Timothy 

~~MTS-4473
Timothy
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…”    Col. 1:1
    Following the name of the apostle, another name was added, that of the beloved son of Paul. This brings some joy and comfort to my heart, for Paul was all alone at this time. Someone who truly cared and loved him was standing by his side.
    I have always been moved by Paul aloneness when I read his letters. As far as we know, he didn’t have a wife or children and never made a home in one particular city over the years. He seemed to be constantly travelling from one city after another; indeed, he didn’t seem to stay in one city long enough to establish permanent and intimate friendships. He might have known many people and have come to love many of them, yet to many he was merely an acquaintance, a stranger ever, someone to be respected rather than to be adored and loved.
    Of course there was John Mark in whom the apostle had invested great hope and some affection in his early ministry, yet he was greatly disappointed. From this he learned not to place too much hope in people, and might have also learned to keep the ones closest to him on his missionary journeys at arm’s length.
    There was no such issue with Timothy, however. Paul seemed to find a kindred spirit in this timid young man, who was of mixed parentage and might have been looked down upon by both the Jews and the Greeks. In this young man Paul seemed to have found the son whom he had longed to have, one who was like-minded with him and could co-labor with him in God’s kingdom.
    “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…”
    For some strange reason it’s comforting for me to come across this seemingly insignificant greeting at the beginning of the letter. At least Paul wasn’t all alone in some forsaken place when this letter was composed, which made his situation a lot more inviting and his letter easier to digest.
    It wasn’t going to be permanent and both probably would soon go their separate ways for the sake of the gospel, yet for a short while their hearts would be comforted by mutual encouragement and the deep love and affection they shared for each other.
    Knowing what it’s like to be alone in church ministry and how it felt to be occasionally mistreated and misunderstood, I am just pleased to know that at the very least the apostle had both Timothy and Titus by his side, plus the one whom he came to love and trust, the beloved physician himself.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 18, 2018 5:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sabbath Rest 

~~MTS-4472
Sabbath Rest (end of 2 Ch)
“The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested…”   2 Ch. 36:21
    The ruthless Babylonians finally surfaced on the horizon and what was going to transpire to Judah inevitably took place. The temple was destroyed, the holy city was in utter ruin, the people who survived the sword had been taken away in exile, and the nation was no more.
    The music ceased and the temple worship had become a distant memory, and the name of the Lord was no longer mentioned. The glorious nation founded by David and Solomon had vanished from the face of the earth. The destiny of the chosen people was controlled by foreigners and they appeared to be abandoned.
    The people who shepherded the sheep or tilled the land were either slaughtered by the sword or had been led in chains to foreign soil, never to return. The land was in desolation, yet we read: “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested…”
    The land had been tilled and the soil turned over repeatedly and the last drop of juice had been squeezed out from her and she had nothing left to give. The people had been embraced by the land like children by their mothers, and the caretakers finally got to breathe a sigh of relief after the children were taken away. The land finally got to enjoy the rest that she had long been promised.
    Indeed, the land had been taken for granted for hundreds of years, and never received the gratitude she rightly deserved. After years of moaning and groaning under a tremendous pressure to produce, her Sabbath finally arrived, and the time of desolation was actually a good thing for the overworked cattle and land. 
    Does the land have any feelings at all? Does it even moan and groan when it’s abused by all sorts of pollution and misused by overplanting?
    There was a river with clean water not far from our village where we fished with bamboo sticks and learned how to dogpaddle as little boys. Yet that was over fifty years ago and now the water is filthy and the river bed is filled with empty plastic water battles and dead animal’s carcasses. What the land badly needs, I often thought when I witnessed what was going on, is a long Sabbath rest.
    God’s people continued to ignore God’s commands and mock God’s servants until they eventually become irredeemable. Therefore, the suffering and dislocation they had to endure was in essence a good thing, a sort of Sabbath both for them and for the land, for unless desolation had taken place, restoration wouldn’t have come about.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 17, 2018 6:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

No Remedy 

~~MTS-4471
No Remedy
“But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.”        2 Ch. 36:16

    It’s not merely one decision that we have made to despise God’s words and to scoff at God’s servants; all the decisions that we have ever made in life do have a cumulative effect and they will snowball on us before we know it. No single decision we make is truly isolated and one bad decision tends to lead to another and, if they are not corrected in time, the consequence of all our ill-advised choices will become irredeemable. 
    I am what I am at the present time is a direct result of all the choices I have made up to this very moment. Decision-making is habit-forming, and all the bad decisions we have ever made will eventually turn into habits, which will become deeply rooted in our hearts and become integral parts of our beings. I am, actually, is the cumulative effect of all the decisions I have ever made.
    We are not entirely helpless in the scheme of things, however, for we can determine what sort of people we desire to become by making all the decisions conducive to the desirable outcome. 
    Perhaps there is such a thing as a “generational curse,” and the way we have been brought up may actually contribute to what kind of person we will turn out to be. Therefore, I am not entirely responsible for what and who I am, and all my vices can be traced back precisely to their environmental or genetic roots in the not so distant past. By the time I became aware of myself, all the bad habits caused by all the bad decisions made have been formed and the bondage may take an entire life time to break. The chain isn’t as easy to sever as one may surmise.
    The remedy is nowhere to be found except in Christ Jesus, however. Paul wrote in Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
    My power to resist the urge to look at screens every waking moment of my day, be they big screen or small, has become weaker and weaker, and it finally got to the point when I realize I am totally powerless to fight back and ultimately succumb to their tyranny. My life, unfortunately, will be defined by all the superfluous things I do routinely every day, and I simply can do nothing about it. This is rather depressing, isn’t it?
    It’s an act of self-abandonment if I cease to fight against all things which I reckon undesirable, unspiritual, and displeasing to God. I will not get to the point when I become absolutely irredeemable as long as I continue to wage war against my dark self.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 30, 2018 8:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Again and Again  

~~MTS-4470
Again and Again
“The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people…”        2 Ch. 36:15
    What we can do as a parent is to not cease talking to our children about things we consider important. I know it has long turned into nagging and a broken record to them, yet to quit speaking is to give up hope that the message may finally register and make a difference in their lives.
    As long as are able to speak and they have ears to hear, there is always hope that our words may create a desirable reality in the lives of our loved ones. In fact, I can still speak to them with my written words after I am no more; therefore I will keep on speaking even after I die.
    To not speak is to give up hope. Did the Lord ever give up the hope that his people would someday turn away from their evil way of idolatry and to abide by the truth?
    “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people…”
    The Lord never did stop speaking to his people, did he? Even when it appeared that he had become silent, there were still numerous occasions when his voice was heard in the land of captivity. Indeed, there was the Babylonian captivity, yet there was also the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple and holy city.
    We must not cease listening to God’s voice, either through the written Word or by various circumstances that transpire in our lives. To suffer the ills in life passively is to miss the message the Lord intends to communicate to us and to actively endure whatever adversities fall our way is to detect the divine information hidden in daily events.
    It’s possible that we have never received the message, even though the Lord has been speaking to us throughout our lifetime, yet he will continue to speak until we finally receive the message. It’s also likely that we don’t want to hear because if we listen it also means we have to give up something that we may have always deemed precious.
    Indeed, our ability to hear God’s voice may be determined by our deep sense of humility. It’s rather superfluous if we claim to listen to God’s voice, yet have absolutely no intention of obeying his command. To listen to God’s voice is to take appropriate action to rectify our misdeeds.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 29, 2018 8:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Arrogance 

~~MTS-4469
Arrogance
“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord.”       2 Ch. 36:12
    Even though his kingdom was standing on very shaky ground and danger was looming from all sides, King Zedekiah remained rather defiant, refusing to bow down to God or to men. He might have believed that he was invincible and no one, either human or divine, could possible bring him down.
    He obviously had no regard for the Lord and, quite naturally, he didn’t have any respect for the Lord’s servant. How could he, being a king over a nation, humble himself before Jeremiah who was a symbol of weakness and powerlessness, and the one who seemed to be weeping most of the time?
    Being a minister of God’s church, I have seldom felt that the title ever brought me any sort of entitlement or respect. I have indeed occasionally sensed some disrespect from the people I have come in contact with.
    “I don’t want to become a minister because it’s such a hard job,” someone responded while I was urging him to at least consider full-time ministry as a future career option.
    I suppose the profession wouldn’t have been so difficult if it were handsomely compensated and well-respected. Well, this is beside the point. I am digressing. 
    Why should Jeremiah the prophet be commanding any respect from the king, or from anyone else? There was no other reason except this: He was the one “who spoke the word of the Lord.”
    Instead of becoming so concerned about how I am perceived by lay people, I should focus my entire attention on speaking the word of God from the pulpit. Indeed, people may still fall asleep or become restless during the service, but their disrespect must be directed to God. I may be uttering my own words if I ever feel insulted when people quit listening to me.
    People must know who God is before they can come to realize who they truly are. I am often amazed how highly people perceive themselves and what greatness they believe they are capable of achieving. Had Zedekiah had any personal encounter with the Almighty, his self-perception would have been radically different. True humility is impossible to achieve unless people become aware of their humanness.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, March 28, 2018 9:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Three Months 

~~MTS-4468
Three Months
“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord”   2 Ch. 36:9
    One couldn’t have done a lot within a period of three months and ten days, could he? Jehoiachin was merely eighteen years old when he assumed the kingship, and we have no clue to what he did during his reign that earned him the reputation: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
    Perhaps it was not because of what he did that he was thus defined; it was really what he was as a person. He might not have had time to implement what he intended to do, yet it didn’t change the fact that he was an evil king.
    Three months and ten days, however, actually was long enough for Jehoiachin to do something sinister that would forever define him as a king. Obviously he must have had a certain approach toward his kingship and, whether he had the time to execute his plans or not, the fact would remain the same. He was on his way to becoming an ungodly king no matter how long his reign was going to be.
    Is a period of three months long enough to make a difference in one’s life? For sure it is. The one who was crucified beside the Lord Jesus only needed one day to change the course of his eternal destiny. Well, he only needed a brief moment of the day to make a vast difference in his life.
    As a matter of fact, the king must have done enough evil to earn him his reputation at the end. He might have encouraged people to practice idolatry or ushered into his country another foreign god, enticing people to bow down before him. How much time would it have taken to do all these things?
    Indeed, whether we are young or old, we still have an ample amount of time to make a meaningful change in our lives. Surely three months and ten days is an eternity if we make an absolute determination to alter our life’s direction and start heading toward a heavenly direction.   
   The prodigal came to his senses when he was just feeding the pigs, and it didn’t take long for repentance to take place. When his mind was renewed and the course of his life shifted, the remainder of his life would merely follow suit accordingly, whether it be long or short. Essentially, our lives are not depicted merely by length of time; they are rather defined by significant events. Things that touch the core of our being are what create eternal differences. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, March 27, 2018 8:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 

~~MTS-4467
The End
“Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle.”               2 Ch. 35:22
    King Josiah was doing rather splendidly in every way before this event transpired. He almost always tried to do the right things when he found out what the right things were. His fear of the Lord couldn’t have been questioned and his walk with God was impeccable. Now this question surfaces: Why did he even go to battle with Necho king of Egypt, and end up losing his life at the Egyptian’s hand?
    Did the king have anything else to prove at his old age? Obviously there must have been reasons behind what Josiah did, and whether they were justifiable or not isn’t for me to ponder. That was just what happened, which marked the end of the illustrious career of a remarkable king.
   According to the Biblical narrative it does sound like the battle with Necho was rather unnecessary, and Josiah could have laid low and done nothing to interfere with what the Egyptians were going to do.
    “Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle.”
    It was a mistake, judging by what transpired at the end. The king was wounded, and later died in Jerusalem. The elderly king was brave enough to march against the enemy, yet he did so in disguise, which was probably a self-protecting mechanism. Perhaps he was eager to experience the adventure of war, yet had no intention to risk his own life to do so.
    This is merely my musing over the event, and there must be other plausible explanations, justifications even, done by Biblical scholars over the ages, had I done some reading about this. Yet it seems more reasonable to me to look at the incident from a human point of view.
    His life was drawing to an end and the king might have become slightly restless and was looking for an occasion to test his manhood, something that would defy his age and would again prove his worth as a man and a king over a nation.
    Perhaps we can still do a lot of things in our old age when we develop a sense of urgency, yet some of the things we choose to do may be utterly unessential and they are better left undone, or done by someone else. Retirement might have been the best thing for Josiah to do at the time. It was indeed a shame for a godly king to die a horrific death in battle, when he could have rocked himself to eternal sleep on his throne.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, March 26, 2018 8:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Passover 

~~MTS-4466
The Passover Celebration
“The Passover lambs were slaughtered, and the priests splashed against the altar the blood handed to them, while the Levites skinned the animals.”     2 Ch. 35:11
    There were only a few days of the year that I was rather eager for them to arrive in my childhood days. What were they? Those were the days when we celebrated the birthdays of the village gods, who were mostly historical figures from the distant past.
    I had no particular affection for those idols carved of stone or wood; the reason why I was so fond of the occasion was really the delicious food we got to enjoy during that day. Of course the meal was offered to the gods first, yet it remained untouched after it were supposedly consumed by the spirits. The banquet was actually prepared for humans, not for the divine.
    Such was the essence of our worship in the village, really. The gods had been created for our sake, fulfilling a certain need we had, and after sticks of incense were burned and lip service had been paid to them, we were the ones who had the privilege to feast on the delicacies.
    The gods must have known their place and had learned not to interfere with people’s daily lives. They basically remained behind the scenes until they were called upon on particular occasions.
    “The Passover lambs were slaughtered, and the priests splashed against the altar the blood handed to them, while the Levites skinned the animals.” What sort of feeling and emotion does this simple narrative evoke in your mind? Did the people who were busily involved in the preparation of the Passover celebration ever entertain the thought that they were doing something with far-reaching spiritual significance?
    Did they slaughter all the Passover lambs merely for their meat, and was the splashing of the blood merely for show? Was what they were eagerly waiting for the opportunity to sink their teeth into the meat and the fat?
    Celebrations are reminders of things of the past and precursors of things to come. They serve no purpose unless they make a difference in the way we remember the past and anticipate the future. Celebrations are the occasions when we hearken back to our historical past and are reminded who we truly are, and what we will eventually become as a people of God.
    As we look back at the far distant past, we can envision Passover lambs being slaughtered so that thousands of Israelites’ lives were spared. If we continue to trace back the thread of time we can also witness the Lamb of God who was slaughtered, and by his death on the cross and the blood he shed our lives are redeemed.
    Isn’t this the real purpose of the Passover celebration, or any other celebration?   
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, March 23, 2018 8:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Celebration 

~~MTS 4465
Celebration
“Josiah celebrated the Passover to the Lord in Jerusalem, and the Passover lamb was slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month.”          2 Ch. 35:1
    The celebration of Passover had been forgotten for generations until King Josiah decided to reinstall the practice. The king spearheaded a revival in Judah and celebrating the Passover was a vital part of the restoration of the old religion. The people of God might have forgotten what it was like to diligently keep the law of God in their daily walk, yet the joy of celebrating the Passover might have been engraved in their memory. By observing the special holiday, God’s people might have developed a deep feeling of nostalgia in their hearts for the things of the past when their relationship with the Lord had been intimate and sweet.
    What do atheists do to celebrate the holidays of Christmas and Easter? I often wonder. For the first twenty years of my life, these red-letter days had absolutely no meaning for me and they evoked no special emotion within my hearts, for I didn’t grow up celebrating the birth and resurrection of Christ. So those special days came along year after year, yet they were ordinary days to me, and I had no earthly idea how much I was missing by not celebrating the occasions.
    Things suddenly changed the day my wife and I went to town to shop for our first Christmas tree as a couple. I hardly knew how to proceed to make the day unique, such as decorating the tree and gift-giving, and I merely did what my wife told me to do, yet these things seemed to be so natural and matter-of-fact, as if I had been doing them my entire life. That was the way things were supposed to be, I guess.
Now I can hardly imagine what it’s like not to celebrate Christmas and Easter.
    So it must have been just as spontaneous and natural for the Israelites to celebrate the Passover after all the rituals were restored, such as slaughtering of the lamb and all the others they performed during the festival, and the people might have wondered why on earth they had neglected the Passover celebration for such a long time. 
    By celebrating a special occasion we evoke all the joyful memories connected to the day so that our past and present may be unified as one, for we have evolved as persons from what the Lord has done in our past.
    By not celebrating the Passover, Israel as a nation would have lost her soul as a people, for it was by that special holiday and how it transpired during that time that the Israelites are defined.
  
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, March 22, 2018 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Responsiveness 

~~MTS-4463
Responsiveness
“Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people…”    2 Ch. 34:27
    It’s such a great blessing when our hearts can still be moved and touched by the Spirit of God. We can easily become cold and indifferent when we hear the words of God proclaimed, thinking that they have nothing to do with us.
    Such wasn’t the case with King Josiah when he heard the Book of the Law read to him. Even though it was primarily addressing the rebellion of the previous generations against the law, the king took the matter personally and he didn’t consider himself exempt when God’s people as a whole were condemned by the Book of the Law.
    It’s just so easy to go through the motions when we sit in the pews listening to God’s Word proclaimed Sunday after Sunday. We seem to regularly go to God’s house to worship without expecting anything meaningful to occur, and corporate worship is perceived more as an obligation than anything else.
    Listening to the Word of God proclaimed, either through reading or listening, must always be intentional, purpose-driven even. We open up the Scriptures not merely to read, but with an intention to listen when we read, and by humbly listening our reading will bring forth definite action.
    Are we ready to respond when the Lord speaks through the Scriptures?
    I have been preaching at the same church for the last twenty-four years, yet the words don’t seem to have any impact on some of the church members. Why? By being unresponsive to God’s word, the more people listen to the word preached, the harder and colder their hearts may become. What makes God’s words come to life is through our responsiveness and obedience to them.
    In fact, failure to respond to God’s words positively is an indication of disbelief. We may indeed claim to believe a lot of things, yet we may resolve to do what comes most naturally during the time when we are challenged physically and emotionally, and we become all too human to act more spiritually.
    What Josiah did when he heard the Law proclaimed to him should serve as a great example for us. He responded to God’s words humbly and took it personally and he ended up doing something to rectify the situation.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, February 15, 2018 6:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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