Hope 

MTS-3021

Hope

“Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.”         I Sam 28:14

 

     Saul knew it was Samuel, but was it really the dead Samuel? It is unlikely, because the last judge of Israel was dead.

     It was for sure there were some live prophets in Israel, but the desperate king had to turn to the one who was long dead. Surely he was “seeking the living among the dead.”

     It was tragic that Saul had to consult with the dead.

     This may be a little bit strange to westerners who are not familiar with the this sort of thing, but what Saul did was quite a commonplace thing for people who practice idolatry.

     As a little boy, I have heard things such as this many times. Some people missed their deceased loved ones so much that they went to village mediums, most of whom were women, who were able to bring up their dead and to have some sort of communication with the living.

     I didn’t think much about it when I heard such things, for the people in my little fishing village seemed to be doing a lot of outlandish things that were beyond my comprehension. Life presented the people many challenges and they simply did what they could to survive many emotional and physical hardships.

     I think they were mostly driven by fear when they sought supernatural help and whatever assistance or information might have gotten from below really didn’t do them any good or bring them any comfort.

     Satan and his followers’ main goal is to keep people from turning to the true God and they will employ whatever means possible to achieve that end. Communication with the dead through mediums is just one of them. Saul did the right thing by getting rid of them after he assumed the kingship, for he did so with good reason. The law forbade such practice.

     Who do we turn to for help when we have no one to turn to? Where do people go seek information when God becomes silent?

     We may have strayed too far away from the Lord to hear his whisper in our ears and what we need to do is to draw near to him. Instead of turning to demons through the help of mediums, we should run to God through repentance.

     We may become so disappointed in ourselves that we quit turning to God to ask for forgiveness. This is exactly what the Accuser is trying to do to us - our self-condemnation caused by his insistent accusation is the main obstacle that keeps us from repentance.

     The evil one’s scheme is to make us feel completely hopeless, yet there is bright hope as long as we can still repent, for the Lord’s forgiveness through Christ’s redemption on the cross is limitless. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Past and Present 

MTS-3020

Past and Present

“He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land.”

             I Sam 28:9

 

     Saul was probably an idealist when he assumed the position as a king over Israel yet he gradually became a realist when he realized it wasn’t always practical to be idealistic. He probably didn’t become pragmatic by choice, but by necessity.

     He had to take up the role of a priest and offered sacrifice to God when Samuel was late showing up and people were beginning to scatter. It just wasn’t practical to observe all the rituals, which might have become a little old fashioned. He did the expedient when observing God’s word became inconvenient.

     “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere,” said G.K. Chesterton.

     Saul was no artist, but he sure didn’t learn to draw a line when he was a newly minted king and one compromise led to another until he became a person he had never dreamt he would have become - a moral failure.

     After he crossed the line relating to God, there wasn’t any line he dared not cross relating to people. There was absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do to keep his kingship in his family. This is obvious when we look at the irrational and cruel ways he dealt with a harmless person who was also his son-in-law.

     “What kind of person have I become?” The king might have asked himself at the moment when his conscience was awakened.

     “We must get rid of all the mediums and spiritists!” he declared. The young king might have had some knowledge of the law of God and was anxious to show people that he was God’s chosen vessel.

     O how things changed over the years. The king was old and weary, and was about to violate the law he himself established years ago. Evidently his perception of God’s law had drastically changed, since his relationship with the Lord was waxing cold.

     Where do we draw the line?

     One moral failure can easily lead to another until the moment when we no longer believe there is such a thing as moral truth, or find ourselves incapable of believing in anything beyond the materialistic. “There is no truth but scientific truth,” one well-known atheist said boldly. “Moral truth is not truth.”

     We miss our youth when we were still innocent, still eager to believe in the existence of a loving God and the infinite possibilities of love. We yearn for the days when laughing and crying were as spontaneous as breathing. Were we being naïve and ignorant or, as Chesterton put it so poignantly: “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

     When do we lose our “eternal appetite of infancy”?      

Monday, April 25, 2011 7:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Inquiry 

MTS-3019

Inquiry

“He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.”           I Sam 28:6

 

     The Lord was silent and Saul had no one to turn to but a medium. The man was truly desperate.

     He was probably aware of what the answer would be, but he still wanted to know. Humanly speaking, he was doomed to fail this time fighting against his enemy. The Philistine army was too powerful and, apart from divine assistance, the Israelites had no hope of prevailing over their foes.

     Saul was still holding on to a slim hope that things would turn out to be different than what he anticipated. His relationship with the Lord was strained, yet he needed him just the same during this critical time.

     The Lord’s silence was deafening.

     As a matter of fact, the Lord had revealed to Saul through Samuel all he needed to know concerning his future - his kingdom would be taken away and given to someone else, period.

     What could Saul have done to alter the course of his destiny?

     Being a king over a nation, it must have become increasing difficult for Saul to make any significant change, both in his thinking and action. He had gradually developed a sense of invincibility.

     Power does corrupt; it also misleads. It blinds the powerful and causes them to become blinded to their true identity as mere mortals. Even if he had wanted to, Saul was incapable of repenting.

     It’s crucial to keep our hearts sensitive to sin and maintain their tenderness through constant repentance. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of any known or unknown sin, making apology or justification for ourselves is a deadly route to take; we should be on our knees immediately, asking God for forgiveness. We should remain silent even if we feel totally justified.

     Instead of getting down on his knees, Saul made a fatal mistake by searching for a medium for help. When God became absent in his life, he turned to demons for assistance. Is this the mistake that people often make?

     What did the demon-possessed woman do to help Saul? Nothing at all. Through the help of demons, the woman might have had secret access to some knowledge concerning Saul’s immediate future, but such information only threw Saul into deeper depression.

     Beware of fortunetellers who may have limited knowledge about our future, but have absolutely no power to change the course of our destiny. Their foreknowledge concerning our future is always foreboding and destructive to our psyche.

     No matter how dire the situation is, running away from the Lord is never a good option.                 

Friday, April 22, 2011 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Cruelty 

MTS-3017

Cruelty

“Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive…”          I Sam 27:9

 

     David had two opportunities to put Saul to death but he relented, for he considered Saul’s life precious because the man was God’s anointed; yet he seemed to be quite merciless as far as his pagan enemies were concerned. When he was in Ziklag, he often raided the neighboring tribes people and did not leave a man or woman alive. How could this be? I wonder. Why didn’t David show mercy both to his friends and enemies?

     David was lauded for his heroic acts. He turned into a national hero because he slaughtered thousands of his enemies. “Showing kindness to your enemy is cruel to yourself,” I was taught when I was in the service. We were in the business of killing or being killed then, and our manhood was measured by how ferocious we were on the battlefield.

     Fortunately I wasn’t sent to the frontline and didn’t have to fire any shot at my enemy. I have no idea how I would have felt had I had to do that. Would I have had the courage to pull the trigger? I wonder.

     Things would have been entirely different had it been a life and death issue for me. I might have fired the shot if my life depended on it. People may do the unimaginable to save their own skin. I suppose it was common during the time for tribes people to raid one another and what David did to his enemies might not have been all that unusual.

     It was a brutal world when people conducted their lives on the philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” We have no idea what we are capable of doing when our lives or the lives of our loved ones are threatened. We may have to go to the farthest extreme to protect the ones we love.

     I am in no position to judge David’s conduct while he was on the run, for he might have been doing what was absolutely necessary. In a world reddened by sin, people had to adjust accordingly if they desired to survive. There were over a thousand people he had to feed and the Philistine king might turn against him at any time and take him out. Surely he was in a very precarious situation and anything he did at the time, including killing all the innocent, was for self-preservation.

     We don’t have as much control over our lives as we think. We could have done a lot worse had we been put in David’s situation. He did all he could under the circumstances and we ought to suspend our judgment for now. Our history books are stained with blood and the line between hero and villain is rather vague. I believe the Lord will bring all things to bear someday and we will be amazed to find out who the true heroes and villains are. I believe it’s likely that there will be no heroes at judgment time and all the great ones we have lauded may all turn out to be villains.        

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Escape 

MTS-3016

To Escape

“The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines.”

             I Sam 27:1

 

     David had tried all he could to convince Saul that he was harmless to him by not laying a hand on him, even though he had ample opportunity to do so. What David did might have convinced a rational person, but Saul was far from rational at the time and would have kept on searching for David had his adversary still been on the run in Israel. David didn’t seem to have any other option except to leave his homeland and venture into enemy territory. He decided to escape to the land of the Philistines.

     David wouldn’t have done that had he had any other choice, for by going into the land of the Philistines, he would have to pretend that he was rebelling against his own country, which was something that he could not do with a clear conscience. Yet that was secondary, considering how Saul had been harassing him every step of the way. He wouldn’t have had any chance to survive had he continued to roam within the confines of Saul’s control. Survival was his primary goal at this time.

     David obviously had no intention to stay with the Philistines for a long period of time; he was merely waiting for the best time when he could take his people home. But in order to win the Philistine king’s trust so that he could stay in his land, David had to do something to earn his goodwill - he pretended to raid the Israelites. David had to lie to the Philistine king several times to accomplish this goal.

     Is it all right for us to compromise our moral principles in order to survive? This is a rather difficult question.

     David did nothing to get himself into such a difficulty and, under such circumstances, he had to do all he could to keep himself alive, including walking on the edge of a moral boundary, realizing that the Lord had greater things in store for him to do. Even though the Lord was protecting him throughout the ordeal, David still had to do all things within his power to remain alive, including telling lies and pretending to be insane.

     All the things that David had to do to preserve his life were humiliating and humbling, but they seemed to be essential if David was going to be of some use in God’s kingdom. He had to be brought down to the lowest so that the Lord could lift him to the highest. The man couldn’t have become a king over a nation of God’s chosen people had he not first learned some valuable spiritual lessons through suffering. David was stripped down to the core of his being before he was clothed with glory and honor.

     David might have appeared to be a thug and was morally compromised on many occasions, but God continued to work with him and would eventually make the man after his own heart a more polished work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

慶祝今天 

慶祝今天

         -不要為明天憂慮

 

遺忘昨日才能慶祝今天

不想明天才能慶祝今日

好像麻雀邊覓食邊歌唱

有如野花悠閒看著藍天

沒有昨日也沒有明天

喫飽了就在草地嬉戲

花凋了就在草地入眠

那有黛玉葬花的憂情。

 

沒有遠見才能看到近處

沒有常例才有特殊

沒有預料才有驚喜

慶祝今天

我怎麼會走路

會笑會說會吃會愛

會看會聽:

好像花第一次開

鳥第一次唱

太陽第一次昇起

嬰孩第一聲喜極的哭泣。

 

Celebrate Today

            -Do not worry about tomorrow

 

To celebrate today is to be forgetful of yesterday

And not to be mindful of tomorrow,

Like sparrows, singing as they seek for food

And wild flowers, looking leisurely at the blue sky,

Who are not aware of yesterday or tomorrow,

For they play on the grass after they feed

And the flowers sleep on the lawn peacefully after they fade

Without having been properly buried.

 

We can only see what’s near without gazing at what’s afar,

To perceive the particular only when we are not blinded by the regular,

And can only experience amazement if we don’t anticipate anything.

Celebrate today -

That I am able to walk, to dance,

To speak, to laugh, to eat, to love

To see, and to listen,

As if flowers blooming for the first time

And birds surprised by their first song

As the sun rising at the first morning of the brave earth

And babies bursting into joyful tears at their birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, April 18, 2011 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Enemy 

MTS-3015

Enemy

“The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”           I Sam 26:20

 

     Our suspicion and distrust do make enemies out of many otherwise innocent people who are absolutely harmless. What Saul’s paranoia did to the man was to turn an asset into an adversary.  It caused him to waste a lot of emotional and physical energy chasing a phantom enemy.

     It was borderline insanity.

     Many of our enemies are created within our hearts, not made through our interaction with other people.

     “I know how people perceive me,” I said to Kathy during our teatime. My poor wife must be getting tired of listening to my venting over the years, but she listened just the same.

     “I think you are wrong,” she replied. Being an American, I don’t think she has any idea of the social echelon and caste system that we have created in Taiwan.

     Being so negative about myself all the time, however, hasn’t done me any good, really. My perception of reality has always been tinted by my inferiority complex, which has caused me to look at people with suspicion and turned me into a porcupine or a skunk.

     David didn’t consider himself a flea or a partridge; he was merely stating that he was entirely harmless to the king and posed absolutely no threat.

     It was, however, extremely difficult to get rid an enemy after she or he has been created within our heart. It might have been irrational, but Saul was completely convinced that David was a mortal enemy who had to be put away.

     We need to nip the negative thought in the bud when it starts and get rid of it before it has any chance to sink down its root.

     “Love … always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

     I can guarantee you that we will have zero enemies if we put what Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians into daily practice. There were quite a few people who opposed the Lord during his earthly ministry, yet the Lord didn’t seem to have any enemies himself. He even had great compassion for the ones who pierced his hands and feet and prayed for them with his dying breath.

     Let’s trust and hope always in all our dealings with people.

     I believe the one who might oppose me in our church ministry would have honorable reasons behind his opposition. If this is truly the case, I should never make an enemy out of him. I trust the one who might gossip about me behind my back must be so eager to see God’s work taking off and is losing patience with my lack of action or ingenuity. If we can put our feet on our enemies’ shoes, we may be able to walk with them side by side and be friends.    

Friday, April 15, 2011 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Feeling 

MTS-3014

Feeling

“If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering.”             I Sam 26:19

 

     I guess I was being naïve when I believed that things would eventually work out and this person and I would learn to get along since we were both Christians, but it turned out not to be the case. It was beyond my ability to make him like me.

     It might not have been his fault that this particular brother had no affection for me. How could he help it if he had ill feeling toward me for various reasons from the very beginning? I don’t believe he disliked me intentionally; it just happened.

     It might have been possible that the Lord incited him to oppose me and all I needed to do was to offer a sacrifice of repentance.

     Are we supposed to be responsible for all our feelings toward all things? We can make a great effort to bring all our feelings under control and not to act upon them, but they will still run rampant at times and seek to ruin our days.

     We have to learn to ignore our fleeting feelings, especially the negative ones.

     We can’t help but having certain prejudices, but to act accordingly is absolutely wrong. I may not like to eat meat, but it’s silly for me to look down on those who do; I may not feel any affinity with certain races, but there is entirely no reason for me to show any disrespect to them or to consider them somehow inferior. We must put our ill feelings and prejudices aside and do the right thing at all times.

     David was having great difficulty figuring out why Saul had such animosity against him. All he had been trying to do was to win the king’s favor by being loyal and submissive, but it was all for naught. The king seemed to have made up his mind not to accept David no matter what. He chose to act on his feelings and emotions, not on his rationality.

     May the Lord strengthen our will so that we can choose to do the right things at all times, albeit we don’t feel like doing it. May the Lord keep us from being governed by our emotions and persuaded by our prejudices in all our actions.

     It came to a point when David quit trying to change Saul’s perception of him, realizing that he wasn’t going to succeed. Therefore, he ventured into Philistines’ territory to seek refuge. I believe he did all he could to reconcile with the king, but when it became impossible, he had to move on and leave the whole thing behind. He couldn’t have changed Saul’s prejudice against him, but he could at least try not to develop or to nurture any hatred against the man.

     Let’s not yield to the temptation to hate or to take vengeance on our adversaries and learn to squash feelings of animosity when they happen to pop up in our hearts from time to time.      

Thursday, April 14, 2011 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Forgiveness 

MTS-3013

Forgiveness 

“…and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head.”        I Sam 26:7

 

     Saul thought he was in a position of strength, not realizing that he was extremely vulnerable at the time, even though he was seemingly very well protected. He was surrounded by his generals and guards, even when he was sleeping. The problem was, his guards were all sound asleep was well.

     Being in a position of power is indeed very precarious, for it gives one a false sense of security.

     Saul was doing the hunt, but he turned into the hunted. There was a drastic role reversal in this particular incident. The weak had become strong because of his dependence on God; and the strong had become weaker because of his self-reliance.

     Humanly speaking, David didn’t stand a chance in his tussle with the king, but he put himself in a position of strength and power by siding with the Lord, which was a very wise thing to do. He resisted the temptation of taking control of his own destiny by putting Saul away with one decisive strike.

     We want to be on the Lord’s side at all times.

     Taking vengeance against our adversary may appear to be strong, but it’s absolutely not a wise thing to do, since we deviate from the Lord’s command by doing so. David had a couple of chances to do just that, but out of his fear of the Lord, he relented.

     I don’t seem to have a lot of enemies.

     The best way to create enemies is unforgiveness. We make an enemy every time someone offends us and the list may grow at a rapid pace if we don’t exercise forgiveness and, quite naturally, the more enemies we have, the weaker we are.

     I was a victim of a hit and run incident a few days ago and I could easily have made the perpetrator my enemy, but I refused to succumb to my natural inclination and thus add one more persons to the list of my enemies. I thanked the Lord for the unfortunate event and moved on.

     We know who the strong was in the conflict between Saul and David. Saul was afflicted with anxiety and overcome by apprehension during the process, for he created a mortal enemy out of a loyal friend. In contrast to what Saul was doing, David had been making attempts to make a friend out of an enemy who sought to take his life; therefore, he was able to maintain perfect peace in his heart.

     I think what made David great wasn’t his exploits in battle; it was his fear of the Lord and his willingness to forgive. David was defined as a man by his repentance and forgiveness, which were the attributes that made him a man after God’s own heart.         

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Persistence 

MTS-3012

Persistence

“Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

             I Sam 26:6

 

     There wasn’t a good reason for David to take another chance to approach Saul and his men at night. We can’t help asking why he took such a risk by going to Saul’s well-guarded camp. What was he trying to prove?

     He could have easily been killed by venturing out to the enemy’s territory, yet David considered it a risk worth taking, for he hadn’t giving up hope that Saul would find him innocent. What he was trying to do was to vindicate himself by not harming Saul, even though he had a perfect opportunity to do so.

     We probably would have already given up hope of reconciling with our enemies after we had made one attempt, concluding the effort wasted and ill advised. But David continued to try, since he believed a right thing was worth doing multiple times. Seventy times seven, perhaps.

     David thought his intentions had been misconstrued and was very anxious to restore his honor to the point that he was willing to risk his life doing it. The man deemed his honor more valuable than his life.

     Shall we continue to cast pearls before a swine who tramples our valuables under its feet?

     David wasn’t doing it for Saul’s sake; he was doing it for his own sake. His greatest desire was to maintain a clean conscience before God, which was the goal he tried to achieve by turning the other check. It might not have done any good as far as reducing Saul’s animosity toward him was concerned, but doing the right thing was itself a great reward. David was proven to be a righteous man by what he had done.

     The way we deal with offenses we have suffered reveals our true character as Christians. The strong in the world take vengeance with their own hands, but only the truly strong in the Lord have the inner strength to not exact revenge, but to exercise forgiveness.

     People are going to offend us one way or another, and some of them may even do us physical or emotional harm. Are we going to strike back instantly by taking action against them?

     Why are we so eager to make apology for ourselves? Is it because we realize that we are not completely innocent in the conflict? We probably won’t do anything to justify ourselves if we come to realize that we are at fault as well. No matter how badly my adversaries have treated me, I still have not received what I have deserved, for I am far worse than what my enemies have reckoned me to be. Therefore, the very first thing for me to do after a conflict occurs is to get on my knees and pray for forgiveness.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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