Present salvation 

MTS-3035

Present Salvation 

“On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…”

            II Cor 1:10

 

     I have no idea when was the exact time I was redeemed from all my sins. Nothing happened on the experiential level as far as I could tell when I accepted the Lord into my life intellectually. In fact, I didn’t receive the Lord formally by making a prayer of confession; I just started telling people that I had become a Christian. Did the Lord save me during that period of time when I was wandering between two worlds - the kingdom of God and worldly kingdom?

     Why does this even matter to me anyway?

     It was likely that the Lord began his work of redemption in me from the day I received his Son and has never ceased working his salvation in me, and will never finish his work as long as I live, both here and hereafter, in this world and the world to come, for providing that I am an unfinished project, the Lord will keep on shaping me into the image of his Son.

     The work of salvation of the eternal “I Am” is forever present; so is his work of redemption in me. I have been justified and become righteous before God, but I am by no means completely sanctified and God’s effort in making me perfectly sanctified is on going.   

     “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,” Paul wrote. He was probably speaking about physical redemption, for he was bombarded by perils everywhere he turned and was in great need of God’s protection, yet his need of physical protection ended at the moment he departed from his body. Does that mean the apostle needed no defense from the Lord anymore?

     I like to imagine that we continue to be sanctified even after we die. This may not be an orthodox view, but we may need the Lord’s help even more after we are glorified, in terms of our growing into God’s perfect image. Being a saint simply means that we are sanctified, but the process of being sanctified doesn’t end at any point in time or out of time. Being sanctified means being made perfect in Christ in every way, and the process in ongoing eternally, which is something that makes eternality so challenging and thrilling. Nothing brings more joy to Christians than growing more like the image of Christ.

     What we should do now is to bring God’s work of salvation with us to an experiential level, which is to make the reality of God’s redemption more real to us by experiencing it daily. Are we experiencing God’s salvation today? How do we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us unless we keep on drawing from his grace? How do we know that we have been saved unless we continue to experience his forgiveness? How do we know we are being forgiven unless we ask for it daily? We should make reality real to us through experience.     

    

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 6:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Deliverance 

MTS-3034

Deliverance

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again.”              II Cor 1:10

 

     How many times has the Lord delivered us from perils? I don’t think anyone of us knows the number of times exactly, for we are not always aware of it when the Lord delivers us from deadly danger.

     There were a couple of times when I knew precisely it was the Lord who saved me from a dangerous situation. One time he kept me from taking a bus, which was about to have an accident, and the Lord also saved me from drowning in a river during a camping trip when I was in college. Other than these two occasions, I am not really aware of other incidents when the Lord rescued me from any physical danger, but it doesn’t mean that the Lord through his angels hasn’t been working to keep me from getting harmed physically and spiritually. Apart from God’s protection and sustenance, I don’t think I could even survive for a single second.

     The Lord’s saving grace and sustaining power have never ceased functioning in our lives and the more we are conscious of this fact, the more we are grateful to our Maker. People who are not thankful to God are the ones who bury their heads in the sand and are blinded to the reality that it’s in the Lord that we “live and move and have our being.”

     I may sometimes complain about being inferior to other people both physically and intellectually, but I have never ceased being thankful to God for what I am everyday and his grace is sufficient for me in all ways. I know what I was and what I am and it’s entirely to his credit that I have turned out to be what I am, which has surpassed my wildest dreams.

     It was one thing that the Lord delivered me from physical dangers, but it was completely another when he saved me from spiritual damnation. Compared to the latter, the former pales by a great deal. Spiritual redemption is by far the greatest thing the Lord has done for me. I was heading rapidly toward a bottomless pit and he reached down and snatched me out from hell fire. I was indeed “a burning stick snatched from the fire.”

     Saul was consumed by the fire of passion that he had for the law and was on his way to eternal perdition and, had the Lord not intervened, the young man who have become the champion of Judaism and had no part in salvation through Christ Jesus. After he was saved from such “deadly peril,” the apostle was fully assured that the Lord would continue to save him from any danger until he finished his earthly mission.

     Do we possess Paul’s conviction and confidence? We will continue to live in fear unless we have the same conviction. The Lord will never cease saving us physically and spiritually, both in this world and the world to come. He is the eternal “I Am,” and so is the salvation and protection he has provided for his children.        

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Death Sentence 

MTS-3033

Death sentence

“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.”

                  II Cor 1:9

 

     Paul and his companions could have chosen a line of work that was less dangerous physically and more rewarding financially. Indeed, that was something most people in their generation chose to do, if they had a choice at all.

     Choosing to be a Christian during that time was, to a large extent, akin to choosing death, and deciding to become a missionary made premature death even more likely.

     Paul knew very well what he was doing and must have felt frightened sometimes. Who wouldn’t be fearful in the face of death? Paul and his fellow missionaries were just flesh and blood, and evidently had every intention to prolong their lives in the world as long as they possibly could.

     What difference was there between them and ordinary people like you and me? Was their flesh made of steel and their blood cold as ice, entirely unfazed by the burning heat of trials?

     They willingly submitted their bodies to be burned because the love of God constrained them and the passion for lost souls captivated them. They marched into the lion’s den and the fiery furnace with their eyes wide opened and mind determined.

     I wish that was something I had been commissioned to do. Perhaps it’s entirely possible that I was called, but was either too cowardly to obey or too immersed in worldly pleasure to hear the beckoning from above. Here I am, rapidly turning sixty, still feeling very much like a half-baked cake and lukewarm water, very much afraid to die yet much more afraid to live.

     “I am old, I am old…”

     I have been Eliot’s Prufrock who was afflicted by indecision and gnawed to the bone by inaction. No, becoming Michelangelo has never been my intention, but at least I should have started a grand scene or two instead of walking up and down the beach, listening to mermaids singing each to each.

     Is it too late to take some action to correct my inaction? What should my action be if it must be enacted? Have I been acting one way or another in the past? Maybe I am just an actor who has been mourning about playing an insignificant role. Am I interpreting my dissatisfaction with my present situation as some sort of inaction?

     I cannot be Paul because I haven’t been created to be and trying to be completely like the apostle may cause me more misery than joy. What good does it do if I submit my body to be burned, yet have no love?

     I may have it all wrong, really. There is nothing wrong being J. Alfred Prufrock if I make every effort to love, or learn to love, and die loving. Not all people can be Michelangelo.           

Monday, May 16, 2011 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Comfort 

MTS-3031

Comfort

“… so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”          II Co 1:4

 

     In order to become an effective comforter, we have to first learn to receive comfort from the Lord.

     I am sure that there have been occasions in our past when we needed the Lord’s comfort. No one is immune to sorrow and pain in this life; therefore we all need consolation from somewhere.

     It’s entirely possible that we become resistant to comfort when are in desperate need of it. Didn’t Rachel refuse to be comforted after she lost her child (Matthew 2:18)?

     Some of us may consider receiving comfort a sign of weakness, so instead of asking for help, we try to weather the storm by ourselves or merely remain stoic about all the sorrow we may encounter. In the midst of trial and tribulation, we prefer to project an image of strength and self-sufficiency.

     Being weak and insufficient frightens many of us more than anything else and accepting comfort is a sure sing of weakness, so we continue to function outwardly even if inwardly we are falling apart.

     We cannot become strong because we are so afraid to become weak. Yet there is no possibility for us to become strong unless the Lord enables us to become strong by his comfort.

     My sister-in-law’s strength really impresses me. Nothing seems to faze her as far as I can tell. She has been afflicted by many ailments over the years, yet she has never lost her equilibrium and has remained quite cheerful.

     How did it happen? The reason for her strength might have been her willingness to receive the Lord’s comfort after she lost her first- born son at birth. She must have become a good comforter after she humbly received the comfort from above.

     Rush to the Lord for comfort as little children run to their mother for solace when they get hurt. We may be tempted to seek relief from humans, but true respite always comes from above, from the throne of grace.

     We may be unwilling to turn to God for comfort, for we become angry with him when any kind of trouble befalls us. “The Lord could have done something to keep trouble away from us, yet he didn’t do it,” we grumble. Surely we will not go to him if we consider him our adversary, not our ally.

     No wonder most of us are poor comforters who probably have never experienced divine comfort and have no earthly idea how to bring true comfort to the wounded.

     We cannot console the hurting, for we cannot give to others something we have never possessed, which is the comfort of God.     

      

Friday, May 13, 2011 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Suffering for Christ 

MTS-3032

Suffering of Christ

“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”         II Cor 1:5

 

     If we can be stoic about our own suffering, we will expect other people to do the same. We won’t expect the wounded to seek consolation from Christ because we believe, by putting out enough effort, they can do just fine in handling their difficulties.

     I have kept the dollar bill that I found on the roadside a couple of years ago in my drawer. In fact, I was even contemplating about framing it.

     I used to take long walks in the neighborhood when I was going through a difficult time. In one of those occasions when I was taking a stroll in the late afternoon, feeling rather depressed, when I found a dollar bill caught in a small tumbleweed. It was a windy day and the gale could have blown it away before I arrived, yet it was trapped there and I picked it and didn’t think much about it until it dawned on me that it wasn’t long ago that my wife, using the symbols and words from a dollar bill, taught a spiritual lesson. I had forgotten some of the points she made, but one lesson that I remembered was: “In God we trust.”

     Such was the comfort I received from the Lord in that time of distress. It might have been a coincidence, but it was just what I needed at the moment. Through the dollar bill the Lord reminded me that he did care about me and I ought to put my trust in him.

     Who was there to comfort the Lord Jesus when he was undergoing such horrendous suffering? Who else could he have turned to for comfort except his heavenly Father? There wasn’t a single time when he went to his disciples for consolation, as far as we can tell. Had he done that, he would have found out human comfort is insufficient and oftentimes misleading. He instead would go to the mountain or to a quiet place to seek consolation and consultation from his Father in heaven.

     We need to cultivate the good habit of going to the Lord for comfort when we suffer wrongs or injustices from others or when we are persecuted for the kingdom’s sake. If we seek to identify with the Lord Jesus in all our sufferings, we will surely receive the same comfort he received from his Father in heaven.

     The taste of bitterness will remain in our mouths and our hearts for the longest time if we continue to rehash how we have been mistreated, which does absolutely nothing to release us from our pain. Our inner healing starts instantly at the moment when we go to the Lord and offer our sufferings to him as sacrifices, considering it was for his sake we have endured sorrow and pain. The Lord will never fail to ease our pain and soothe our sorrow.  

         

    

Thursday, May 12, 2011 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Compassion and Comfort 

MTS-3030

Compassion and Comfort

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…”       II Cor. 1:3

 

     A high ranking Taiwanese government official wept inconsolably at the memorial service of his daughter, who evidently leapt to her death from her twenty-eightieth floor apartment in Shanghai, as he was reading a letter he wrote to his daughter, stating: “Why didn’t you let your father comfort you and protect you?”

     The lady was in her early thirties and was evidently going through some emotional turmoil at the time and didn’t think the one who loved her the most could help her in time of great distress. At least, she didn’t try to reach out to her father for compassion and comfort at the time and chose to leap to her death.

     The event was indeed tragic.

     Had her father been there to offer her comfort, the tragedy might not have taken place, but human comfort could only do so much and reach so far. Job’s three friends made a valiant attempt to bring Job comfort, but they only made the situation a lot worse than it was. Our words are often empty and void of substance when we try to console people in their distress. It would have been much better had Job’s three friend said nothing at all.

     Some people advised the father who had lost his daughter not to participate in some of the rituals during the memorial service, since it was a Taiwanese custom for fathers not to take part in their children’s funeral ceremony, but the father ignored the tradition and went though the whole thing. “What difference does it make? I can never bring my daughter back to life no matter what I do or avoid doing,” the father exclaimed in tears.

    The finality of death is so final that absolutely nothing can be done to un-finalize it. Human comfort can ring so empty in the face of the greatest human tragedy all of us will encounter - death.

     We may not feel like seeking solace from the Lord and every fiber of our being seems to urge us to turn away from our heavenly Comforter in time of great sorrow, but like it has always done, our instinct often leads us astray. To whom shall we turn for consolation apart from the Father of compassion and God of all comfort? Who in the entire world can impart in us the “peace that passes understanding?”

     “There is still hope for the future. You baby’s life is in the bosom of Jesus and he will take care of her,” I said to a church lady whose newborn infant daughter was teetering between life and death in the NICU. What else could I have said to her except to invoke God’s help and compassion? My words sounded rather empty even to myself when I was uttering them, yet I knew for sure that only the Lord could bring the lady and her husband any sort of real peace and comfort. 

                 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

An End 

MTS-3029

An End

“Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.”        I Sam 31:13

 

     This wasn’t an end that Saul had envisioned, but it came to pass just the same, and no one could have changed it. “What did the man do to cause this tragic end to happen?” we question. Could Saul have done something to keep this from happening?

     Had he known what the end result of his life would be, Saul would have done a lot of things differently. He would have honored the Lord more in all his words and deeds and would have been more conscientious in observing God’s will. He couldn’t help but have had a lot of regrets as he looked back at his life in retrospect.

     We should lead each day of our lives as if it were our last day.

     There is always time for clean living, we argue, and the time is always in the future. I am afraid a lot of us live our life in the present tense and leave the most important question of our lives for the future. We would conduct our lives drastically differently if we brought our future to the present.

     The future is now. If we write the conclusion of our lives at the end of each day, we will be able to start a new chapter everyday and every new morning will bring new energy and joy. People will not consider each new day a precious gift if they believe they have thousands of days left in this world.

     There was a point in time when Saul started his downward spiral and he simply went with the flow, which was an easy thing to do. It takes more energy to stop the downward motion and to pick oneself up and head toward another direction. Saul didn’t make any attempt to do that while his heart was still tender until it became too late for him to do anything. He even mustered enough courage to consult with a demon, but found no spiritual energy within himself to seek help from the Lord.

     Saul must have turned fatalistic at the end, and reckoned that there was nothing he could do to make any difference in his life and resolved only to wait for the inevitable. I pray we will never get to that point, no matter how far we have strayed from God’s presence. We will never reach the point of no return if we write a conclusion to our lives at the end of each day and start every morning with renewed hope and aspiration in the Lord.

     Even though the prodigal son had drifted far away from his father’s home, he could still make a u-turn and start his long journey home. His u-turn was marked by his sincere repentance and his determination to leave his past completely behind.

     The point of no return in Saul’s life occurred when he fell on his own sword when he realized all was lost. Things would have been entirely different had he gotten on his knees and repented, which might not have changed the course of his losing battle with the Philistines, but it would have made a great difference to his eternal destiny.     

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Generous 

MTS-3028

Being Generous

“He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us.”           I Sam 30:23

 

     Had David taken the credit for his victory over the Amalekites, he would have divided the plunder according to what he considered appropriate, but he knew full well that the merit should go to the Lord and all the spoils were the Lord’s as well. Being a god-fearing man, David did the right thing by scattering God’s wealth around.

     The Amalekites had collected for themselves sizeable loot by raiding one village after another and had slaughtered a lot of people in the process of doing that. The Israelites defeated the looters and took possession of the loot that rightly belonged to the ones who had been victimized by the ruthless Amalekites, so David did the right thing by giving the goods to various people who hadn’t necessarily deserved to have the gifts, nor had most of them contributed anything toward the victory over the raiders.

     It wasn’t a matter of being deserving or undeserving, really; all things considered, no one deserved to receive anything. The ones who won the battle appeared to be the ones who deserved the most, but the Amalekites would have butchered all of them apart from the Lord’s protection. The battle was the Lord; so were the spoils.

     Our tendency is to take credit for all our successes and to enjoy the “loot” of our victories. Therefore we build bigger homes, collect fancy cars, take expensive trips, and erect more barns to store our harvest for the rainy days. Don’t we all do the same things when we become prosperous?

     It’s not a glorious thing to have been in want most of my life, yet it might not have been such a bad thing, for the Lord hasn’t had to hold me accountable for the way I have spent my money. I would have had great difficulty distinguishing the luxurious from the necessary in the way I utilized my resources, had I had more than I needed. I have never had any trouble figuring out how much money to keep for myself, because all I earned seemed to have gone to meet all the necessities.

     David was still on the run and seemed to have a great deal of trouble meeting his people’s daily needs. It would have been prudent for him to save some of the spoils for the future, yet he couldn’t help but be generous with God’s abundance, which was the right thing to do at the time.

     Being generous is a mindset and a habit that needs to be cultivated daily. We are by nature self-centered and selfish and parting from the wealth that we have always deemed ours is one the most difficult things to do. We need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s by God’s mercy that we are able to make a good living and he alone is the true owner of all our possessions. Generosity isn’t developed in one day; we can only attain this virtue by developing a habit of giving through constant giving.            

Thursday, May 5, 2011 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Lagging Behind 

MTS-3027

Lagging Behind

“David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind.”          I Sam 30:9

 

     It wasn’t for lack of courage that two hundred people out of David’s six hundred men were lagging farther and farther behind and eventually had to quit following David in his hot pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided the Israelites who dwelt in Ziklag. The two hundred men must have had every intention to finish the job they had started, but their strength failed them. They simply weren’t as strong physically as the rest of the people and were forced to take up less responsibility in their military campaign.

     Kathy and I got into a heated discussion at the dinner table over the statement made by Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, which says: “Character is destiny.” My wife’s idea is that we can change our own destiny since human character can be molded and improved. However, my impression of the saying is that since we are born with certain attributes, which will basically determine how and what we will turn out to be, our destiny cannot be altered by our human effort. I think the debate ended in a draw, for neither of us could convince the other.

     “Aren’t we born with a different amount of talent?” I asked, bringing out the Lord Jesus’ parable concerning the three servants who were endowed with different degrees of talents.

     “But that’s not an excuse for us not to make an effort to improve ourselves and to build up good character,” she protested.

       I think this is one of those paradoxes, where we cannot come out with a correct answer. How are we going to resolve the enigma of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? I suppose we ought to, as Paul put it, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

     What were the two hundred people to do but to take easier chores, things they could do with the limited ability they possessed? They stayed behind and took care of the supplies, which might have been less important than the ones on the front, but the job was nonetheless crucial to the entire campaign. The ones who were left behind might have felt a little inferior to the brave and strong ones who had ventured ahead with their leader if they perceived the situation from human point of view. Yet they would get their just reward as long as they did their job faithfully.

     I would have been one of the men who was left behind had I had the opportunity to march with David, for I have never been the speediest or the smartest in anything my entire life. Am I the one to blame for being this way or the One who made me this way should shoulder the blame. I guess we will just let Him make the just call.          

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

But 

MTS-3026

But

“But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

               I Sam 30:6

 

     The natural thing for David to do was to defend himself or to feel bitter about the whole thing. He himself suffered great loss, just like all the rest, but being a leader, he was held accountable for all that had taken place. Some people were so bitter and angry about their personal losses they were ready to stone David. One can only imagine how great the burden was for David at that time.

     This kind of sorrow and anxiety would have broken any man, but what separated David from ordinary people was his strong faith in God.

     “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

     While the rest of the people were still drenched in their sorrow after they “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep,” David gathered himself and did the wisest thing - he turned to God for strength and comfort. It wasn’t an instinctive thing to do, really; it was rather an act of faith, which demanded some willpower on David’s part. Being an emotional person, David must have been grief-stricken just like other men, but he rose above all the others by drawing strength from the Lord.

     How did he do that? I wonder.

     We often have a sense of paralysis when we are overwhelmed by sadness, which renders us incapable of doing anything. If we let our sorrow run its normal course, we most likely will get depressed, which may easily prolong the time of our recovery. People with a stronger mental state may try to bury their sorrow by staying busy or occupying themselves with tedious things, but the wound will never heal properly that way.

     David became proactive by praying to God for wisdom concerning the current situation. He didn’t merely react to the pressing circumstance by instinct; he turned to the Lord for instruction concerning the best course of action and, with the Lord’s blessing, the whole campaign ended up successfully.

     Doesn’t this give us a perfect lesson on the proper action to take as Christians when we encounter various crises in life? Things will always end up badly if we act according to the principle of the flesh, which is something we must learn to avoid. Things would have been chaotic had David lost his temper when he was being accused by his people of making a gross misjudgment and had started to defend himself. This might easily have caused divisiveness among the people and the ensuing result would have been infighting.

     Instead of defending himself, David submitted himself to God and found strength in the Almighty, which, undoubtedly, was the best course of action.    

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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