Personal vs. Communal 

~~MTS-3745
Personal vs. Communal
“Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
           2 Kings 14:10

Being a king over a nation, nothing Amaziah ever did was personal in nature. “When one hair is being pulled, it moves the entire body (牽一髮而動全身,)” goes a Chinese saying. Whatever the king decided to do, the repercussions would be felt across the whole nation of Judah. The king should have had the welfare of his country in mind when he was deciding whether to start a war against the northern kingdom of Israel or not.
This can be applied to ordinary people as well. Whatever action we take may appear to be purely personal, but can quickly turn into a communal thing, carrying an effect of various degrees upon our friends and neighbors, either positive or negative, good or bad. Indeed “no man is an island” and, even it were so, every ripple its rocky shore creates may travel thousands of miles and impact all the islands and continents on its way.
We would probably refrain from doing a lot of things if we considered how our actions may negatively affect other people. The chain reactions of all our actions are a lot more far-reaching that we can ever imagine.
Thousands of Israelites would have had to quit what they were doing either on their farms or in their shops, bidding farewell to all their loved ones, and rushing to the battlefield to meet their mortal enemies, not knowing whether they would live to see their homes again. Whether they came out to be victorious or not from their military campaign, many lives would have been lost and numerous homes broken, and the number of orphans and widows in the land would have increased greatly.
Did this even enter into the king’s mind when he was contemplating whether to launch a war against the North? Most likely not. Even after he was warned sternly by the king of Israel, King Amaziah still proceeded to do what he intended to do and ultimately suffered the dire consequences of his ill-advised action.
We should think about the people we love before we decide to do anything great or small, and how our actions are going to impact them. All the sins we have ever committed are in essence selfish acts, since our only concern is to gratify the desire of our flesh. The prodigal son’s sole intention was to fulfill his own ambition and aspiration, caring nothing about how his actions would hurt his father and brother, and set a horrible example for his friends and neighbors.
So ponder about the possible consequence next time you have a drink or two, surf the internet for some illicit sites, or cheat on your wife or husband. The triple effect of our sins will kick into gear immediately after we do the acts, in which three parties are impacted - the Lord, ourselves, and the ones against whom we sin. If this mere fact does not deter us from sinning, I don’t know what will.   
              

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 10, 2014 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Glory 

~~MTS-3744
Glory
“You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home!”      2 Kings 14:10

Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated the Edomites and was basking in the glory of victory for a short while, but the joy was short-lived. Like all things physical we have experienced, the euphoria he received from conquering Edom didn’t last all that long and, before he knew it, he was planning yet another military campaign so that he could again experience the thrill and soothe his hunger for action.
“Glory in your victory, but stay at home.” Jehoash, king of Israel suggested. A very wise suggestion, wasn’t it? The king’s restlessness might rob him of all the peace he was currently enjoying and thrust him into endless turmoil.
No particular reason was given as to why Amaziah wanted to start a battle against the northern kingdom of Israel. No doubt the hostility between the two kingdoms was ongoing and they had fought each other off and on, but with a little self-control and prudency, most skirmishes between the two peoples could have been avoided. Why shed human blood unless it was absolutely necessary? Therefore King Jehoash suggested that Amaziah stay home and be content with what he had achieved in his conquest of the Edomites.
One conquest is never enough, for success breeds within us a more intense passion for greater successes, which is the reason why various additions are forged and nurtured. It’s an unquenched fire that may consume us all unless we learn “to glory” in what we have already achieved and be content with what have been endowed by the Almighty.
Nonsense! You may argue. How can we be satisfied with who and what we are, since there is still so much yet to be accomplished, both spiritually and physically? What King Amaziah was doing was merely the nature of the beast, for his nation would shrink unless he continued to expand and they would either do the conquering or be conquered. What he intended to do was quite natural, necessary even.
What is there for me to achieve spiritually? Achieving renown in a worldly sense has never been my ambition; therefore it’s relatively easier for me to stay home for I am going nowhere even if I try. However, it’s another issue altogether if we are dealing with the realm of spirituality. I can always go further and dig deeper in my pursuit to know God more deeply and to love him more intimately. Indeed there are enemies to subdue and more territory to possess. “"You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over,” the Lord said to Joshua before his passing, and he may tell us the same thing. This should give us a sense of urgency, causing us to work harder to conquer more of what the Lord has given us to possess.
  
                                                                                                                

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 9, 2014 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Heart 

~~MTS-3743
Heart
“ He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done.”     2 Kings 14:3

Amaziah, king of Judah, might have had strong desire to be like his forefather David, but he could hardly measure up to the man after God’s own heart, both in thought and deeds. King David might have been rather imperfect in many ways, but his heart and devotion toward the Lord were beyond compare, and no one in the following generations was able to measure up the standard he had set.
David was pretty much the product of his age and aspired to achieve renown in battle, just like most young men in his generation, and his conquering of nations and slaughtering of people were duly lauded by his countrymen, so we should not look at his heroic deeds according to our value system. His womanizing was well-documented in the Biblical narrative and for sure his practice of polygamy wasn’t sanctioned by God. Sinful people always do what comes natural to them, especially if they have the means.  
Indeed the man’s conduct left much to be desired; nonetheless his devotion toward the Lord was beyond comparison. No one can question David’s love for the Lord and his desire to please him in all he did. Like all flesh and blood, although the man might have been overcome by sin for a season, his love for God was always restored through repentance.
Amaziah probably could have measured up to David in his conduct; it is unlikely his heart toward the Lord could catch up with David. In order to be more like his forefather, Amaziah should have spent more time cultivating and nurturing his love for God, which he didn’t do consistently. We are not born with a deep love for God; it’s cultivated intentionally, through prayer and practice.
David might have done a few things out of his lust, yet out of his love and fear for the Lord, he kept himself from doing a lot of things many times. He might have succumbed to temptations a few times in his life, but he was victorious numerous times in overcoming sins, times which are not recorded in the Bible. Whenever he failed and yielded to temptation once or twice, he probably had won a thousand times before then. Yet we often lose sight of the times he was triumphant in his struggle against sin, and we focus entirely on the sins he committed.
Will the Lord judge us for what we have done, or what we have refrained from doing? Will we be held accountable more for our thoughts or our deeds? It was through his inner life David was reckoned “a man after God’s own heart,” not so much because of his outward actions, even though both were taken into consideration. If they were placed on a balance, I believe the former will weigh a lot more than the latter. 
 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, June 6, 2014 8:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To This Say 

~~MTS-3742
To This Day
“To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”        2 Kings 13:23

Do I deserve to enjoy God’s love up to this day, considering how sinful I have been and how I have fallen so far short in the process of my sanctification and my pursuit of holiness? Am I worthy to keep on receiving God’s mercy even though I have done absolutely nothing in return? Does the Lord merely tolerate me as his child or is he still hopeful that I may improve in my walk with him and the service I render to him?
I guess I will continue to ask these sorts of questions until the day I die, for I will never be able to fathom the depth and width of God’s love for me and the divine patience that has lasted throughout my unruly youth to my restless old age. Up to this day, I am afraid I will be what I was and what I am, and will die as one of God’s unfinished works.
I suppose I will be as finished and unfinished as I will ever be the day when I am called home, and my Father will look at me with disapproval and displeasure, thinking that all he has done in sculpturing and carving me was all for naught.
Will the Sculptor continue to work on what remains unfinished in me when I meet him face to face? There are several unfinished works by Michelangelo on display in the Academy, waiting for the great artist to return to put finishing touches on them, which will never take place. What’s unfinished by human hands will remain unfinished eternally.
“To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”
How could there be any willingness or intention in the Father’s heart to quit working on molding and shaping his beloved into his own image? Being a lousy poet I have often discarded what I started composing. Will the divine Artist do the same to his creation and give up his efforts in bringing out his masterpieces from the rocks with sharp and rough edges?
I have often started creating something without any inkling of how it was going to finish. Being human, I know where things start, but have no earthly idea how they will end. Such is not the case with the Lord, who has a perfectly clear idea how things should and will end. 
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” This is so reassuring, for it matters not how I evaluate myself or think what I will become; what counts ultimately is my Creator’s ideal and aspiration toward me. I will just humbly walk with the Lord and follow his lead, trusting the divine Artist will finish his work according to his original design.    

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 5, 2014 4:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Blessing 

~~MTS-3741
Blessing
“But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham…” 2 Kings 13:23

What we consider the best for our children may not be the best after all. In fact, it may turn out to be not so great.
According to a recent survey, children on the island of Taiwan have the least satisfaction rate toward their parents among all the nations included in the analysis. The result surprised me because children are valued by their parents in my home country and the virtue of filial piety has been driven home in every child’s heart. Why aren’t children happy with their parents? I wonder. It turned out according to the survey, Taiwanese parents put so much pressure on the children to perform well at school that they make them to take a lot of after-school enrichment class and activities, which is exactly the reason why children are not satisfied with their parents. I guess it’s not easy for “tiger parents” to become popular among their children.
What we deem the most important is our children’s financial well-being when they grow up and we want to make sure that they advance fast and far in their career. There is nothing wrong with this since one of the goals of raising children is to make them independent emotionally and physically when we are not there for them - to render ourselves unnecessary, so to speak.
We do what we think the most valuable for our children; therefore they easily pick up our value system and internalize it. We may have paid lip service to our faith in God, but often left our religion behind after we stepped outside of our church on Sunday. How can we even expect our children to take our belief seriously if we ourselves take it so casually?
Is it really the best if our children turn out to be the most likely to succeed in their classes like we have hoped and go on to become executives in Fortune 500 companies?
“But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham…” Even though God’s children turned away from the Lord, they were still covered by God’s grace, not for their own merit, but for the merit of their forefathers. So it seems clear to me that the best way to love our children is not by providing for them the best education or giving them a competitive edge in their careers; it is rather by devoting ourselves to God.
“The best way to love your children is to love their mother.” I heard this somewhere and agree with it wholeheartedly, yet this still falls way short if we don’t love the Lord and put him first in our lives. “The best way to love your children is to love the Lord.” This is faith work, since a lot of things that we do spiritually are invisible and may not come to fruition in our lifetime; yet our legacy of spirituality is far more long lasting than we can possibly imagine. Abraham had passed away a long time before, but his children were still blessed by his godliness generations later.    
  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 4, 2014 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ashes 

~~MTS-3740
Ashes
“When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”          2 Kings 13:21

When I am no more, my bones will turn into ashes and will be housed in a small urn. It will be stored away somewhere obscure and it will not see daylight anymore. Possibly I will be buried underground and my dry bones will forever be in the dark until the day of resurrection when a new body is given to me. Such will be the fate of my bones that form the frail structure supporting my body and sustaining my life.
A body accidently touched the bones of the prophet and it came back to life. Elisha was dead and gone was his power to perform signs and wonders, yet there was still power remaining in his body potent enough to bring a man back to life again, as if his dry bones could still breathe new life into a lifeless body.
“What sorts of bones are we going to leave behind that have such great power, causing the dead to rise again?” we may ask. Surely our legacy will not be anything physical, for all things physical will be devoured by fire and turn into ashes.
“Will the writings I leave behind be the things that help bring the dead back to life?” I pondered as I was surveying the books I have written and the verses I have composed. “Even these,” I uttered in dismay, “will be scorched by fire as well and their ashes blown away in the air.”  
May they be of some use in the kingdom before they are consumed at the end time, I prayed. Tens of thousands of words and sentences I have composed; may one or two of them touch someone’s heart henceforth and bring new life to dead bodies.
The prophet was dead, yet his words and deeds still resonate in our generation, and will continue to do so in the generations to come. He did what he was called to do and never dreamed that his dry bones would still perform miraculous signs; yet it happened, which was something far beyond the prophet’s imagination.
What will my bones do after they become dead and dry? Certainly nothing, and nothing at all. May the words I have spoken and the thoughts I have shared remain in print for a little while longer after I am gone, and continue to speak, and to whisper in people’s ears and stir up their spirits, causing them to wake up from their stupor, and give the Lord an act of praise or two. If that happens, I will consider all my labor in the flesh sufficiently rewarded.
 
                                                                                                       

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 3, 2014 9:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Elisha's Death 

~~MTS-3739
Elisha’s Death
“Elisha died and was buried.”
        2 Kings 13:20

There was nothing more to say about the prophet except what had been said. He was a renowned prophet who could perform amazing miracles, and remained faithful to the Lord until the day he died. We can’t really ask more than that from a man.
Of course he could have lived longer and done more for the Lord, which was his wish, and everybody else’s wish as well, since we believe we have a lot more to contribute to the world than we have already contributed, and more things to say that we have already said.
“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go. My master calls me. I must not say no,” we read in King Lear. No matter how much we have done, we will always leave a lot of things undone when our Master calls us home, and we cannot say no when the call is issued.
There is always another sermon to preach, another miracle to perform, and another book to write. So we ask for a year or two on earth, as if we can accomplish all we want to achieve if given enough time.
“Elisha died and was buried.” It was as simple as that. If there was anyone who deserved to have another year or two on earth, the prophet would have been the one, for he was such a giant in God’s kingdom and so capable of doing great things.
“God doth not need either man’s work or His own gifts,” John Milton wrote in his poem on blindness, asking why the Lord took away the one talent with which he was going to serve the Lord.
We may feel we are needed by many people, by God even, not realizing the world will quickly move on when we move on, and will not miss us one bit, since she is utterly self-absorbed and self-sufficient and will easily find someone to take our place.
The great Elijah was replaced; and Elisha would be replaced as well.
How many people in the building are breathing their last? I think every time I drive by the biggest hospital in town, and it goes without saying all of them would like to have more days on earth and to accomplish more things.
“It is finished,” exclaimed the Lord from the cross. The one thing God had assigned Christ Jesus to do was done, which draw a perfect finish to his life. “I have fought the good fight,” wrote Paul, who didn’t seem to have any regrets when the call for him to cross the Jordon was issued. He might have wished to do more in God’s kingdom, yet he was content if that became impossible.
Our finish line may still be far away and out of sight, yet we know it is there. May we strive to finish the work assigned to us so that we will have no regrets when we finally get there.     

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, June 2, 2014 6:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Remorse 

~~MTS-3738
Remorse
“Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him.”
           2 Kings 13:14

King Johoash probably didn’t care too much about Elisha personally until the prophet was gravely ill. The old prophet was a national treasure and, even though the king didn’t really heed his teaching, he nonetheless respected the prophet for who he was and what he meant to the entire nation.
We may wonder why the king was weeping.
Was it politically expedient for the king to cry over the prophet’s impending death? It might have been better for Johoash that the prophet was going to be gone, since his mere presence never failed to bring silent condemnation against the king. Surely King Jehoash wasn’t known for his reverence for the Lord or his walk with the Almighty.
Were the tears a sign of remorse? Possibly.
The king could have heeded the prophet’s teaching and turned away from idolatry, yet he didn’t have the courage nor the resolve to do what appeared to be unpopular among the people. The Israelites seemed to have made the choice of their gods and it would have been rather difficult to bring them back to the right path. King Johoash decided to take the easy way out by making a compromise - he took a route of the least resistance.
The king didn’t take the chance of embracing the Lord when it was presented to him, and now the opportunity was slipping away. The prophet he had come to admire was dying.
The prophet could have become the king’s mentor and things would have turned out so differently. With the death of the prophet, the opportunity with all its possibilities would vanish. The king was left to ask the “what if” question.
What if he could do all things all over again?
Life has its way of taking revenge against us and all the missteps we have taken may all come back to us in full force from which we will find no escape. The road we have not taken or the right choices we have not made may follow us and haunt us all the days of our lives. Wasn’t this the reason why the king wept over the prophet’s death?
If there had been no prophet in Israel, the king would have had ample excuses for all he had done and all the missteps he had ever taken, but with Elisha’s presence in his midst and voices echoing in the air, the king had no such apology to make for all his actions. So he might have been weeping for himself as he wept over the death of the prophet. 
Didn’t some people also weep over the death of our Lord Jesus? Wouldn’t it better for them if the Word had never become flesh? 

                                                                                                                        

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 30, 2014 6:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Elisha's Illness 

~~MTS-3737
Elisha’s Illness
 “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.”
                  2 Kings 13:14

The prophet had helped many people in his career, and now he himself needed help, but help didn’t seem to be coming. He helped other people, yet he couldn’t help himself.
Didn’t Paul pray three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed? He indeed pleaded three times, yet the thorn that gave him great physical discomfort remained, and the apostle had to learn to accept it, embrace it even.
What could he have done about it? To cry over it or to grumble about it? What good would that do had he done that?
Had he any bitterness about his physical pain at all, he simply kept it to himself. Being flesh and blood, he certainly wasn’t immune to emotional anguish and physical pain; he merely tried to deal with it the right way.
Physical things have to be dealt with spiritually. When pain becomes inevitable, one must rise above it through the power from above.
Had Paul’s thorn been removed, another one would have been planted in his flesh; and had he escaped death once, the last enemy would soon come back to haunt him again.
It was unfortunate that Lazarus had to go through the agony of death twice, wasn’t it? The first might have been quick and easy, and the second one could have been long and difficult.
Did the prophet asked for a miraculous healing from the Lord? He could have. It appeared that his illness was a chronic one from which he died, and he might have suffered from it for quite some time before he passed away, which made the prophet’s remaining days on earth agonizing. The Lord should have taken it a little easier on his servant, shouldn’t he have?
Elijah appeared to have a much better deal than Elisha. Surely being taken away in a chariot of fire was a much better way to go than languishing in a lengthy illness with emotional stress within and physical pain without.
Did the Lord Jesus choose the manner of his death? There wasn’t a form of death more cruel and painful than death on the cross, yet it was the kind chosen for him.
There are thousands of ways of death; be they painful or painless, the end result still remains the same, which is the cessation of our breath. What makes the greatest difference isn’t how we depart; it’s where we will be arriving.
The prophet didn’t seem to ask for another year or two on earth, in which his life would end just the same; he might have asked for other things instead.
“My power is made perfect in weakness.” This was the response Paul received from above, therefore the apostle could have asked for more weakness. The old prophet might have asked for the same thing with his dying breath.        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Time to Reflect 

~~MTS-3736
Time to Reflect
“Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam…”
          2 Kings 13:6

The Israelites enjoyed peace during this time and each one of them lived in their own homes for a while, but the tranquility did not last for very long, for they did not change their way of life and worship. When all things seemed to be going well, they felt they could just keep their old ways of conduct and continued to do what they were doing, until something bad occurred, serving as a reminder that all things were not well.
The Lord had indeed shown mercy to the Israelites by driving the oppressors out of their region so that they could enjoy a brief moment of peace, and whether they would continue to live in peace or not depended on how they acted as a people of God and the way they related to the Lord.
The Israelites continued to serve two masters during that time. They might have paid lip service to the Lord and bowed down to Baal at the same time, expecting both parties would be pleased by their worship. Their old habits died hard, and after things calmed down, God’s people went back to their old ways. “Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam.” They didn’t get into their predicament for no reason, and the same evil, or a worse one even, might befall them if they did not make a meaningful change in their thoughts and deeds.
The Lord provided for the Israelites a respite so that they could go through a transformation, turning from idolatry to true worship, from a life centered on selves to God.
“Be aware of danger when you dwell in peace (居安思危,)” renders a Chinese saying. May we never take the peace and prosperity we enjoy for granted, for it is an opportunity given to us to examine our spiritual state so that we can continue to relate to God in the right way and to lead a life that is pleasing in his sight.
Doesn’t it give us a sense of utter unworthiness when we ponder how the Lord has been bestowing one blessing after another upon us in so many ways and times? Doesn’t it make us so much more desirous to love and adore him?
I often catch myself looking at my grandson for a long time when we are visiting and am amazed at God’s goodness in giving my son such a wonderful gift. It is indeed a precious opportunity for me to reflect on God’s grace when I am looking at my first grandchild with utter amazement.
We are transformed inwardly both by joy and sorrow, and I would like to believe the former has a greater impact on us than the latter if we give it chance. Had the Israelites taken the time of peace to reflect on God’s grace and mercy, the time of turmoil which was about to occur to the nation could have been avoided.     
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 28, 2014 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional
Page 70 of 143 << < 40 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 110 140 > >>
  • RSS

Statistics

  • Entries (1439)
  • Comments (0)

Categories

Archives