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All Things 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 21, 2018 7:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4485
All Things
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…”      Col 1:16
This is something I should always keep in mind: God’s creation and all things about me, whether they are visible and invisible, are God’s handiwork, and have been created with a specific purpose.
I haven’t always been that grateful for what I have and have often become dissatisfied about what I don’t have. Have I completely utilized the talent and gifts the Lord has endowed me with? Not even close. I have fallen way short in utilizing what I have.
Instead of grumbling about the thousands of things that we are not capable of doing, can’t we just try to master the one or two things that we are able to do well? We tend to take what we can do for granted and envy the ones who can perform with great ease the tasks we consider rather difficult.
What we can do with relative ease doesn’t mean we do them well. It all depends on by what standard we use to measure our performance. Perfection will never be achieved if that is our goal, and we will continue to strive toward it.
If something is truly from the Lord, it’s definitely worth our efforts to keep on improving it. To cultivate and to improve the gifts and talent God has given to us is a form of investing, and not to do so is to bury it in the ground.
One talent is great enough if we put it to good use; but five talents will become a waste if they are not diligently and wisely invested.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” Haven’t we all been created with a particular purpose? Our lives will become a total waste if we fail to fulfill that purpose. All things in the world are interconnected, and if one fails to fulfill his or her function, the earth will be deprived because of it.
I may not possess an abundance of compassion and exhortation, yet whatever little bit I have I still have to put to good use, for unless I do so faithfully, the needs of someone out there will not be met because of my negligence.
The beautiful spring scene on the Texas plains will become less glorious if one single bluebonnet decides not to bloom in season.

 

Image 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 16, 2018 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4484
Image
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  Col 1:14

    The Lord Jesus was the first born, yet he wasn’t begotten, entirely different from being born like you and me. He wasn’t created; he was the Creator himself. This is beyond any shadow of doubt.
    The incarnated Son was visible, for he once graced the earth and was visible before people for thirty-three years, and by looking at him people was able to see the face of the invisible God.
    Indeed, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Unless we know the Son, we cannot know the Father, and our knowledge of the Father is acquired through the knowledge of the Son.
    By the same token, we are also image-bearers of Jesus, and since the incarnation was the thing of the past, people can only see the invisible Jesus by looking at us.
    The degree of our spirituality should always be determined by the amount of Christ’s image that we are able to reflect in our daily lives. What is being cultivated every moment of the day is the reality of “Christ in me,” which is a transformation from the abstract to the concrete, from the invisible to the visible, and from the dogmatic to the domestic.
    There is always a kind of withdrawal that we often do when we make a retreat from the forefront of the world to the inner chamber of our heart, and we become more aware of who we truly are. We should not be people of “initial responses;” we ought to discipline ourselves to become more of people of “second reactions.” By this I mean our second reaction toward outer stimulations after inner contemplation will always be more godly and more inner-image-reflective than our natural responses to things, which is almost always impulsive.
    We learn things through imitation, yet before we do that we must be spiritually motivated. It’s quite a natural thing that we imitate someone whom we deem great and admirable. If we have very little desire to imitate Christ in our being and actions, the likelihood is we don’t think much of Him, and to consider otherwise is self-deceptive. Isn’t it far more popular and crowd-pleasing among the young and old to be “more like Mike” than to be “more like Christ?”
    “How much “Christ-likeness” do we actually possess? If we do, can other people see it? If we are truly honest, the answers to these questions should concern us a great deal.

 

Inheritance 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 11, 2018 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4483
Inheritance
“…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”                Col 1:12

    Who are the people we enjoy to be with the most? Of course the ones whom we like, the kindred spirits, so to speak. If we look into it, the ones whom we like tend to be people who think about things the same way as we do. In another words, friends often look at things from a similar point of view.
    To be saved is to become qualified “to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
    The truth of the matter is church people don’t usually get along with one another. In fact, the main thing in the Lord’s priestly intercession is for God’s people to be unified as one. As we can see, this remains an ideal among church people, which is something yet to be realized.
    We are God’s holy people purchased by the blood of the Lamb, and as a whole we are God’s inheritance. On the other hand, the Lord is also our inheritance and we as a holy people collectively get to enjoy the Lord’s presence and what he has to offer to us.
    Unless something drastic occurs in eternity, I will be rather reluctant to share my inheritance with some of the Christian brothers and sisters I have come to know here on earth and, by the same token, I am sure there are people who are unwilling to share their inheritance with me in “the kingdom of light.”
    Will I be sanctified to the point that I will be able to love the unlovable within the church, the ones who have done damage to me or my loved ones?
    There was a thug in Taiwan who set fire to a house and five lives were lost, yet he was converted while he was sitting on death row, and his conversion appeared to be quite genuine. Were the people whose lives were snatched away prematurely, assuming they were Christians, able to share God’s inheritance in heaven with the murderer?
    Will it even be possible to continue to hold grudges against our enemies when we are in heaven? We know how hard it is to truly forgive here on earth and we tend to avoid seeing the ones who have harmed us in some way. Will we be able to isolate ourselves from our adversaries in heaven, and continue to co-exist in different corner of God’s heavenly kingdom?
    I believe there still will be various degrees of intimacy that we have for all God’s people, and we will continue to have a small circle of family and friends even when we are in the heavenly realm. I suppose there is a difference between not being hostile against someone and being affectionate toward them. To love someone doesn’t necessarily mean that we have a warm and fuzzy feeling for him or her. I am afraid I may continue to avoid seeing the ones whom I dislike here on earth when I get to heaven. 

 

Being Strengthened 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 10, 2018 7:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4482
Being Strengthened
“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”                 Col 1:11 
 
    We have no idea what will happen to us until something actually happens, therefore it’s a waste of time to be preparing how to react to it. How does it feel to be in hospice care? I often caught myself thinking about this when I was standing by Kathy’s mother’s hospital bed. How would I have behaved had I been placed in her position?
    Of course, I have no earthly idea.
    I couldn’t have imagined going through a major surgery a few months ago, for it made me cringe at the thought of going to a doctor, let alone going under the knife. Yet that was something I had to do after I ran out of options. Had I been sufficiently strengthened to go through the venture when the time came? I wish that were the case, but that wasn’t how I was feeling consciously. I merely went through the motions and did what I was told to do, for the alternative was just so much worse.
    I guess my strength was just sufficient for that very moment, for I simply had no other place to turn. I suppose that’s a natural reaction for all humans, for we all do what’s necessary to survive. I honestly cannot make the claim that I was empowered by divine strength. I was afraid.
    “Great endurance and patience” was what I desperately needed at the time, and somehow I did survive the whole ordeal. It’s been a mouth and half since the procedure, and I have yet to return to the clinic for the follow-up, so can I honestly say that my inner self has been strengthened after the experience? Probably not. I will feel the same way as before if I have to go through a similar experience.
    Billions of people in human history have lived and died, and their end of life experiences must have been rather similar. How are Christians different from pagans in the way they suffer and die?
    Come to think of it, I probably have failed to claim the power and strength that was available to me at the time when I needed it the most. Perhaps it’s more likely that I was indeed strengthened unaware at the critical juncture. I was merely speaking from the level of my natural experience, and failed to take account of the supernatural, which was also in operation.
    No matter how I feel, the fact remains that I have had great endurance and patience during the time when I needed it the most, and I certainly can’t credit that to my will or strength, for I am by nature frail and weak.
    Indeed, I have been “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” during the time when I desperately needed it.

 

Darkness 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 9, 2018 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4481
Darkness
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”             Col 1:13
    Darkness becomes a lot more visible if it’s perceived from the sphere of light; but we can get accustomed to it if we remain in darkness long enough. When the light is turned off at night, we seem to be blind for a short while, but are able to see after we get used to the darkness. Yet the main issue is this: it’s nearly impossible to detect our darkness if we remain in the dark. Light is absolutely necessary for us to see our darkness. Not only does it cast away darkness; the light also reveals and exposes darkness as well.
    There was a period of time in my youth when I dwelt in utter darkness, yet I had no idea of the reality at all. My life might have been in danger because of what I was involved in, yet I was totally oblivious to it. The darkness of my sin appeared to keep me from perceiving the blackness in me.
    We must be brought to a point when we become aware of ourselves and our dire predicament before we start to seek any help. I seem to wear the same dress shirt week after week, even though the collar has been stained. I continue to wear it on Sundays because the stain isn’t visible to other people. Indeed, the degree of darkness does not alter the essence of darkness at all, and sin is sinful by whatever name it’s labeled. I often become self-conscious wearing a white shirt with a stained collar, even though I may be the only one who is aware of the fact.
    “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
    The more we are illuminated by the light, the clearer we will see our darkness, and we will remain ignorant to the degree we have been stained if we do not read the word of God. The closer we get to the light, the more obvious our darkness will be, and it may even get to the point when we cease to make excuses for ourselves. To be in the light is to identify reality as black and white; the farther we depart from the light, the grayer realities will become. Ultimately, the two seem to merge into a giant glob of greyness, where black and white can no longer be distinguished.
    The darkness I had to deal with when I was converted with was my drinking habit, and I thought I was home free when it was resolved, not realizing it was just a baby step that I took towards being immersed in the light. In fact, I was merely out of the edge of darkness and my journey to the light was just starting.

 

Bearing Fruit 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 8, 2018 4:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4480
Bearing Fruit
“…bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”       Col 1:10
    There are different fruit trees that bear fruit in different seasons according to how they are created, and they are expected to bear fruit within a short period of time during the year. Yet before they do that, all conditions must be met for them to bear much fruit. If the weather conditions aren’t suitable or a drought occurs, trees will not produce. It’s not as automatic for fruit trees to bear fruit as we think. It’s puzzling why the Lord Jesus even cursed the fig tree after he failed to find fruit on it. Was he just frustrated to see the tree failing to perform its duty, even though it might not have been the season for it to bear fruit, or did he merely mean to teach us an important lesson that, unlike fruit trees, our bearing fruit should never be seasonal at all?
    We only have ourselves to blame if we fail to bear spiritual fruit “in every good work” all four seasons of the year. Unless we do so, we will be cursed by the Lord Jesus like the fig tree of old and become withered.
    If all natural conditions and human factors are fulfilled, a fruit tree will naturally bear fruit in season, and it does so not out of its volition. Fruit trees don’t have free will and they bear fruit instinctively. Well, if they have instinct at all. They simply can’t help it, can they?
    How often during the short span of a day do we consciously resist a nudge from the Holy Spirit, moving us to do certain good work or to bear some spiritual fruit? I hate to start counting, for there are just too many. Instead of driving a few blocks to a nursing home to visit a despondent invalid, perhaps to bring him some comfort and hope, I decided to take a longer nap and to bathe myself in the warm spring afternoon sun. I had an option to bear good fruit, and chose not to do so, for doing something takes more effort than doing nothing.
    Some conditions must be met for us to bear the fruit of good work, and unless we spend time and effort cultivating those conditions, not bearing fruit will turn into a bad habit, and non-productivity will gradually become our second nature.
    What are the conditions, then? I suppose we are quite familiar with the parable of the vine and the branches, which is the single most important condition to be met for us to bear much fruit. We must spend time fostering our connection with the Lord so that we will have an inner urge to bear fruit. The next condition is equally vital, which is to take immediate action to do what we are called to do, not from personal affection but from undeniable obligation. One must be duty-bound to bear fruit consistently, in season or out of season.

 

Worthy 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 2, 2018 5:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4479
Worthy
“…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.”         Col 1:10
    This is indeed quite a tall order, a kind of calling we can never measure up to. How can our lives ever be worthy of the Lord? Surely we have been called to do the impossible and to be someone we can never be.
    This is rather discouraging, isn’t it? How can we spend our entire life feeling that we are a disappointment to all our loved ones and, unfortunately, to our Heavenly Father as well?
    Not only I am a disappointment to both my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, I am also a disappointment to myself. Before I was converted, I could at least adjust my standard according to my performance, and come to terms with myself. This is no longer a viable option since my conversion, for the benchmark remains immovable and I have no choice but to try to conform to it.
    Every single act of sin becomes a reminder of the cruel reality that I still have feet of clay and not worthy to be called a child of light.
    I seem to have missed the fact that the Lord is omniscient who knows me better than I know myself and his expectation for me may not be as unrealistic as what I have for myself. Surely his expectation for a five-talent man is different from his requirement from a one-talent man. Surely the all-knowing God will never get disappointed about anything, for disappointment implies lack of knowledge concerning the future.
    Foreknowledge shelters us from being disappointed about anything and also enables us to be more understanding and considerate. What the Lord requires from us isn’t necessarily the result of our own effort; it’s rather the effort itself.
    Why should I be discouraged about myself if the Lord isn’t disappointed in me? I have always thought my dad was disappointed in me, for I didn’t turn out to be what he had envisioned, yet this may not be so at all, for my father never breathed a word about it. He might indeed have been very proud of me and was pleased with me in every way.
    We have been conjuring up a lot of things on our spiritual journey concerning our Lord’s feelings towards us, and a lot of them are merely the result of our vain imagination, which has nothing to do with the truth.
    The truth is found in the book of Romans that says “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” We may have a lot of regrets concerning the call because of our low performance, but there is absolutely no regret in the Lord. 

 

Intercession 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 1, 2018 8:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4478
Intercession
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”      Col 1:9
    It’s been months since I spoke to my sister, and when I finally called, I found out she and her husband are both dealing with illnesses. Besides, they themselves, who are going through severe trial, there are a few other relatives of ours who are teetering between life and death. I also heard that my brother-in-law, my elder sister’s husband, has been in and out of ICU, dealing with complications with kidney issues. I suppose these things are not all that unusual since we are all aging, yet I should not be blinded to all those things, for unless I am aware of what’s going on among my own siblings, how in the world can I intercede on their behalf?
    I have failed to pray for my sisters and brother and it pained my heart when I was reminded of Paul’s admonishment when he wrote: “Anyone one who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Furthermore, didn’t our Lord once say to his disciples: “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
    I have been trying to escape from my family and its influence since the days of my youth and whatever I did for my loved ones was performed out of duty. Therefore, intercession on their behalf hasn’t always been that consistent, since I don’t often think about them. To be brutally honest, I haven’t loved my siblings as I should have and, consequently, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time praying for them. Of all the people who I am related to, my sisters and brother may be needing my prayer more than anyone else. Yet I have been rather negligent in doing it. What’s the main reason behind it? I am either a hypocrite who claims to believe in something that I don’t really believe; or I don’t really love them and, by the Lord’s Jesus’ logic, neither do I love the Lord whom I have not seen.
    This is by no means my usual self-degradation; I am merely stating the truth, ever though it’s rather painful to do so. What did the Colossians, many of whom Paul had probably never met before, have to do with him? Yet he wrote: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.” Paul obviously wasn’t sentimentalizing the whole thing, or just saying this to please the recipients of this letter; he was in fact doing what he was stating: he had never ceased praying for the Colossians.
    Enough of self-blaming. Whether personal affection for my siblings is present or not, all I need to do is to never cease praying for them, both for their immediate needs and long-term salvation.

 

Among You 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, April 30, 2018 6:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~
MTS-4477

Among You

“…just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”           Col 1:6

     In the same verse Paul was speaking about how the gospel had been preached throughout the entire world and was bearing much fruit, and immediately followed the same theme by making the reality of the gospel a lot more personal. He wrote “…Just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”

    What was truly crucial was not what the gospel was doing among other people, but how it was operating among the Colossians, whom Paul’s letter was addressing.

    The gospel may be universally applicable and effective, yet what it does to each individual is always personal and subjective. Undoubtedly, the gospel truth is an objective truth, yet it must be experienced subjectively.

    What did the gospel do to you when you were converted, and what is it doing to you at the present time? This is our concern, really. We are fully aware of the fact what the gospel may do to others, yet it’s meaningless to us unless we also know firsthand what it has done to us. The term “personal Savior” may have long become a cliché, yet it still laden with meaning. Indeed, the Lord Jesus is a Savior for all, yet He is my personal Savior.

    I have three sons, yet I am not their collective father; I am their personal father. My children may be sharing the same father, but to each of them I am just as personal as personal can ever be, and the experiences I share with each one of them is irreplaceable and unique.

    The One who named all the stars in the vast universe has given each individual on earth a name also; and the One who takes notice of each sparrow’s fall also pays close attention to my every predicament and remembers my every tear. How unthinkable and unfathomable is this!

    How can there be any other way but this? How can there be any exception to the all loving and all-knowing God?  But this is the all-important reality: He knows all of us individually and his care and love for all of us is indeed tailor-made.

    “For God so loved the world that he …” This saying has become so common place that it may not create any ripple in our hearts, for “the world” is merely a collective term, but when it gets to “whosoever” the collective seems to turns individualistic and we ourselves are included in the conversion. We turn into a person with a face and name whom the Lord loves personally.

 

 

Bearing Fruit 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 24, 2018 8:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

~~MTS-4476
Bearing Fruit
“In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…”     Col 1:6
     Humanly speaking, it wasn’t quite possible for the gospel to bear so much fruit in such a short period of time.
    The world was a much smaller place from Paul perspective than what we know today. It might have been confined within the Roman Empire. Even so, due to traffic constraints at the time, the world was immensely large, and it would have taken a great amount of time for the gospel to travel all over the world.
    Yet the apostle wrote: “In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…” This wasn’t hyperbole at all. Paul was speaking about the world as he perceived it. In fact, by this time the gospel had already reached the capital city of the Empire, and there were a lot of Christians in Rome, who later became the main target of persecution under the emperor Nero.
    It was truly miraculous how the gospel spread during the first century, and great numbers of people were converted to the Way despite how dangerous it was to become a follower of Jesus. Martyrdom became a distinct possibility to the brave ones who were converted to Christianity.
    “Can I get baptized secretly?” a seeker from China asked one of the brothers in our church. “How do I respond to such an inquiry? He brought the puzzling question to me.
    “Well, we must get this straight. Getting baptized doesn’t save anybody, becoming converted does. If one is truly born again, such a question will no longer exist,” I replied. “Faith must be present to be proclaimed publically; and faith is needed when baptism does occur.”
    Indeed, the gospel message had already extended to many obscure areas within the Empire at the time of Paul, for as long as there was a single genuine conversion taking place in a given city or village, we can conclude that the gospel had already reached that place.
    There must have been others from my village located on the west coast of the island of Taiwan who were converted to Christianity, yet to my knowledge I was the only one. And by this fact alone, the gospel had been preached in my home town, which was probably considered the obscurest among the obscure among all the villages.
    My heart is filled to the brim with gratitude when I ponder about how on earth the seed of the gospel was able to grow and bear fruit in such barren soil where people’s hearts had been hardened by the tradition of idolatry.

 

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