This Mystery 

~~MTS-4498
This Mystery
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

     This was something the Jewish mind could never fathom. They believed salvation was reserved for the chosen people of God, Gentiles were second class citizens, and were by no means worthy to receive God’s favor.
    “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This doesn’t seem to be all that mysterious to us, yet it was unthinkable to all the Jews, Paul included. In fact, what’s mysterious to us is that the whole “household” of the Jews will be saved at the end time, which Paul alludes to in Romans. This is rather improbable to us, since there have been so few Jews who have come to the Lord throughout church history, except during its initial stage, of history of course.
    What the Lord was determined to do among the Gentiles was mysterious to the apostle Paul and he could hardly believe what he was witnessing at the time. We must realize that Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles not by choice, but by necessity, by force even, for his main concern was his own people. So the first place he visited in a city during his missionary journey was always the synagogue where the Jews gathered together to worship on the Sabbath. Paul was caught by surprise when a large number of Gentiles started to embrace the Christin faith and he was greatly mystified by it.
    He could only conclude the miraculous phenomenon was from the Lord and it wasn’t through human will that things were turning out this way. Paul knew who he was and by no means were people drawn to the Lord because of his personal effort or charm; it was entirely from the Lord, and whatever came from the hand of the Lord is mysterious to mere humans.
    Aren’t we all Gentiles who by nature are hostile to God and have absolutely no desire to know the Lord? Had it been through our own volition, would we not have preferred to stay away from Jesus of Nazareth as far as we possibly could? Yet look at who and what we are now. Do we all feel exactly the same way as Paul when he wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am?” Isn’t this rather mysterious to you?
    Why did I turn out to be so vastly different from my sisters and brother, and all the people from the little village where I was raised? This mystery can never be understood from a human point of view, and if the Almighty wasn’t involved in it, we can only attribute it to the luck of the draw just like all other things that have ever occurred in the world - capricious and meaningless. A world void of mystery is rather sterile and cold.
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 11, 2018 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Mystery 

~~MTS-4497
The Mystery
“ …the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.”                Col. 1:26

    Salvation is a “collective mystery” that took place in human history, and it will not become real to us unless we experience it individually. The “collective mystery” must be transformed into “individual mystery” through our personal experiences.
    Faith loses its meaning if it’s reckoned merely as a collective noun. When Emperor Constantine established Christianity as a national religion, the essence of the Christian faith started to deteriorate instantly. The quantity of the Christian church mighty has been greatly increased, the quality inevitably decreased. The Christian faith was demystified after it turned into a collective faith.
    Indeed, the mystery that has been kept hidden is now disclosed among God’s people and it has become accessible to God’s people everywhere.
    Isn’t it a walking miracle that our lives have been transformed through the preaching of the gospel? If you consider this transformation anything other than a miracle, you might not have experienced the awesomeness of the miracle at all. The mysterious element is taken away when the miraculous event is taken as commonplace, an occurrence void of unique significance.
    Indeed, Christianity has been demystified in the age of evangelism when getting saved is reduced to simply uttering a prayer, professing Jesus is the Lord and accepting Him as a Savior. There is very little mystery involved in this process, is there? Even the act of receiving the ritual of baptism has become so sterile that people may hardly feel anything at all. 
    Something invisible must have taken place when people are visibly transformed before our very eyes. Indeed, there is no realm of reason for me to have instantly turned into a new person, as if my twenty-three years of life experiences had lost their impact and grip on me. How mysterious and spectacular was that! Within a period of a few months, I seemed to have turned the collective mystery of Christianity into a personal one; therefore, there was left no doubt in my mind from then on that I was a person born from above, which is, in and of itself, a great mystery.
    It has been a rather humbling journey since I became a Christian, for there is no other choice for me but to continue to embrace the mysterious element of my faith, and humbly accept the reality that faith does have its reasons that the mind can never comprehend.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 10, 2018 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Word of God 

~~MTS-4496
Word of God
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”        Col. 1:25

    I have been preaching through the book of John, and I have found the message rather repetitive and I am often tempted to skip some of the passages to get to the “meat” that I feel more comfortable preaching. After serving in the same small congregation for almost twenty-five years, being repetitive is something I have been trying to avoid, albeit rather unsuccessfully.
    Being a creative writer by nature, I have often tried to bring some sort of original idea into my preaching, which is superfluous to say the least. Indeed, “there is no new thing under the sun,” and the only one who has anything original to utter is God himself. Who and what do I consider I am, to have the audacity to venture into the territory of true originality?
    “Things may not be all that black and white,” someone said to me. “How can the word of God be that black and white?” he added.
    “What choice do we have, then?” I asked. “Chop the word of God to pieces so we can pick and choose what and what not to believe?”
    Where do we turn except to the inspired word of God? I question. There are obviously questions and doubts that creep into our minds when we read the Scriptures, yet do we question our lack of intellect and knowledge or lay all the blame on the Lord who authored the book?
    We are not omniscient by any stretch of the imagination, but we may occasionally be tempted to consider ourselves to be so. We may even believe that we have earned the right to judge what constitutes the word of God and are free to discredit what the Lord has uttered through various people and events.
    My math ability is rather limited and I still haven’t advanced beyond the fourth grade level; therefore, it’s pretty ludicrous for me to try to dispute the truthfulness of any time-proven mathematical equations. The truth remains forever truthful no matter how we perceive it.
    “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”
    What message do I have but the message of God, and where do I turn to find the message of God but to the Bible? Why do people get tired of reading or listening to God’s voice except for the fact that their hearts have turned cold and stony hard? I guess I will continue to repeat myself as long as my message sticks to the inspired word of the Lord.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 9, 2018 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Commission 

~~MTS-4495
The Commission
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”           Col. 1:25

    This was what I was commissioned to do when I was called into the church ministry, and I have been doing this for the last twenty-five years. Will the commission ever become obsolete or invalid?
    I have been thinking about this for the last year or so, and am still pondering about the issue. In fact, the decision has already been made, I am merely waiting for the approval from the Lord, and the indication of being approved that I am seeking is inner peace, indicating that I have made the right choice.
    Retirement isn’t even a Biblical concept, I thought. I can’t imagine the thought ever entered Paul’s mind for, despite his advanced age, he continued to seek new fields to spread the gospel. He was speaking about going to Spain, which might have been rather foreign to him both culturally and linguistically.
    To the apostles and other servants of old, retirement from preaching the gospel only meant one thing - the end of their earthly journey, which isn’t really something I have in mind at this point.
    Surely retirement from church ministry is by no means cessation from preaching the gospel. Besides, I have become stale and worn out, staying in one place for such a long time, and I might have outstayed my welcome.
    “The church does need injection of some new blood. They need young people to minister to young students,” I mentioned to Kathy. I do feel more and more justified to retire at this time.
    There was nonetheless a sense of sadness and loss after the decision had been made, as if the Lord was about to replace me with someone else, someone more suitable and capable for the young generation.
    “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”
    The commission will remain steady and unchanged when the retirement becomes a reality, for to me the commission has long become a personal identity, which can never be violated, and to turn away from it is akin to nothing but self-betrayal.
    If this is really so, retirement is a mere misnomer, because it’s really a recharge of inner batteries, preparing ourselves for a new challenge. I guess I will soon be recharged. I guess I will thus include the word “rechargement” in my aging dictionary.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 7, 2018 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Suffering 

~~MTS-4494
Suffering
“…and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”           Col. 1:24

    As if Christ’s suffering was not quite enough, Paul had to fill up what was still lacking by his own suffering in the flesh. This is rather puzzling, isn’t it? If that were so, does it mean that we must do the same thing as the apostle once did, which was to suffer afflictions for Christ’s sake?
    Wasn’t the suffering of Christ on the cross all sufficient and nothing more was needed to be done to secure salvation for people then and now, and the ones who are to come? Did Christ really mean it was finished when he uttered with his last breath from the cross, “It is finished.”
    The mighty work of salvation was indeed finished some two thousand years ago, yet our suffering on Christ’s behalf isn’t finished, and it will never be finished until the day Christ returns.
    Why hasn’t the suffering ended, then? We may be asking. The answer to this is rather simple: Until the glorious day when we are delivered from this sinful flesh and from the world torn up by sin, we will continue to suffer afflictions of all sorts, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Isn’t this what we are experiencing at the present time?
    What we can hope for at best is to have a longer respite between our afflictions so that we can store up enough physical and emotional energy to endure pain when it arrives, and sufficient spiritual strength to overcome the inner weariness and dryness that usually come along with sorrow and suffering.
    In a small congregation such as ours, some of our members seem to have experienced enough suffering to “fill up” what was lacking in regard to Christ’s suffering. God’s people continue to suffer pain even after they have been redeemed, for they haven’t been completely saved. The Lord saved us from the dominance and damnation of sin, yet we are yet to be saved from our flesh and the tyranny of the world. We have been saved, yet continue to be saved, and it does looks like Christ’s redemption is yet to be finished, doesn’t it?
    I hate to be pessimistic and be a bearer of bad news, but suffering is inevitable and affliction will fall our way sooner or later but, as days go by and years pass, the gap between Christ’s suffering and our affliction will ultimately be filled up and suffering will be no more.
    
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 6, 2018 7:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Servant 

~~MTS-4493
A Servant
“This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”    Col. 1:23
     It’s not a requirement that servants should serve their master willingly, for to serve is an obligation and services must be done whether they are willing to do it or not.
    Being duty-bound may be an important indication of one’s spirituality. This is probably one of the main differences between my wife and me as far as our spirituality is concerned. I tend to do things only when I feel like it, which doesn’t happen all that often; yet Kathy does what needs to be done whether she feels inclined to do them or not. When obligation calls, she always answers, which is not always the case with me.
    Which one of the two is the true servant of the Lord? I think the answer to this is rather simple.
    I seemed to be more willing to answer to the call of duty when I was a teenager working in a chicken farm than what I am as a minister of the gospel. I guess my job was on the line and I had to do what was required of me to survive. Therefore, for a little less than a year I continued to do the meaningless and mean chores on the farm day and night. Considering the importance and significance of my employment at the moment, why can’t I do the same things as when I was a small farmhand?
    The difference is rather simple, really. I was working under an authority who had the right to fire me on the spot then, so I had no option but to work hard. Yet being a minister in a single staff church, I serve more like a lone ranger than anything else. Indeed, I could have done a lot more than I have been doing for years, and I believe I will be held accountable before the judgment throne someday. Isn’t this one of the reasons why I am so eager to retire from church ministry? I simply have not measured up to the calling to which I have been called, and to retire from it appears to be the right decision.
    One thing that I do quite well is I have seldom pretended to be what I am not, and what I have written is by no means self-denigration at all; I am merely telling the truth.
    By the same token, the apostle was also telling the truth, for he was a duty-bound person who had an impeccable sense of integrity and he would do what he was called to do “in season of out of season.” When he seemed to have run out of places to preach, he decided to take the gospel to Spain; yet I decided to retire when I became too lazy to take the gospel to the unbelievers nearby. I suppose this is the difference between a true servant of God and a hired hand.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 5, 2018 8:01:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith-related  

~~MTS-4492
Faith-related
“…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.”           Col. 1:23

    Is this even a choice at all? I wonder. It has become a vital part of my being and to give it up is akin to self-betrayal. If I give up my faith, I will no longer exist, and what I am becomes merely my flesh, and nothing more.
    What makes me who I am and will be eternally is my faith in Christ Jesus. Faith in Him is the generator and sustainer of my being.
    There isn’t a single moment that passes during my day without me thinking about my faith and how it relates to my every activity, and my constant striving is to make my every deed a work of faith. Indeed, my faith in Christ is what makes me as a person, and without him I am just an empty shell.
    Why do I do what I do every day? Why do you do what you do daily? Merely make a living, or something far beyond?
    We do all things either for work or pleasure, yet they should always be related to our faith, for it’s our faith that governs our every act. We seem to be more “purpose-driven” at our work yet, as far as our recreation is concerned, we seem to be far more disinterested. From the point of faith, both are equally important. In fact, what we do for pleasure may indicate who we really are more than what we do for a living, for we do have a choice concerning the former. What we choose to do during our leisure time indicates who we are.
    Does doing gardening have any spiritual or eternal significance at all? I ask. My wife seems to spend a lot of her free time planting and caring for her plants in the yard, producing nothing but good looking flowers, which only last but a few days and then fade. What’s the spiritual purpose behind all the endeavor, if there is any at all?
    Surely, some hobbies are far more spiritual than others. What she does is really an act of creating beauty, which reflects God’s heavenly business, which is something the Almighty spends his eternity doing. There is indeed nothing unspiritual about gardening. Compared to what she does, my hobby of watching athletic competitions seems to be rather a mindless operation. There is nothing spiritual about it, is there?
    If what I do for pleasure has absolutely nothing to do with my faith, why do I keep on doing it year after year?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 4, 2018 7:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Holy in his Sight  

~~MTS-4491
Holy in his Sight
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”        Col. 1:22

    The closer I get to light, the clearer I see my blemishes, so from the perspective of my personal experiences, I don’t think I feel any holier than I was before I was converted. Isn’t this rather depressing?
    The issue is: How I feel toward myself really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with who and what I really am. I may feel quite pleased with myself, but that doesn’t mean that the Lord is pleased me. What I perceive about myself is merely an appearance, and what the Lord sees is my inner essence.
    There is not a chance that I will feel entirely holy as long as I remain in the flesh; yet I am completely pure before the Lord. In fact, I have been this way since the day I was saved and will remain so until the end. How comforting and reassuring this particular thought is! “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
    If this is really so, why do I continue to struggle against sin and have yet to experience the joy and peace of being holy before the Lord? I might have been happier and far more at ease with myself before my conversion, for I was able to make justification for all my actions, no matter how morally corrupt they might have been. I could no longer do the same things after I was justified by my faith in the Lord Jesus.
    Perhaps I need to constantly remind myself that I am not how I feel, but I am what I truly am. I am who the Lord considers me to be, and if he deems me holy and without blemish, that’s the real me indeed.
    I have been presented in God’s sight “without blemish and free from accusation,” even though I feel rather lousy about myself a lot of times. In fact, it’s a daily occurrence that I bring accusation against myself for being sinful and unholy, for doing something that I shouldn’t have done or failing to do something that I should have done.
    “Woe is me!” exclaimed the apostle Paul.
    There is indeed turmoil within our hearts if we fail to look up to Jesus and be clothed in his robe of righteousness every day. Yet this should never become a pretext for us to remain who and what we are, without making a great effort to become holier before God and men. I long to become holy, not only in God’s sight, but in my own perception as well.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 31, 2018 6:52:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Alienation 

~~MTS-4490
Alienation
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”         Col. 1:21

    “Once you were” is obviously a thing of the past, isn’t it? Can we honestly say that I am no longer that way at the present time?
    How do I relate to God now? I ask. Is the relationship as intimate as it can ever be, or is it still somewhat strained? It could be far better, yet it could also be a lot worse. It’s just maintained at a certain level, which is probably fine with me, but it may not be acceptable to the Lord.
    It took place such a long time ago and, if my memory serves me right, I was totally lost compared to what I am now. Yet I wasn’t as miserable as I could have been then and I am not as joyful as I should ever be now. What I am at the present time is an “in-between” stage, and what I am capable of becoming is certainly infinitely greater than what I have left behind.
    It’s not a wise thing to compare myself with myself. In another words, to compare my present with my past, and be content with who and what I am. I may no longer be alienated from the Lord, but my relationship with him has a lot to be desired. In fact, the room for improvement is enormous.
    A drastic breakthrough is needed, yet I may not have the courage to do so, for there are always growing pains involved, a price I may not be willing to pay. This is my comfort zone, and I am rather reluctant to step outside of it. Launching the ship into the deep to catch more fish may be an appealing idea, yet it causes fear if I am no longer able see the coastline which gives me a sense of security.
    Sufferings of any sort tend to cause us to grow spiritually. This is such a common idea that most people seem to take it as the ironclad truth, but after I have experienced suffering, I have yet to find out the validity of it. Can we, I often wonder, enhance our spiritual growth through some other means?
    One of the things that we can do, however, is to break away from the old ways of doing things and to establish new ways of our daily operations. Old habits die hard and they may have become strangleholds that choke our spiritual advancement.
    How do we go about doing it? By taking a baby step in getting rid of the old and starting something new. For instance, cutting down our daily screen time and increasing our Scripture reading may be a good start. Intimacy in a relationship doesn’t need to start with an earth-shattering event; it can even be kick started with a simple daily face to face conversation.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 30, 2018 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Supremacy 

~~MTS-4489
Supremacy
“…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”    Col. 1:18

    “Everything” covers a big area, doesn’t it? It includes all things great and small, and nothing is ever excluded.
    “…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” I am frightened. This standard is just too high for me to reach. The Lord can have his supremacy in part of my life, but not in all of it.
    Are there some areas in our lives that we don’t allow the Lord to visit or to touch, somewhere we deem too private to be plied?
    Whatever we consider “personal” may be too personal for the Lord as well. Matters such as the way we manage our financial or even our age and weight, the things we keep to ourselves, about which others are just too polite to even ask.
    Is the Lord so discourteous to even stick his nose into these private issues?
    I might have sometimes violated my own principle of dealing with my children, but I have tried not to interfere with their private matters out of respect, even though I am dying to know some of their personal affairs. Surely, I have never dreamed to gain any sort of supremacy over their lives. It would have been rather preposterous for me to do so and, of course, they would never allow me to do it.
    Not so with our Heavenly Father, though.
    For certain he has earned the right to do so by virtue of creating us, and he has the best intention when he looks into our personal business, for he knows what the best is for us. When I attempt to find out something about my children, my intention has always been to rejoice with them or, in some rare cases, to mourn with them. What motivates me to find out things about my sons is nothing but love. I don’t intend to rule over them; I only seek solidarity and comradeship with them.
    For us to be ruled by the Lord is to be liberated, and the more he has supremacy over us, the more fulfilled and satisfied we will be, for it’s for such a purpose we have been created.
    We are far too nearsighted to consider long term effects when we do things, and to generate immediate pleasure seems to be our main concern in life. Yet our lives tend to fall apart as we fall farther and farther away from the center. Surely a life without God’s supremacy over us doesn’t pay; and we only pay for the ill-consequences at the end. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 29, 2018 8:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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