Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:29:00 AM
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander…” Col. 3:8
What kind of person was I yesterday, last month, or even last year? Am I merely repeating what I was and what I will be as a person?
Don’t we all get a little discouraged when we look at ourselves and how few changes we have made over the years? I do.
I was determined to do things differently at the latter stage of my church ministry, for I was rather dissatisfied with what I had been doing as a pastor. I was hoping that I would get an opportunity to redeem myself before I ultimately retired. Yet things basically remained the same even after I made a decision to step down from church ministry. I didn’t make a meaningful change about the way I was doing things at the church, and I don’t think I will get another chance to make a difference.
What I should have done at the time when I was pondering about making a change was to formulate what concrete steps should be taken for the transformation to take place. If nothing is being done to make things happen, we will always fall back to the old pattern of conducting our business and things will remain status quo.
I have always had difficulty doing the pastoral care part of my church, such as visiting the sick and comforting the distraught, for I don’t seem to possess the spiritual gift to do the work consistently. Yet over the years I have done nothing to make a change. Therefore what should have been done with the church has remained undone, and I will leave the twenty-five-year ministry with a guilty conscience. I simply have not done my best.
Indeed, a great transformation did take place when I made a decision to follow the Lord, yet that was over forty years ago. What has happened during the years in my Christian walk? The Christian life isn’t a thing of the past; it takes place at the present time. The apostle wrote: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…”
I doubt seriously anyone of us is perfectly happy with our spirituality. There are always things in our lives to be gotten rid of or to be implemented, and the time to do it is always now. Procrastination is one of the worst spiritual vices we all suffer one way or another.
It’s human tendency to either turn to the right or to the left in our thoughts or actions, and the appropriate thing to do is to take a small step moving to the middle. Meaningful changes in life, be they physical or emotional, always happen on a small scale and in moderation; they may never take place if we try to do them in big chunks. Isn’t this the time to make a bite-sized change to grow our spirituality?
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 7:31:00 AM
“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Col 3:7
My life was transformed such a long time ago that I can hardly remember what it was like to lead a pagan lifestyle, and I have never dreamt of going back to what I used to be. It’s not all that pleasant to entertain such an idea, let alone to actually do it.
I have become a new man, yet this question still remains and haunts me every day: Is my life being renewed daily? Am I still the person I was some forty years ago when I was regenerated? This is the question I must face and the answer may not be all that pretty.
Have I become complacent in my Christian walk?
I found myself regurgitating the same old stories that took place years ago when I was giving my personal testimony, and I had to apologize to the ones in the congregation who might have heard them before. There surely won’t be any new testimony to share if my inner life isn’t being renewed and rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit every day; I will just continue to rehash the old tales that happened to me forty years ago.
Can these dry bones come back to life? I ask myself.
What am I going to write? I pondered. It was a little past four a.m. and my mind was yet to wake up. I spoke a few words to the shiny computer screen yet it didn’t come to life and I dropped my Apple pencil with a sigh. I am so frightened that a day may come when I have absolutely nothing to say and the writer will cease to exist. As far as I am concerned, to live is to utter something and to create reality with words, and my life ends when I cease to speak.
My oldest son was still in high school when I started to write, and he has since become a father of three, and it has always been my intention to keep on writing until I breathe my last. Yet it seems to be getting more and more difficult for me to utter meaningful words, and everything I write appears to be a mere repetition of what I have spoken before.
I know the solution to this dilemma I am encountering, and what needs to be done is to put it into concrete action. My inner self must be renewed through abiding with the Lord, and I will have nothing to compose unless I do so continuously.
Surely, you are not interested in listening to an old man rehashing his stale old tales, are you? Certainly I am not, and I will henceforth shut my month if I do nothing to renew myself to gain a fresh voice.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 7:42:00 AM
“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Col 3:6
Isn’t the wrath of God always in the future tense, something that will take place at a distant time and space far, far away? If this is really so, why even bother at all? Since by nature the future is vague, to be so concerned about its uncertainty is rather foolish and far-fetched.
It’s like the people from the land of Chi, who, according to a Chinese legend, were very frightened that the sky was falling, not realizing that the sky wasn’t the roof of the earth, and therefore it could never fall.
“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Because of what? we ask. Simply put: it’s because we indulge in the pleasure of sin.
O we know all this full well. The pleasure of sin is sharp, acute, instant, and always leaves a lasting impression on our minds, causing us to seek the same sensation repeatedly. What will this longing to experience the same euphoria end up with? It’s something called addiction.
Indeed, the wrath of God doesn’t lie in the distant future; it’s getting closer and closer to us. In fact, it follows hard after us, and when the fleeting pleasure of sin vanishes, the wrath of God immediately begins.
For sure, we all have experienced God’s wrath demonstrated on a smaller scale in our lives. I was a heavy drinker in the service, and occasionally became drunk. One time I passed out and had to be carried to bed by my comrades. The worst thing about being drunk was the moment I woke up the next day. Besides a headache and physical discomfort, the most unbearable was the sense of emptiness and regret, and the ill-at-ease feeling of having done something wrong. Wasn’t that the wrath of God exhibited and illustrated?
The wrath of God is cumulative by nature, and it increases and accumulates as we continue to sin. The anger of God can only be appeased and decreased through our repentance, for the death of Jesus on the cross has taken away the wrath of God. Therefore, the only remedy for our sin is true repentance to Christ Jesus and our plea for divine forgiveness.
Sin does pay, doesn’t it? It repays us with physical pleasure that lasts but a few moments, yet the debt of unredeemed sin accumulates, and it charges lofty interest. If we feel the wrath of God demonstrated in our lives on a small scale, can we even imagine how severe it will be when it falls on us in its full strength and force?
Isn’t it a warning sign that things are not well when we are accused by our conscience, whispering to us that God isn’t pleased with us, and his anger against us is accumulating more and more by the day?
Monday, September 17, 2018 8:18:00 AM
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Col. 3:5
Isn’t our worship a kind of exchange? We pay homage to the deity who in turn gives us something back, the thing which we earnestly desire to have, be it fame or wealth.
Isn’t this the essence of the so-called prosperity gospel, which is being propagated all over and embraced by so many. It really doesn’t matter whom we worship as long as the object of our adoration is an omnipotent benefactor who is able to grant whatever is asked of him liberally and unconditionally.
There is always a piece of red cloth hanging at the entrance of every little shrine on the island of Taiwan that says: “Pray, and it will be granted to you accordingly.”
Of course, the things that people pray for the most are wealth, health, or other material things. I suppose greed for things is the primary force that causes people to kneel down before their gods. In essence, greed for earthly things is idolatrous.
Why do we worship the Lord?
The worship of the Lord can never be idolatrous since he is the true and only God of the universe. Yet, what motivates us to bow down before him can be idolatrous.
We worship the sovereign Lord because he is true, not because he can bestow upon us all the blessings we are craving. This is hardly an original idea and it wasn’t originated by C.S. Lewis, even though he once made a similar remark. This should be universally recognized common sense, yet so many of us seem to choose to ignore it. We are very reluctant to examine the reasons behind our worship for fear we might find out our motivation isn’t as lily white as we have imagined.
We worship the Lord merely because of who we are and who he is, and anything beyond this is a bonus, something superfluous even. We are children of our Heavenly Father and the main goal of our worship is to restore an intimate relationship with him. What inheritance we will be receiving from him should always be an afterthought. What we desire the most is the intimate and harmonious relationship that was broken by our original and actual sins.
What else can be more fundamental than this and can this basic need be granted to us by bowing down to idols, be they human or “divine”? Yet our greed for fame and fortune is what drives us to them. It’s rather unfortunate, really, for the line separating true worship and idolatry has become increasingly ambiguous.
Thursday, September 13, 2018 8:58:00 AM
Put to Death
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust…” Col 3:5
To die is to lose the ability to act. Dead people can’t do anything, can they? To live as a Christian is to continue to put to death our inner desire to do any immoral, impure, or lustful things.
How do we do that, then? Carnal people are incapable of doing such a thing, for the flesh cannot keep itself from what not to do; yet our spirits have been revived through regeneration, therefore, our inner renewed selves can surely take control of our flesh and direct its action.
When I by chance find myself engaged in doing anything filthy, there is always a soft and small voice whispering in the ear of my conscience, accusing me of doing the wrong thing. I can either quit doing it right away, or keep on suppressing the movement of the Spirit, and thus continue to lead a life of fear and misery.
How can any regenerated person continue to live in sin? This just doesn’t make any sense at all. A sinful life may be ignored for a short while, but it can never be suppressed for long, or be justified in any shape or form. Sooner or later, we will have to face the music and call sin by its rightful name.
We can either lead an earthly or a heavenly lifestyle, and either they will produce joy or misery in our lives. People cannot be truly joyful if they lead a sinful life. There will always be something lacking if we do not make room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to dwell. Happiness is indeed a choice, and we choose happiness if we choose to obey the Lord and lead a heavenly lifestyle, which is to keep ourselves pure from pollution and contamination from the customs of this world.
Bodily pleasures are essentially instantly acquired with sharp edges, yet they tend to wear out rather quickly and they leave a bitter aftertaste in our mouths. Haven’t we all experienced this? Why do we often have a sip of water after we have an ice cream cone or a piece of cake with frosting? Desserts can be so sweet that they turn bitter. Indeed, too much of a good thing isn’t really a good thing after all.
If only we would think about things logically and rationally, we would come to realize that sin doesn’t yield what it has promised, and it’s always a little too late to make amends when we finally find out what awful damage it’s done to us.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018 7:31:00 AM
Put to Death
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Col. 3:5
We are very much alive, so how do we put to death our earthly nature? This is rather difficult, isn’t it?
Or perhaps you have never experienced this before. We don’t really know how powerful the current of our bodily desire is until we start to resist it. Swimming against the current is always hard and, if we cease to fight against the flow, we will instantly be carried away by the wave.
To submit to the power of our flesh is a lot easier than to fight against it, yet the end result of our surrendering is bondage. We may be flowing down the river happily for a season or two, but ultimately the current will plunge us down to the cliff, and suck us down to eternal perdition.
Fighting against “immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” takes no convincing at all, for deep inside we know it’s the right thing to do; yet succumbing to it needs a lot of persuasion and justification from us, because moral issues are by nature unjust if they need justification at all. We are usually wrong if we need to convince ourselves that we are right.
“Is this roast duck fresh?” I asked the owner of a local Chinese grocery store.
“Yes, it’s fresh,” he replied, without looking directly at me. I knew he was lying to me, for I was fooled previously by him about two weeks before.
“Are you sure?” I persisted. “Well, yes…” he murmured something as he was walking away. By this time, I was fully convinced he was lying, because he didn’t even try to defend himself. This is rather obvious, isn’t it? How can anyone defend what’s indefensible?
If all those moral failures will endanger us and ultimately bring us death, why don’t we fight against them as if they were our mortal enemies? Why befriend those who seek to destroy us?
I guess instead of severing the illicit relationship or ceasing to do certain obvious immoral things, we seem to prefer to fight the losing battles by formulating some intricate argument to justify our actions. I can guarantee that this will never work, for moral law is akin to natural law and it can never be altered by our persuasion or cunning reasoning.
The wisest and the most logical thing to do, it appears to me, is to put to death the things we consider morally wrong, and continue to get rid of them if they happen to resurrect again.
Thursday, August 23, 2018 7:15:00 AM
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1
It’s hard for flesh and blood to rise above themselves, for by nature we seem to only be concerned about earthly things, things that we come in contact with every moment of the day.
How much time do we spend every day contemplating about things above? Not a whole lot at all - a few minutes at best when we pray or read the Bible during our so-called quiet time, if we observe it at all.
Our minds and hearts are occupied by mundane things and the business of heaven is easily crowded out by earthly affairs. We do have jobs to do and children to feed, don’t we?
Learning to transform earthly things into heavenly is the key to rise above ourselves and to set our minds on the things above. The secret lies in the inner power and strength that motivate us to do all things. All the things we do daily, in or out of the home, be they great or small, we should do them unto God’s glory.
We may set short term and long term goals for ourselves, yet we should also realize that whatever we do daily has a short and long term impact as well. Therefore, instead of considering the immediate influences that our actions may generate, we should focus on their long term effects. Better yet, we should contemplate the eternal consequences of all our actions. It will make a great difference in our lives if we make it a habit to do so.
Such is the habit of “storing treasure in heaven,” which is making a connection between time and eternity, between now and forever.
I have been writing for close to twenty years, primarily for my own children’s edification, and my goal has always been unto God’s glory, intentionally keeping my audience rather small. This has been a spiritual exercise and discipline more than anything, and I seldom pay any attention to what sort of impact it has created on me. Yet only recently I have been amazed to find out I couldn’t care less how my works are received and whether they will be published. I guess after years of spiritual exercise, I am finally able to write for God’s glory, to a certain degree anyway.
I have always started out by uttering a prayer when I write, yet I have yet to learn to end my composing of each article with praise. This is something I am determined to do. I believe this is a good exercise to “set your hearts on things above.”
Indeed, contemplation of heavenly things doesn’t come natural for any of us; it takes daily spiritual exercise to make it so.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018 6:36:00 AM
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship…” Col. 2:23
What was the original form of church worship? The little bit we know about it is mainly through speculation, and we have been trying our best to imitate what we consider the way the early Christians worshipped. We may get some of it right, but to duplicate it in its entirety is an impossibility.
Why does it even matter anyway? There is no doubt that their worship must have included the elements of prayer, singing, homilies, and the Eucharist, and whatever beyond these is anyone’s guess.
The inner spirit of worship is obviously far more important than the outward forms expressed during the process. Indeed, what’s more important than anything is we must worship in spirit and in truth.
Whom we worship primarily determines the effectiveness and validity of our worship. No matter how sincere and devout we may appear to be, our worship will remain ineffective, an affront to the true God even, if we fail to worship according to the truth with our spirit within.
Whether we have faith or not, and we may not fully aware of it, the way we lead our lives is a form of worship. The ones who don’t believe in the existence of any deity are actually self-worshippers. Someone must take the place of God, so why not we ourselves? Why, then, are we even amazed by the fact that many atheists are rather arrogant and self-centered? People must place themselves under someone far greater than themselves to be truly humble.
It’s rather prideful for people to create a set of regulations and rules by which to govern themselves, isn’t it? By the same token, if there is no deity in the universe, meaning must be self-created and self-generated; therefore, to lead a meaningful life is a training-on-the -job of sorts and it becomes necessary for atheists to justify their every move.
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship…” Isn’t this really so? The way people conduct their lives may appear to be wise, and their self-imposed “worship”, which is the lifestyle they choose to lead, may look rather plausible and pleasing, yet it’s merely an empty shell, signifying nothing but their wishful thinking and ignorance.
Unless we go back to the origin of worship, not the form but the substance, I have no idea where we can turn to locate the essence and meaning of our lives. If Christian orthodoxy no longer exists, to whom shall we turn to sustain our lives and make living a worthy endeavor?
Tuesday, August 21, 2018 6:39:00 AM
“These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.” Col. 2:22
Rules are good, for they tell us the proper things to do and as long as we keep them we will have a sense of security. As far as our religions are concerned, we prefer to be rule keepers.
Unless they are spelled out clearly in the Bible, all rules are formulated by people according to their understanding of the Scriptures or of other so-called inspired literature they happen to come across.
How are we going to apply the rules and stipulations found in the Old Testament to the new dispensation? Certainly we are not observing all the rules governing the observance of the Sabbath, and we are not even sure about the proper way of keeping the Lord’s Day. Indeed, rules are made to be broken, if they are merely created by humans for their convenience or by their understanding of divine intention.
Human rules are easily manipulated, abused, and, oftentimes, employed for selfish purposes.
Surely rules are created to maintain order in society, for they are absolutely necessary and without them chaos would definitely ensure. People often complain about the government, yet they will find the difference out rather quickly if they even experience anarchy for a single day.
Spiritual rules must be simplified, and can even be reduced to one simple rule, which is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength. In fact, this rule, to love the Lord and follow your heart, can be applied to all situations. If we indeed love the Lord with all our heart, the voice of our heart will direct our path without fail, and whatever we choose to do will be in accordance with God’s will.
There was only one rule that governed Adam and Eve in the garden, wasn’t there? The rule wasn’t about what the first couple was to do, but what they were not to do. Adam and Eve might have done all the right things, yet all the things they did were moot because they violated just one rule.
Perhaps our lives aren’t actually defined by what we do, but by what we fail to do. This is something worth pondering.
Monday, August 20, 2018 8:07:00 AM
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules.” Col. 2:20
We are in the world, but not of the world. This is a rather basic concept, yet it’s very difficult to implement in our daily lives. We can hardly tell the difference between Christians and non-believers, and the only variant between the two seems to be church membership and nothing more.
Do we still belong to the world? This is the question we don’t dare to ask, for the answer to this may not be that pretty.
We have gone through the assembly line of worldliness just like all people in the world and the final product remains the same throughout. We look and smell the same as all the others in the world, and appear to be heading in a similar direction. Have we ever developed a Christian world-and-life view that is drastically different from worldly people?
Our value system is engendered by our philosophy, which is our world-and-life view, and we remain the same as worldly people if our value system hasn’t been converted. Transformation of life is nothing but conversion of one’s value system, and by examining what we truly value we will quickly find out who we truly are. Where does our value system lie? Simple enough. Just take a look at our checkbook and it will become crystal clear.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” said the Lord Jesus. We are how we spend our money.
I don’t usually have any desire to buy big ticket items, yet I do like to dine out often, and people may conclude my belly is my God, for I seem to be controlled by my bodily appetite. There may not be anything wrong in this, yet consider how much money I can save and give to starving children in Africa by not eating so much. What do I really value? My full belly or the bellies elsewhere in the world which constantly remain half-empty and the little ones who go to bed hungry. My value system is mainly constituted by what I have valued in life.
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules.”
Who we are is whom we submit to in life and the basic rules to which we adhere, such as the way we manage our finances and the manner in which we perceive things. If we claim to have died to the world, it doesn’t make any sense if we still conduct our lives according to its philosophy and beliefs. Our inner selves have been renewed by the Holy Spirit and we should think and act differently from people of this world.