love his prodigal son any less, even though the child broke his
heart by his filial impiety. Even though my brother brought my dad immeasurable
pain through his drinking, my father’s love for him didn’t diminish even an
ounce.   

I think my feeble attempts to bring glory to God by my poetry must have been discredited
since many of them were done in the flesh. God’s name is not glorified in what
we do if there is a trace of self-glorification in it. It’s awfully audacious
and obnoxious on our part if we dare to ask the Lord to share his glory with
us. Keeping ourselves hidden under the shadow of his wings is always better
than bathing in the limelight of our own vainglory.

Indeed getting circumcised is merely a beginning, not an ending. It’s the moment when
we make a declaration to the world that we will try to earn our salvation by
observing the law, and from then on we start to ride the rollercoaster of our
performance in the flesh, which will take us high in midair and then hurl us
down to the pit of despondency. We are doomed to fail if we believe we can
please God or earn ourselves a credit or two through our own efforts.

Are we really impressed by ants who work frenetically to collect food for themselves or by bees
who meticulously build an elaborate beehive for themselves? Not so much. I
would be more impressed if they ceased from their work and bowed down to me in
praise and worship. I guess this somewhat illustrates the point I was trying to
make.            

 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Opportunity 

MTS-3413

Opportunity

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let
us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of
believers.”         Gal 6:10

 

If we don’t make an effort to do good, we may not do it at all. There is a comfort zone within
all of us, and unless we force ourselves to come out of it, we will always
retreat to our little cocoon of selfishness and remain there and become more
and more self-absorbed and self-centered.

I am by nature an isolationist, and if I can help it at all, I will always choose to be
alone. Lord Byron was my hero when I was a young poet and his opening line from
Childe Harold Pilgrimage had always
been my motto: “I have not loved the world, nor the world me.” How ironic it
was the Lord called this misanthropist into a vocation that demanded him to
love and to care whether he liked it or not.

It has been rather difficult indeed and, after thirty years of practice, I still remain
quite awkward at it. I still feel like escaping when I am with a group of people.

I wish I were a social butterfly and a “natural” as far as doing good to people was concern.
Since this is not the case, I need to put out a much stronger effort than most
people in reaching out to the needy and in practicing charity.

This command is for all people, regardless of their natural bent as a person. We need to be
with people no matter whether we are “people persons” or not. How can we do
good to people if we are not with people? To love is more of a matter of the
will than of feeling. I would probably do nothing to help people if I based all
my actions purely on my feelings. We need to learn to become “willful helpers.”

The more we help people, the more opportunities will present themselves for us to help
others. I suspect people don’t always come to me for help, because I haven’t
always been that willing when I was asked. I have never turned people down when
they came to me, but my body language and my facial expression might have told
a different story, perhaps causing people to be reluctant to ask me for help
again.

Most of us by nature are not helpers and exhorters; we all need to work hard on it, and if we
do it more diligently and consistently, it will become more of our “second
nature” to do good to other people, especially to our brothers and sisters in
Christ.

Doing good to others is a privilege, not an obligation. We may fulfill our responsibility rather
begrudgingly, but we will always do our job cheerfully if we consider it our
honor and privilege to do good to others. How wonderful it is that the Lord
places us in a position where we are able to serve our fellow men; how sinful
and ungrateful it is if we even grumble about it. Indeed, “it is more blessed
to give than to receive.”    

 

   

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Doing Good  

MTS-3412

Doing Good

“Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”                 Gal 6:9

 

There is no goodness in us but the goodness of God, and doing good simply means doing what
pleases the Lord.

What’s pleasing in men’s sight may not be so in God’s eyes. We feel good about
ourselves when we perform some deeds of charity, but what we do may not be
truly good, for we often do things to be seen by men or to give our self-image
a boost.

The harvest of such good deeds is often instant. Worldly charities do bring instant gratification,
and we don’t always become weary in doing them. Not so with genuine goodness,
however. If we do things only seen by God, it may take a long while for the
reward to surface.

What good deed is better than the deed of evangelism? We applaud people for their efforts
to save people from their poverty, yet frown upon the ones who try to save them
from their perversity.

That was the reason why the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave up his medicine in London and
became a minister of the gospel in Ireland. 
Yet his particular action wasn’t universally lauded.

Both Martha and Mary were doing something they considered good; yet one was doing a better
thing than the other. Indeed most would have considered what Martha was doing
far more praiseworthy than what Mary was doing, but the Lord Jesus looked at
the event differently.

What is the best may not be greatly rewarded. In fact, the reward of true goodness is often
slow in coming, and is void of any pomp and fanfare when it does arrive.

“You are always with me, and everything I have is yours,” the father said to the
eldest son in the parable of the prodigal son. The son was hoping that his father
would honor him with a banquet, celebrating his faithfulness toward his father
over the years, yet it wasn’t really necessary, for the presence of the father
was the son’s best reward.

What kind of reward are we expecting by being God’s loving children and faithful servants? Isn’t
being God’s child itself the greatest reward of them all? All the good deeds
that we do our entire life are merely done to maintain our relationship with
the Father.

I will consider myself sufficiently rewarded if the Lord merely smiles at me and looks
at me with a sense of approval and pride. It means nothing if the entire world
considers us good; but it means everything if the Lord deems us worthy of his
praise. Therefore we keep on doing all the little things that are pleasing in
his sight, things we do daily to maintain an intimate relationship with the
Lord, albeit they don’t seem to generate any visible reward or tangible results,
and many people even reckon them futile and unproductive.

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken
away from her," said the Lord Jesus.      

  

Monday, January 7, 2013 6:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Eternal Life 

MTS-3411

Eternal Life

“…whoever sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

            Gal 6:8

 

Is eternal life a reality in your life now, or are you still waiting for it to happen?

“Isn’t it something that happens after we die?” you question.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not
perish but have eternal life.” Don’t we all know this verse by heart?

Eternal life shall start from here and now. We have
eternal life when we put our trust in Jesus. We tend to consider it in terms of
life after death if we focus on its quantity; we can make it more realistic by
thinking about its quality.

The breath of life the Lord imparted to the first man was
eternal and it died when Adam sinned; yet that life can be revived through our
trust in the resurrected Jesus.

How do we make our eternal life more realistic than what
it is now? We seem to lead our daily lives as if eternal life does not exist
and we merely live in the flesh and blood. This is indeed quite unfortunate.

Here lies the key: “Whoever sows
to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

We have eternal life the moment we are born from above; therefore we don’t have to “sow
to please the Spirit” in order to harvest eternal life. We don’t earn eternal
life through our daily efforts. However, unless we put out effort to make it
materialize and surface in time, it will forever remain an abstract concept and
idea, something that always stays in the future tense. 

Eternal life will fully blossom when we can please the Spirit fully in our thoughts and
actions, which will not take place until we are glorified; but we can have a
foretaste of its beauty and blessedness by leading a life that is pleasing and
obedient to the Spirit.

Pleasing the Lord in all we do is an act of sowing seeds of eternal life and, if we do so
consistently, there will be a dense resonance of eternity in our temporal life.

Life that marches to the drumbeat of the flesh is full of discord and cacophony and it
only brings fury and discontentment to our hearts. We do all things to make
happiness stay, yet it seems to be out of our grasp. We always end up chasing
an illusion and we lament with the poet: “vanity of vanities, all is vanitiy.”

As our days on earth are drawing nearer and nearer to the end, we will have nothing to look
forward to beyond the Jordan unless we learn to appreciate the eternal in the
temporal and the “still point” in this fleeting world, and there will not be
any harvest of eternal life unless we continue to sow the seeds that are
pleasing to the Holy Spirit.         

 

  

Friday, January 4, 2013 7:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Destruction 

MTS-3410

Destruction

“Whoever sows to please their flesh,
from the flesh will reap destruction…”

             Gal 6:8

 

There are needs of our flesh that need to be met regularly and, unless we do so
diligently, survival would become quite a challenge. Many of our physical needs
are legitimate and necessary for our existence.

What causes us problems is the way and the extent we seek to meet our physical needs. I
guess there is a great difference between merely meeting our physical needs and
excessively pleasing our carnal desire. Meeting our physical needs is
pleasurable, which is the factor that causes us to do it repeatedly without
fail; but attempts to maximize such pleasure may easily become our downfall and
gradually blunt the joy of the flesh.

Most Chinese people don’t appreciate American style cakes because they are simply way too
sweet for them. My mother took a bite of the cake my wife baked for her and put
it aside when she came to visit us for the first time in Taipei, never to touch
it again. I remember seeing her frowning a little when she took a bite. The extreme
sweetness must have felt a little toxic to her.

Sweetness is toxic! Recently CBS did a segment on this topic in 60 Minutes.

The Chinese buffet restaurants I frequent are often crowded with people who shouldn’t be
there. By being there and taking in something they don’t really need
physically, they indeed sow the seeds of their future destruction. The pounds
they gain and the physical problems that come along with excess weight will
become very difficult to shed. How many people do we know who are going through
the vicious circle of losing and gaining weight?

Is this that time of the year when many people are making the most common New Year
resolutions that they are not able to keep?

There are hundreds of things that we can do to please our flesh other than just eating,
and they are far more destructive than taking in food and drink. “What goes into a man's mouth
does not make him “unclean,” proclaimed the Lord Jesus. Many things we do
routinely may usher in destruction to our lives without us knowing it, and it’s
always a little late when we realize what we have been doing to ourselves. “The
acts of the sinful nature are obvious,” said Paul, yet how often are we blinded
to the obvious! “Three feet of frozen ice isn’t caused by one day’s cold (冰凍三尺, 非一日之寒,)” goes a Chinese saying. Our ultimate destruction isn’t
usually caused by one single sinful act; it’s always an accumulation of years
of wrongdoings.

I had no earthly idea that a severe case of the flu was
going to occur to ruin my Christmas holiday while I was going my merry way,
neglecting to get a flu shot and ignoring to maintain good personal health practices,
and before I knew it, I was running a fever on Christmas day.     

   

Thursday, January 3, 2013 8:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sowing and Reaping 

MTS-3409

Sowing and Reaping

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be
mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

           Gal 6:7

 

We mock the Lord every time we sin, for we think the evil we do will not incur any serious
consequence. It’s utter foolishness if we don’t believe the seed we sow will
germinate underground and grow into the exact thing which we have planted. A
pear tree will not surface if we sow an apple seed, which is obvious.

In his Confessions St. Augustine spoke
poignantly about the sins he had committed as a little boy and how they would
surface in his heart from time to time, causing him sorrow and regret. Every
sin we have ever committed in our life, whether we are aware of it or not, is
etched deeply in our heart and will remain there eternally. The totality of our
sin may be covered by the blood of the Lamb, but it may still rear its ugly
head to cause us pain.  

As children of God, our sins are indeed forgiven, but not necessarily forgotten. The Lord
does not forget our every sin, for the Omniscient forgets nothing; therefore,
his forgetfulness is intentional. The Lord forgets because he chooses to
forget. As far as our memory is concerned, we don’t seem to have such an option.
Our sins will always find ways to come back to us and to shame us and, unfortunately,
Satan will always bring them up to accuse us.

The fruit of sin may be sweet, but its aftertaste is bitter and
sour, and can

never be washed away. We offend three
parties whenever we sin: the Lord, the ones we sin against, and ourselves, and the
ill-effects we have inflicted on the three is long lasting. Wasn’t it for our
sin the Son of God was crucified? Yet we seem to have such a cavalier attitude
toward our sin.

Will we keep on mocking and taunting God by our continual sinning, as if he will never hold
us accountable?

We may be taking advantage of God’s love for us by sinning continuously, thinking that
the Lord’s grace is sufficient and he will always forgive our many sins, not
knowing that sin will always run its sinister course and, albeit it is forgiven
through Christ’s death on the cross, we will still suffer the ill-effects of
it, either physically or spiritually. We are deceiving ourselves if we think
otherwise.

Consider this: Are we really willing to suffer the consequences of sin?

We lose the joy of the Lord the moment after we sin and the misery may last for a while.
The pleasure of sin always comes with a price tag, which is the loss of our
intimate fellowship with the Lord, and the deep joy it produces. Secondly,
God’s presence will depart from us, for we cannot see God’s face unless we are
pure and holy. Indeed, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Are these consequences frightening enough to keep you away from sinning? “Do not be
deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

   

  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 8:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Best 

MTS-3408

The Best

“Then they can take pride in themselves
alone, without comparing themselves to someone else…”        Gal 6:4

 

“Am I the best I can possibly be?” This is the question we ought to ask ourselves from
time to time.

“Am I the best among all my peers?” This is the question we should avoiding asking
ourselves.

What does our Master require from all of us? To be the best of all or to be the best of me.
The answer is obvious, isn’t it?

Why was the one with one talent condemned in our Lord’s parable? It was not his fault that he
was only meagerly endowed; his shortcoming was his timidity and lack of effort
in investing what he had. The Lord didn’t judge him by comparing him with the
other two with greater talent; the man was judged for what he was and his lack
of action.

How best is my best? I guess we will never know, for no matter how hard we try, our best
still falls far behind our potential best.

“I am just repeating myself,” I complained to Kathy, feeling quite discontented with my
writings lately.

“No, you are doing a great job as usual,” Kathy was just being her usual self- comforting
and encouraging self. I know full well that I have become stagnant and my
creativity energy is drying out.

No, this is not my best; my best is yet to come; and my dream of becoming my best will
never be realized unless I continue to strive to become better and better, and
gradually narrow the gap between what I am and what I am capable of becoming.

President Obama was just chosen as “Man of the Year” by Time magazine, which is an award
we commoners will never achieve. Indeed the president’s best far surpasses all
of ours and we will become extremely discouraged and despondent if we compare
ourselves with him. In fact, we will get discouraged even if compare ourselves
with our friends and neighbors.

Can I “take pride” in myself and what I have accomplished so far? I guess I can be proud of
my achievements if I only measure myself against my own best, not someone
else’s best. Considering what I was and the way I was brought up, I think I am
doing quite well; but lest I become complacent, I need to remind myself that I can
be so much better as a Christian, a pastor, and a writer.

The Lord will always demand from us our very best, not some other people’s best. Therefore,
our question will always be: “Have I done my best?” and “what can I do to
improve myself so that I can be at my best?”

There are obviously concrete steps we can take to improve ourselves, both spiritually and
intellectually. Why not set a goal for yourself and concrete steps to achieve
that goal? Becoming our very best spiritually and physically takes both effort
and discipline and it’s a lifelong endeavor, which doesn’t happen
automatically.  

 

 

 

        

Friday, December 21, 2012 7:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-deception 

MTS-3407

Self-deception

“If anyone thinks they are something
when they are not, they deceive themselves.”             Gal 6:3

 

As a youngster, my greatest desire was to leave home and become an apprentice of
some trade in Taipei. It wasn’t much of an ambition, was it? My parents were poor
farmers and their primary concern in life was to keep themselves and their five
children sheltered and fed. Mere survival was quite an accomplishment for us.

Making a living wasn’t quite enough for me when I finally achieved my goal as an
apprentice, I wanted something more; therefore I decided to become a student
and started to envision myself as a scholar.

After years of schooling, have I become a scholar like I had expected? Not really. I am
just a half-baked scholar and poet who has failed to achieve renown in either
field. Here I am at age sixty, still wondering who I really am.

With such a limited time I have in store on earth, it’s doubtful I will be able to accomplish
anything worthy of people’s attention. What am I going to do, then? Just live out
the balance of my life doing nothing to enhance myself?

I have never considered myself anything significant, therefore self-deception isn’t really my issue;
but sometimes I am still bothered by my own insignificance and that I will
likely end my life as insignificant.

Billions of people have ended their lives that way, why should I be any different? I am
just a tiny grain of sand swept away by the vast ocean. I am only here for a
short while, and I will be no more.

Yet, somehow I think I am more than what I appear to be.

I am something because God thinks I am something, and this is not self-deception. Therefore,
my greatest concern is that I haven’t achieved what my Heavenly Father wants me
to achieve and have not become what the Lord desires for me to become.

My worldly accomplishments are the least of the Lord’s concerns and he is not at all
impressed by the few poorly written books and awkwardly composed verses I have
managed to produce. My Heavenly Father will only be impressed when he sees his
image magnified in me, for he is the only one who is worthy to be praised.   

Where am I spiritually? What do I desire to achieve as a Christian? These are the primary
questions that I must address. I want to better reflect the image of Christ in
all my thinking and action. Indeed, this is the only worthy aspiration that I
will strive to achieve for the balance of my earthly journey, be it two or
twenty years. I hope I can be more like my mother-in-law, who is 33 years my
senior, yet is still growing spiritually every day. What a godly example she
has set for her children!

Yes, the best is yet to come, for henceforth I will only strive to desire what the Lord
desires for me and to achieve what he prepares for me to accomplish. May I be
more like Christ before I meet him face to face. 

 

 

  

Thursday, December 20, 2012 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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