In Love 

~~MTS-4121
In Love
“…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Eph 4:16
     The issue of life resides in the blood within the human body and without it life becomes impossible; by the same token, a Christian church becomes lifeless unless there is stream of love running in her every vein. For us to become an increasingly vital member of the body, we need to spend more time and energy cultivating our love both for the Lord and our brothers and sisters.
    Love becomes extremely hard to forge unless there is a sense of oneness among all the church members, yet oneness is unlikely to be achieved unless all members of the body are connected to the head. Lifeless members cannot be attached to the head by force or by any other means. Similarly, a given member who has been cut off from the body cannot be reconnected to the body, for there is no longer life remaining in the organ.
    It’s rather likely that they may not have had the life of Christ in them to start with if people decide to leave a given church for good and never make any attempt to join another church body. I simply cannot think of any other explanation except this one. An organ of the body isn’t viable unless it is connected to the body, is it? It does not take more than an ounce of intelligence to figure this out, yet more and more people, young people in particular, seem to claim that they love Christ yet they can do without his church. Indeed, a lot of people seem to lump the Christian church with all the other so-called organized religious institutions and give it a bad name.
    Personal spirituality void of church’s participation and fellowship is a misnomer and contradiction in terms, for spirituality simply cannot be forged in absolute isolation. Surely it takes at the least two people or more for love to take place; otherwise it’s nothing but narcissistic self-love. Of course I am not speaking about the church in a more or less traditional sense; I am merely talking about the church defined by the following statement made by the Lord: “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
    The place to build our love for the Lord and for one another is primarily within the church, and it extends to the larger world from there. It’s quite obvious that we learn what human love is by how we relate to our loved ones within our families and, by the same token, we learn divine love by how we relate to God and to our Christian brothers and sisters. Certainly, if we fail to love our brothers and sisters whom we can see within the church, how can we love the ones outside the church whom we don’t even know? We must build up our love for one another within the church before we can reach out to the unbelieving world with the love of God. A mature church is a clear manifestation of Christ’s love, which is something non-believers find rather appealing.
   
   
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 12, 2016 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Togetherness 

~~MTS-4120
Togetherness
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament…”         Eph 4:16
     We are not individual islands disconnected on a vast ocean; we are a great continent on earth and all of us are tied together as one. This may not be an accurate depiction of the world with various peoples and nations, but this should be a portrait of the Christian church universal. We are indeed not independent individuals who merely attend church for worship and other activities; we are family members who are dependent on one another. A church home isn’t just a catchy name void of real meaning, it’s a home in every sense of the word, and going to church should feel like coming home for all of us.
    Don’t we all have a sense of sadness as we round up our children and head home after the Sunday service and the fellowship meal afterward? I have witnessed over the years that some seem to rush out of the church immediately after the closing prayer is uttered as if they can’t wait to leave, while there are others who linger in the church as long as they possibly can. People who often act as if they don’t want to be at church while they are there don’t usually last long in their church attendance. One simply can’t keep on doing something they don’t really enjoy doing. It’s nice and fine to visit someone else’s home occasionally, but paying frequent visits will quickly become unbearable.
    Is church going a homecoming to you, or merely a visitation you pay at some other person’s home and nothing beyond that? Of course, the key is whether you are one of the members of the body and are closely connected to other members within the church or not. This is undoubtedly the determining factor whether we feel at home or not when we go to the church to worship.
    What’s more puzzling is some people seem to be able to drop in and out of the church without saying hello or good-bye. Some Christians, at least they claim to be, may have been accepted as family members already and have been loved and treasured by other people within the church home, yet they suddenly vanish out of the blue, never to be seen again. It amazes me when it happens and never fails to cause me to wonder if perhaps they never considered our church their home at all, for people simply can’t forsake their homes so readily and easily.
    Come to think of it. Are we truly a church home to the Christians who are members of the church? Well, it has to be, since the head of the church body is Christ himself, which is the lone fact which determines whether the church is a spiritual home or not. Surely the members of the body may not be all that beautiful or desirable, and they may not be all that functional in many ways, yet they remain connected to the head, and to look down or reject the members of the body is to disdain the head. There is no other way to look at this, I believe. We may not be very fond of our siblings, yet we always go home because we love our parents. Of course it’s an entirely different story if we no longer love our parents.
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, January 11, 2016 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Maturity 

~~MTS-4119
Maturity
“…we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”        Eph 4:15
    My struggle as a Christian has always been coping with the wide chasm existing between my head and my heart. To be more exact, my flesh doesn’t always heed the commands issued from my head. In another word, my spirit is willing most of the time, but my flesh is often weak, therefore the pace of my spiritual growth has always been rather slow.
    Christ is the head of the church, yet the members of the body don’t always obey the orders of the head and, consequently, the church remains immature in all aspects. The issue is obviously not the head; the members of the church are to blame. Obedience to the head of the church, that is, Christ, is the key to the church’s growth into maturity.
    I guess this analogy works to a certain extent. The Spirit of God, wherever he dwells, it matters not either within the head or the heart, should be the command center from which the orders are issued, and we must do what he says at all times in order to grow into maturity as Christians. All the necessary conditions for us to grow into maturity are there and all we need to do is to surrender to the leadership of the Spirit and growth will become natural. There simply is no other way provided for us except the way of obedience.
    We will just be a bunch of lifeless people doing lifeless things unless we are connected with the Head and do what we are told to do. A chicken with its head cut off still moves frantically, yet there is no sense of purpose and direction in all its moving; it’s mere instinct, I suppose.
    Activities within the church do not equal spirituality. They are two different things. I may be quite active during the day and engage in all sorts of activities, but that doesn’t mean that I am making big strides in my growth as a person. In fact, I may become weaker by continuing to do superfluous things that only sap away my spiritual strength. We should not just do things; we should do the right things, the things that the Head tells us to do.
    It has long become an annual routine for our church to conduct monthly outreach meetings, and we may be doing it for the sake of doing it, even though the results they generate may be rather meager. Surely doing something does beat doing nothing, doesn’t it? The opposite of activity is inactivity and we know well what our preference should be, not realizing inactivity sometimes is a viable choice. Waiting is better than action if action isn’t really what the Lord intends for us to do. Indeed, “in repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength…” What is the use of all our activities, as a church or a person, if deep trust and love for the Lord is absent?
   
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, January 8, 2016 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Truth and Love 

~~MTS-4118
Truth and Love
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”   Eph. 4:15
     We can be fortified by truth, but we can also be emboldened by it and act less than compassionately, rudely even, toward the ones who may have different persuasions from us. Pharisees who opposed the Lord Jesus in every way possible appeared to have believed that they had the monopoly on truth and whoever held different views from theirs were heretics.
    The Pharisees might have considered they were speaking the truth to the Lord Jesus, yet certainly love was severely lacking in their speech; contrarily, the Lord did speak the truth to them with love and compassion.
    Indeed, though the truth may be on our side, there is something seriously wrong if we fail to present it in love. Fortified by the truth, we should never act as if we have earned the right to condemn others. We should let the truth do the convicting and the condemning, and we must do our part in caring and loving. Surely, we must leave the rest to the Lord, for our sole concern is to present the truth in a clear and transparent fashion.
    Don’t we all have the bad habit of taking people’s rejection of the truth too personally, as if it were a personal insult inflicted on us if the gospel we preach is turned down? Obviously if we take rejections personally, we may also take receptions joyfully as if by our strength and cunning of argument we succeed in bringing people into the fold of God. Both of these mindsets are serious affronts to God which we should do our best to guard against.
    Of course the aim of love isn’t merely to create a warm and fuzzy feeling in the beloved and entirely neglect to speak the truth. Love must take place within the framework of truth. I often think I might have done a great disservice to my children by being too “soft” on them by failing to teach them the Biblical truth faithfully, thinking the truth was a bit too unbending and uncompromising.
    We do a great harm to seekers when we slightly dilute the truth, making it a bit more user-friendly, in order to entice them to make a profession of faith. This is the antithesis of speaking the truth in love, for by doing so we may lose both aspects - speaking the truth and doing it in love. We should imitate the Lord Jesus who never failed a single time when he communicated the truth to sinners; he always presented the uncompromising gospel of the cross with a caring and loving heart and left the decision to sinners. Never a single time did the Lord try to strong arm people to make a profession of faith. He did his job in informing people of the whole truth with a loving and compassionate attitude, and always left the decision process to the hearers. He felt sorry for the ones who rejected the truth and walked away, yet unlike some of us, he never felt sorry for himself for the rejection.      
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, January 7, 2016 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Here and There 

~~MTS-4117
Here and There
“…and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”        Eph 4:14
     “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Why did I even send my children out into the world, knowing how dangerous the world is? Well, they wanted to leave when it was time for them to go. I might have been rather concerned about their future, yet I felt quite powerless to do anything to stem the tide. The time had arrived and they would have to face the world alone; well, not quite alone. The Lord would be accompanying them as they walked into the wolves’ den.
    Were they fully grounded in Biblical truth to overcome the secular teachings of learned professors and to discern right from wrong? I wasn’t at all sure about this, but ready or not, they must stand on their own feet and fight their own battles. They might win some and lose some, and by engaging the enemy, they eventually would learn the all-important spiritual secret - the battle belongs to the Lord.
     This lesson may take our entire lifetime to learn, and we will never fully master it as long as we are still in the flesh. Indeed, flesh and blood are easily beguiled.
    Deceptions and false teachings are very well disguised and all appear to be rather appealing. They may not be right, yet they all sound so plausible and good, and unguarded minds are often enticed to believe in the wrong things. In fact, there is no such thing as wrong in the secular frame of mind, for to claim something is wrong is to believe right things do exist. Nihilism is just so appealing to the young mind and so many of them seem to have plunged into nothingness.
    Faith in the Lord should come into play as we wage the war against secularism with its all-encompassing philosophy of relativism. There is indeed no shadow of turning in the Lord and Biblical truth has been standing firm for thousands of years. It will remain standing in the years to come, and to give it up is to forsake the essence of our beings and the core of our very existence.
    The center must hold and continue to hold. If the center does not exist, all things are merely peripheral and marginal and the world turns into a giant maze with no exit and a long and winding road leads to nowhere.
    The battle belongs to the Lord and he remains firm and still in the eye of a raging storm. Surely the wind was raging and the waves were devouring the small fishing boat, yet the Lord was soundly sleeping, completely calm and collected, for he had total control over the situation, be it natural or supernatural. There was no need for the disciples to be frightened, yet they were terrified just the same. Ah, their flesh was indeed so fragile and weak.
    It has been over ten years since we sent our boys out into the world one after another and they might have been tossed here and there by the wind of this world’s customs and the cunning teachings of their professors, yet by God’s mercy they have kept their faith as far as I can tell. Surely, the battle belongs to the Lord and we should cling to him all the days of our lives.  
   
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, January 6, 2016 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Maturity 

~~MTS-4115
Maturity
“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature…”        Eph 4:13
     How is a Christian’s spiritual maturity measured? By his or her willingness to become united with other believers as one in God’s church. People who create division within the church are not mature Christians. Isn’t this pretty obvious to all of us?
    It so easy to find fault with a lot of things when we first visit a church we have never frequented before, for we all have certain preferences concerning how a church should be run and how worship services should be conducted, and we all have an eclectic taste for a certain kind of preaching. We will never be satisfied with what we find if we remain “consumers” of churches, for the church doesn’t exist merely to provide for us what we need; we are supposed to meet the church’s need by submitting ourselves completely to her.
    Obviously, the very first thing we want to find out from a church is whether Christ is being preached and lifted up. If not, we better go elsewhere, for there is no faith or salvation if Christ is not lifted up as the Son of God and preached as the only way of redemption. Indeed, Christ can be many things to many people and he is able to meet everyone’s need in a unique way, yet there is absolutely one thing that can never be altered or compromised: he is the only son of God who came into the world to die for our sins on the cross. Take this away and a church is no longer a church. We can call her anything and everything but a church. This is the unity in the faith to which all of us must adhere.
    Besides unity in the faith, we must strive to become unified in our knowledge of Christ as well. In fact, unity of the knowledge of the Son of God may have to happen before unity in faith can take place. Faith void of knowledge is mere superstition, yet knowledge without faith prevents the Christian church from becoming mature and acceptable in God’s sight.
    We may have worked hard to keep our faith pure within the church, yet have neglected to promote the study of God’s knowledge hidden in the Bible. Therefore, most of us are saved, yet our mind is yet to be converted, and the distance between our heads and hearts is becoming wider and wider. This is indeed a situation that badly needs to be rectified. In a mature congregation we should be able to find unity in both faith in God and knowledge of the Almighty.  
    
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, January 4, 2016 7:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Build up 

~~MTS-4114
To build up
“…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”               Eph 4:12
     We are being built up so that we can participate in the work of building up the church. We must be built before we become builders, and the process of being built isn’t always pleasant. We must have a humble attitude and a willingness to be taught. No matter how educated or intelligent worldly wise we may be, we still need to learn the fundamentals of our faith. Unless we go through a complete conversion in all aspects of our lives, we will be useless in God’s kingdom and whatever we do within the church will be profitless and may even be damaging.
    I felt rather ill at ease attending a church committee headed by someone I considered ill-suited for the job, yet I went along for lack of courage to speak out. I didn’t have my priorities straight because I valued church harmony more than church purity at the time. Looking back in retrospect, I know what should have been done concerning the issue, yet because of my lack of courage the thing wasn’t done properly, and consequently, the church became weakened.
    I don’t think the builder of our old house made any compromises when he constructed this house some ninety years ago, for the architect was on sight daily, carefully examining the tasks being performed. In fact, the architect was constructing the house for himself and his bride; therefore extra care must have been put into the construction. Years have passed, and the house stands firm still.
    We may not be aware of the fact that we are building God’s house, the body of our Lord, since we merely do all the routine things that need to be done, such as cleaning and lining up the chairs and making sure the sound system work properly, and it seems hard to connect all these minute things with the great enterprise of building the glorious body of Christ Jesus.
    “Double-vision” is needed when we serve the Lord in any capacity be it great or small, within or without the church. We need to cast our eyes upon the visible as well as the invisible, for everything we do has both temporary and eternal consequences and significance. We are awfully foolish if we fail to realize whatever we eat contributes to our overall health and determines whether we are weak or strong.
    So if the body of Christ is weak, I am totally responsible, for I am a part of the body and whatever I do in caring or failing to care for the body contributes to her current state of sound or ill health. The body of Christ isn’t out there somewhere; it’s right where we are. Indeed, we are the church, the body of Christ Jesus, and the Lord will hold each one of us responsible for her wellbeing.
   
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 23, 2015 7:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Equip 

~~MTS-4113
To equip
“…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”           Eph 4:12
     Did the Lord make a mistake by calling me to be a minister of the gospel? I often wonder about this, for I have always felt ill-prepared to do pastoral work. I am not an organized person or even much of a planner. A go-with-the-flow person isn’t well-suited to do leadership work in the church.
     I would have made a very poor teacher, come to think of it, even though that used to be my career choice. A good teacher must know his or her subject very well and be able to communicate the material in a simple fashion. In order to achieve that, teachers must first digest the given subject matter and then present it in such a way that students can grasp it without much difficulty. I possess none of the abilities mentioned and I often became self-absorbed and self-intoxicated when I lectured to my students.
    I did such a pitiful job handling secular matters as a college teacher both at home and abroad. I have no earthly idea why the Lord called me to manage the sacred subject which I have been doing for the last twenty-two years. The Lord only knows how many people I might have misled and mis-taught. No wonder I often blame myself when people quit coming to the church. Indeed they haven’t been taught well.
    The axe could have been fallen in the past and it may still fall any time, for I have seen no progress in the way I conduct church affairs. I need to become more methodical in my preaching and teaching and cultivate my gift as a church administrator. Of course this isn’t my usual practice of self-condemnation; it’s my sincere desire to become a better pastor and teacher who fulfils God’s call to equip all the saints under my care to be more prepared to serve the Lord.
    It’s not too late to make some changes, is it? My wife is a good Latin teacher whose constant concern is to become a better teacher. It puts me to great shame, for I am not at all like her, even though what I am dealing with does carry a much more significant eternal consequence.
    I am called to be a pastor and teacher, am I not? I am quite subpar doing the job of pastoral care and rather deficient as a teacher. If this is so, I ask, why has the Lord kept me in the church for the last twenty-two years? Does he even care that I have been doing such a poor job?
    There is only one answer to my puzzling question. The Lord has been gracious and his patience with me knows no bounds. Instead of taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy by remaining who and what I am, I do need to double my efforts in improving myself to be a better equipper of the saints to do good work. I am extremely thankful that the Lord called me to be a minister of the gospel despite all my deficiencies as a person and flaws in my character, which only goes to show how merciful and forgiving he is. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 22, 2015 7:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Descending and Ascending 

~~MTS-4112
Descending and Ascending
“What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions.”           Eph 4:9
     By descending to the earthly regions, the Lord’s intention was to take some of us into God’s glory. The purpose of his descending was his ascension, for the purpose of his coming down to the earth was to lift us up to the heavenly realms and to transform each one of us into God’s children. There wouldn’t have been any ascending if there was no descending first.
    Of course there wouldn’t have been any spoils had the Lord not been victorious in his titanic battle against his adversary, the king of this world. By his death on the cross Christ had defeated Satan and he was able to rescue us from the power of death. Eternal life is the greatest gift we receive from the Lord, and eternal life wouldn’t have been offered to us had Christ not won the battle. To the victor goes all the spoils, and eternal life is part of the spoils.
    Up to this day we are still harvesting the benefits of Christ’s victory over the evil one, for we can keep on claiming the spoils the Lord left behind for all of us who love him.
    The talents we once possessed and had used as instruments for us to earn a living before our conversion have all been transformed into something that can be used by God and for his own glory. Aren’t these the spoils that we have received from above? Aren’t we all part of the spoils the Lord has reclaimed from Satan? Instead of bowing down to the evil one, we have become servants of God.
    The more we are victorious in our daily walk with the Lord, the greater our spoils will be.
    The Lord is still trying to reclaim what he is entitled to have among his children, what’s supposed to be his yet still remains under the control of his enemy. We are yet to dedicate to the Lord all we have unto his service and unto his glory, so there are still spoils yet to be claimed. We have been claimed by the Lord, yet continue to hold onto some things as if they were our own, the area we keep the Lord from ever reaching or touching. We try to keep the spoils to ourselves.
    Indeed, the purpose of the Lord’s descent was to take back his people who were under the tyranny of Satan and to bring them to his glorious heaven. He succeeded in doing just that by his death on the cross, yet in some ways he is still doing the work of conquering because, although the war has been won, the battle is still raging, for the spoils of the victory haven’t all been claimed, and in many cases, we are the ones who keep the spoils from him.
    Unless we completely submit to the Lord, we will never become truly ourselves and the spoils we have kept for ourselves will indeed spoil.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 21, 2015 8:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

One Hope 

~~MTS-4111
One Hope
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called…”       Eph 4:4
     There isn’t any other hope but the hope in Christ Jesus who is the head of the body to which we are called. We are bound to be disappointed if we try to look for any other thing except Christ himself when we come to the church. There isn’t any other thing for the church to offer except Christ and his atoning death on the cross and by believing in him we will have eternal life.
    Yet there are people who seem to be looking for things other than Christ himself; therefore their stay within the church isn’t long-lasting for they find out rather quickly the Lord isn’t going to provide for them what they desire the most.
    I have no earthly idea what I wanted when I visited the church, to be very honest. I had to be told what I was searching for, for I had no idea what I was looking for at the time. I might have gone to church out of curiosity or other reasons that had nothing to do with my salvation. I had no idea that I was lost, therefore had no need to be found. I went to the church to be informed that I was a sinner in need of redemption, and it would take years for the truth to sink in, causing me to come to my senses that I indeed needed a savior.
     The very first time I stepped inside a Christian church was on a Christmas Eve when I was in high school and throughout the service I was thinking about perhaps getting a gift before the end of the meeting. It didn’t happen and I was a bit disappointed. I failed to get the greatest gift the church had to offer that night, for I was focusing on something else. I didn’t return to church until I was in college, and even then I still had no idea what I should look for in the church. I wasn’t told, at least clearly, what I truly needed the few times I attended the church services, which was quite unfortunate indeed. It would have been such a great blessing had I been saved a few years earlier than I was, for it would have kept me from committing so many sins and wasting a lot of my days doing superfluous things.
    Do we do our job faithfully as a church by informing people what their real needs are and pointing out a way to meet those needs?
    Of course we have been trying to drive the message home to all the seekers that we are sinners in dire need of redemption, yet this information doesn’t mean anything to them unless they are convicted by the Spirit. Most people appear to be very much aware of their “felt needs” and yet pay absolutely no attention to their “real need,” which is the salvation of their souls and resurrection of their bodies.
    Even though the process is painfully slow, still we must continue to tell people what they need in order to have a truly abundant life. People must be told that they are ill so that they will seek treatment, for spiritual illness is relatively painless and it doesn’t drive people to physicians like physical sickness does. We need to bring the “silent killer” to bear so that people may start looking for treatment by turning to Christ who is the only hope of our healing and restoration.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, December 18, 2015 7:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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