Addiction 

~~MTS-4367
Addiction
“You say to yourself that you have defeated Edom, and now you are arrogant and proud.”           2 Ch. 25:19
    Amaziah had tested the sweetness of victory and he seemed to be anxious to repeat the experience again, for the euphoria of winning and blood-shedding was just so irresistible. There is no retiring from competing in the arena and once a warrior has his first taste of blood, the craving for it will never cease. Like all other sinful pleasures, slaughtering is also extremely addictive.
    What was the reason behind Amaziah’s provoking of the king from the north, who wasn’t at all interested in engaging in a conflict with Judah? I am sure there were political and economic factors behind it, yet starting a war to resolve those issues wasn’t an absolute necessity. They could have been pretexts which the king employed to satisfy his insatiable craving for victory and blood.
    How could this be possible? We may wonder. This isn’t that difficult to comprehend, for all we need to do is take a look at the high rating of violent sport programs on television to know people inner yearning for violence. In his “Confession” St. Augustine wrote how his friend claimed to be able to resist the seduction of violence by going to a gladiator fight in the theater, yet he was hooked instantly when he saw the first drop of blood spewing out from the fighter. Like a lot of Romans, he became addicted to the game, for it seemed to give him an illicit and perverted pleasure.
    Pride and arrogance might not have been the main issue Amaziah was dealing with, for he had become addicted to the cruelest form of game humans have been playing for thousands of years, and there is no sign of stopping in sight. How can anyone with a sound mind appreciate the romantic sentiment Alan Seeger expressed in his letters to his mother before he joined the French in the “Great War?” Indeed, war rewarded him with a heroic death and what he left behind was a poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” which seems to treat the awful subject rather light-heartedly.
    I was once a soldier, but the reality of being one was entirely different from what I had expected before I was drafted, for I used to envision myself standing alone with a rifle on my shoulder and a lighted cigarette in my mouth, looking with unnamed longing at the battlefield covered with hoary blossoms of swaying reeds in the wind, expanding endlessly until it reached the horizon where the brown earth met the gray sky. I guess the muddy trenches with the stench of sweat and blood wasn’t something Alan Seeger had ever imagined when he was sitting in the corner coffee shop or a pub, talking to his friends about the romanticism of war.
    “War is hell” uttered a famous general, and never has a statement rung so horrid and true. What frightens me more than anything is that we can become addicted to it. This seemed to be the case with Amaziah when he challenged Jehoash, the king of Israel, for no particular reason: “Come, let’s face each other in battle.”   
     
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 25, 2017 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

False Gods 

~~MTS-4366
False Gods
“…he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.”     2 Ch. 25:14
    The whole thing was just so irrational yet, being a little child, I dared not question what the adults in my family were doing, for they seemed so sincere and devout when they practiced their religion by either bowing down to the idols or praying to them with burning incense sticks in their hands. Many times I was taught to do the same, and I always did it rather unwillingly. The practice of idolatry in my family only invoked in me a sense of dread and foreignness. I had never felt that I was a part of what my grandparents were doing. I have never seriously entertained this thought before, but the practice of idolatry might have contributed to my yearning to leave the village as soon as I possibly could, which I eventually did at the age of fourteen. The smell of burning incense sticks and paper money seemed to be so suffocating, which might have kept the village people from thinking clearly concerning their worship. “Everybody is doing it” would always have been the response if people were to ask them the reason behind their devotion to idols.
    Surely King Amaziah didn’t fare any better compared to the villagers as far as their worship was concerned. He had just defeated the Edomites soundly, which was a clear indication the idols those pagans worshipped had failed to protect them from destruction during the battle against the Israelites. Yet much to our amazement, the king did the unthinkable by ushering the idols taken from the defeated enemies into the holy temple to be worshipped. Surely that wouldn’t have been something a person of sound mind would have done.
    “…he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.”
    Even though tens of thousands of Edomites had been slaughtered, strangely the idols whom the pagans worshipped were spared. Why did the king do such an irrational thing by bowing down to the gods of his enemies, gods that had been totally exposed and proven ineffective and were unable to protect their worshippers? One thing is for sure, though, those idols were false gods who were imposters and vanities at best.
    Satan is the father of lies and he chooses his battleground very wisely. By reasoning with people concerning idolatry he would be fighting a losing battle, for such a practice is the most irrational of all. How can the created, namely idols, save their human creators in any form or fashion? Nothing is more outlandish for people than creating something and endowing it with higher power in order to help them in time of danger or need!

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 21, 2017 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Slaughter 

~~MTS-4365
Slaughter
“The army of Judah also captured ten thousand men alive, took them to the top of a cliff and threw them down so that all were dashed to pieces.”    2 Ch. 25:12
    Ten thousand Edomites had been slaughtered during the war and another ten were captured. Was there quarter given to these people? Not so at all. They were taken to a cliff and thrown down and all of them “were dashed to pieces.” Doesn’t it make you tremble with fear when you come across such words in this historical narrative? It is told so matter-of-factly and no further comment is given, as if it was saying “no comment needed.”
    Ten thousand lives were cut off in the blink of an eye and the victors seemed to be rejoicing over the slaughter. Why shouldn’t they? They were the ones who lived another day to tell the story, for they were the victors, and it could easily have been them who were pushed off the cliff had they lost the war. The goal of this particular war against the Edomites, just like any other war, was to annihilate the enemies, and whether it was just or not didn’t seem to be their concern. All enemies are nameless and faceless, and the primary goal is to take their lives before they take yours. As simple as that.
    I became spellbound by its brutality and irrationality when I was watching a documentary of “The Great War,” and I still had great difficulty figuring out the reason behind the conflict at the end. War is one of those mysteries in life that remains to be explicated.  The answer to it will never be uncovered unless we bring original sin into the equation of the discussion. Sin causes humans to become bloodthirsty and drives them to slaughter one another for no particular reason. Why did Cain murder his brother Abel? Many have tried in vain to come up with a good reason behind the first murder in human history, for there was no reason. Cain killed merely for the sake of killing, and the motive given behind the cruelty was just an excuse.
    Death is the antithesis of life and hatred is the opposite of love. Sin causes us to become allies of the prince of darkness and to murder seems to be the natural extension of the alliance. God is love and there is no need for him to find a reason to love and Satan doesn’t need a cause to hate and to kill. Indeed, war is such a faceless, nameless, and reasonless act that totally escapes any sound reasoning and rationality.
    Does the Lord even take sides at all in any war? He seemed to take the side of his chosen people more often than not, which may appear to be unfair.  Yet, unless he did so, the Israelites would have long been annihilated and the line of salvation through “the Lion of Judah” severed.
    Indeed, the war our Lord Jesus waged against Satan in which his own blood was shed was the war to end all wars, and peace will reign when he is finally enthroned in people’s hearts.      
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 20, 2017 7:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Power 

~~MTS-4364
God’s Power
“Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.”           2 Ch. 25:8
    King Amaziah felt it was necessary to hire one hundred thousand men from Israel to boost the strength of his military. What he did was rather human, wasn’t it? The more manpower he possessed, the more confident he would become. Don’t we all feel the same way?
    Instead of turning to men for help when we encounter a problem of any sort, it’s far wiser that we turn to God first and plead for his aid. Indeed, God has the power to help or to overthrow.”
    Yet, we continue to enlist people for help, and will not turn to the Almighty until we have exhausted all human means to resolve our issues. God has always been our last resort, not our first option.
    Going to God first does take daily exercise, for we are just way too human to see the divine side of things, and we are often blinded by the visible, rendering us unable to see the invisible. Oftentimes, we need to close our eyes to see reality.
    The visible may be rather reassuring, which gives our confidence a lift, yet only the invisible lasts eternally. All human means of help are temporary, and although they may give us transitory relief and a false sense of security, eventually they will disappoint us.
    Victory belongs to the Lord and it matters very little whether we are sufficiently fortified by human might or not. In time of danger, we need to be reminded that the sovereign Lord is still in control and he has our best interest in mind. Whatever transpires at the end will be to our wellbeing and benefit whether in this world or the world to come, at the present time or beyond.
    The Lord does not keep us from using other means to resolve our issues, for no human means are truly human, for the Lord does have a hand in all human endeavors, and the human and the divine don’t always contradict with one another. Yet what Amaziah did was entirely different, because Israel was an ungodly nation and to bring their military men was to introduce pagan practices to the nation. Therefore, the Lord found it absolutely unacceptable.
    “Therapy can probably help your struggle with anxiety disorder,” my son mentioned to me the other day, and my first reaction to his suggestion was suspicion, for by doing so I may be admitting that the Lord’s power and wisdom was insufficient in bringing me internal healing and permanent relief. There is a logical flaw in my thinking, however, since modern medicine undoubtedly is a tremendous blessing to us and is also God’s way of healing.
    Putting the Lord first in all things does not indicate that we completely ignore or discard secondary means of resolving our emotional or physical issues.
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Parents and Children 

~~MTS-4363
Parents and Children
“Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor children be put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”        2 Ch. 25:4
   I am my father’s son and, in some way, he was the cause and I am the effect. Well, to be more exact, he and my mother were the instruments by which I was created and, of course, the Lord was the Creator. Therefore, he has to be responsible for what I have turned out to be as a person.
    This logic can only go so far and, if we trace all things back to their source, we will inevitably discover who stands at the farthest end of the spectrum. The Lord himself is all-everything, so he must be all-responsible as well.
    I can be responsible for what I have done, yet I should not be held accountable for the inner factors that cause me to commit all outward actions, should I? Obviously, this seemingly logically argument breaks somewhere along the line. We are moral beings who are capable of making moral choices, and we must be held accountable for all the choices we have ever made.
    I seem to have been predisposed to some weaknesses determined by the genes I have received from my parents; yet this does not alter that fact that I am the one who makes all the moral choices, whether to please the Lord or to gratify my sinful nature. Punishment of sin can only be possible if there are choices involved in the process of doing evil.
    I can no longer blame my parents for all my issues, which I seem to have a strong inclination to do, for I have a choice not to live under the shadow of my parents’ influences, be they physical or spiritual in nature, and I will be rewarded if I always choose right.
    Surely, the Lord will take all the factors involved, both genetic and environmental, when he judges each one of us. I suppose he who overcomes more will be rewarded more. It does take more effort for some people to remain pure and holy than for others; and the pace of sanctification varies from one to the other, and they will be judged justly and accordingly.
    No matter how much effort we have put into becoming more like Christ, we are yet to do our very best, and there will always be room for improvement. Perhaps we will be judged by the effort we have put into the endeavor, not by the progress we have made. If a comparison must be made, for certain I will be compared with myself, not with others, and see how much improvement I have achieved from what I was and what I am now.
    I suppose there is at a least a tiny difference between the two and a slight improvement has been made by my effort, I hope.  
   
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 18, 2017 8:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Wholeheartedly 

~~MTS-4362
Wholeheartedly
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.”       2 Ch. 25:2
    We may try to do the right thing all the time, yet our hearts may not be always in it. We do the right thing merely out of obligation, not out of our affection.
    I should have kept on walking when I spotted something on the roadside while I was taking my morning walk in our neighborhood, for by picking it up I naturally became obligated to do the right thing concerning the item. It was a passport and a temporary driver license.
    As a matter of fact, I thought about placing it back at the spot where I found it, yet I simply couldn’t do it with a clear conscience. What if someone irresponsible found the passport and decided to put it to wrong use? Identity theft, perhaps. I ended up keeping it even though my heart really wasn’t in it. It would be troublesome to go through the process of finding the owner or taking to the city’s lost and found service, wherever it might be. I decided to do the right thing out of obligation, and nothing beyond that.
    I placed a call to the owner of the passport and received no response, so I mailed it to the passport office in the end, since that was the instruction written on the back of the passport.
    I was hoping that whoever found Kathy’s lost purse would do the right thing by sending it back to us, yet I was being too naïve, for the purse and wallet within it are forever lost. Obviously, doing the right thing isn’t always that universal and abided by all. It is more than likely that someone simply took the cash and threw the purse in the dumpster, and that was the end of it.
    Had I done that, the incident would have continued to haunt me, for the wrong things that we have committed don’t simply disappear from our memory, they are merely suppressed.
    Even though his heart wasn’t really in it, King Amaziah nonetheless tried to do the right thing by observing the law and doing what was generally acceptable. His actions were good, albeit he didn’t always do them with the best and purest intention.
    Knowing what the right things are and doing them accordingly at the least is a good start, even though it’s not an end in itself. Doing right may stem from the will but eventually it must sink into the heart for the good deeds to become more long-lasting and enduring to eternity. That was something Amaziah failed to do, and his life was generally considered a failure.
    Indeed, Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.”
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 11, 2017 8:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Judgment 

~~MTS-4361
Judgment
“Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the Lord delivered into their hands a much larger army.”           2 Ch. 24:24
    The Lord executes his judgment in many shapes and forms, and we may not realize the severity until we experience it ourselves. The actions we have taken all have their consequences, either good or bad. We may be able to connect the dots sometimes, but we are in the dark most of the time. Realities in life are puzzling and confusing, and the relationship between cause and effect may not be all that cut and dried.
    One thing is for sure, however, Joash did something evil against Zechariah the priest and the Lord of justice would not leave him unpunished. Not long after the tragic event, the Israelites were handed over to the Aramean army, even though they didn’t seem to possess enough military power to overtake Judah.  It happened nevertheless. Joash was severely wounded in the battle and was murdered in his bed at the end.
    It’s risky business to sin against God, for we know not when and in what manner the axe is going to fall. Unless we establish a harmonious relationship with the Lord by claiming the Lord Jesus to be our personal Savior and by leading a holy and wholesome lifestyle, we will surely be living in fear and terror, for the Lord is a consuming fire.
    People do find their comfort and peace of mind in atheism, for nothing is better than something if that something is so horrific. Our alienation at the end is far better than standing before the judgment throne where the verdict is our eternal damnation.
    Divine judgment on us may have already started, even though we may not be aware of it. Sin robs us of our joy and peace, causing us to live in fear and dread. Is this a kind of judgment, connected to the sinful actions we have taken?
    Well, things may not be all that threatening and they can easily be resolved through human means, yet we still feel rather apprehensive about it. Why is this so? The answer is rather simple, really. For lack of daily exercise our faith has become weak and fragile and challenges in life can easily turn into a mountain from a molehill. Isn’t this a divine judgment against our lack of trust?
    The small Aramean army shouldn’t have caused any fear among the Israelites, for they were sufficiently strong to withstand their assault, yet their hearts melted like wax, for deep inside they must have known the Lord’s hand was in it, against which they had absolutely no resistance. 
    We are rather invincible if we operate within the framework of God’s holy and pleasing will. In view of this, we need to be paying more attention to our walk with the Lord than the possible threat looming on the horizon.         
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 7, 2017 7:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Temple 

~~MTS-4360
The Temple
“They abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols.”        2 Ch. 24:18
    It was not that long ago that the people were united in restoring the temple of the Lord by paying the temple tax and were involved in the rebuilding of God’s house, yet no sooner had the godly priest died, than the Israelites led by King Joash abandoned the temple and turned to the worship of Asherah and other foreign idols. What had happened during the time that brought forth such a drastic change?
    It was the king’s idea to collect the funds so that the temple of the Lord could be restored to its original state. The people, whether willingly or unwillingly, chipped in money for the project. It was the command from above and the people didn’t seem to have the option not to oblige. Surely the restoration of the temple wasn’t an indication of a great revival since the people’s hearts might not have been in the right place. They merely did what they were told to do, and the essence of their faith simply wasn’t there. In all probability, their hearts were inclined to bow down to the idols who didn’t seem to demand from them anything, money or otherwise.
    The Israelites might have felt it was unfair for them to pay the temple tax and they wouldn’t have any problem abandoning the temple when the opportunity to do so arose. Indeed, a religion of convenience would not have stood the test of time, and the worship of the Lord was merely a necessity at the time.  When it became unnecessary, it was abandoned immediately. The worship of the Lord in the temple was no longer required by the priest or the king. As a matter of fact, the king appeared to be the first one to walk away from the temple and turn to idolatry.
    It was obvious that Joash’s faith in the Lord was merely for show, something he did to please his mentor Jehoiada, and his true self surfaced immediately after the priest passed away. We have no idea how much political power the priest actually possessed and how much the king was beholden to him, yet it was for certain Jehoiada was the stabilizing force within the court and the king had to walk on tiptoe before him. The king appeared to be liberated after the priest died and he was free to do what he really intended to do.
    His faith in the early stage of his reign was merely a façade, for King Joash had neither faith in God nor affection for his mentor; he was an evil man who was capable of committing unthinkable cruelty against a family to whom he should have shown the greatest gratitude. Without blinking an eye, he ordered Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, to be stoned in the courtyard of the temple.
    By murdering Zechariah in such a public fashion, Joash made a clean break from Jehoiada and from what the priest had represented, showing absolutely no regard for the Lord. By all accounts, Joash wasn’t even a decent man who repaid good with goodness; he was a much worse king who led the Israelites astray with his ungodly examples.
        
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 6, 2017 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Zechariah 

~~MTS-4359
Zechariah
“But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.”        2 Ch. 24:21
    King Joash should have been dead as an infant, yet his tender life was spared because Johoiada risked his life saving him from the blood-thirsty evil queen who was seeking to wipe out all the sons from the royal family. Not only did the priest preserve his life, he also did all he could to place Joash on the throne at the age of seven and had been the king’s right hand man ever since.
    “But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.” How brutal and ungrateful was this! What awful sin did Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, commit to warrant such cruel treatment? The young prophet was merely doing his duty by warning the king and the Israelites not to stray away from worshiping the Lord, yet his action appeared to provoke the king’s anger and, consequently, he was stoned to death in the courtyard of the temple. 
    The king seemed to have had such a promising beginning ruling the nation, and he even went so far as to demand that people pay their temple tax, using the money to restore the holy temple. After Jehoiada passed away, the king’s real self surfaced and he started doing the opposite of what he had been taught by the godly priest. Joash decided to carve his own path and was determining to leave all his godly heritage behind. Before the king forsook Jehoiada by murdering his son, the king had already forsaken the Lord. The tragedy wouldn’t have happened had the king remained devoted to the Lord.
    Perhaps he had been under the shadow of the priest far too long and might have been harboring some sense of bitterness against Jehoiada within his heart. Indeed, the king was acting like a teenager who was asserting his independence from the priest who had been acting as his protector and teacher.
    It’s all too natural for people to do something courageous or outrageous to declare their independence from the Lord if they intend to rebel against him. In King Joash we witness ingratitude in its worst form, considering how much the priest had done for him. Apart from Jehoiada’s help and support, Joash would not have survived as a baby, let alone become the one who was sitting on the throne.
    Come to think of it, what Joash did to Zechariah wasn’t all that unusual, for atrocious acts such as that continued to take place in human history, and at the end people even murdered the One who was sent by God to bring them salvation, which was the ultimate cruelty and ingratitude.
    Our capability of committing unthinkable evil is limitless if we are not rightly related to God through the merit of the Lord Jesus.  
 
  
 
  
 
 
 
 
  
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 5, 2017 8:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Burnt Offerings 

~~
MTS-4358
Burnt Offerings
“As long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were presented continually in the temple of the Lord.”           2 Ch. 24:14
    Twenty-three and half years have passed since Kathy and I with three little boys in tow arrived in Lubbock. I was just hitting middle age then, and now am quickly approaching old age with all its trappings and heartache. I guess it’s normal for people at my age to reflect on their lives and muse on the worth of what they have done thus far. What have I done that’s worth mentioning up to this point? Well, not so much.
    One thing that I have been doing consistently over the years is preaching the Word Sunday after Sunday and I have rarely taken off on the Lord’s Day, so by my rough calculation I have preached well over a thousand sermons at the church, two thousand if the English sermons are included.
    I have always considered the devotional material I have written and the sermons I have preached burnt offerings that I have presented to the Lord, and they all turned into ashes after they were consumed by fire on the altar. I try not to have any nostalgia when I look in retrospect at my ministry in the church. All have done has been unto God’s glory. That’s what I have been striving for anyway, and only the Lord knows how successful I had been in the attempt.
    “As long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were presented continually in the temple of the Lord.”
    Jehoiada was the priest who made sure the rituals of presenting burnt offerings and other sacrifices to the Lord were dutifully observed, for they were the outward signs the Israelites performed to express their inward love and fear for the Lord. The rituals served as important reminders for the people, reminding them who they were and what the Lord intended for them to do and to be. Unless people are reminded constantly through outward ceremonies, they may quickly stray away from their faith.
   After young people are on their own on a college campus the first thing should do is to start attending church worship services, for if this weekly ritual is neglected they cease to be reminded they are Christians and what’s required of them. Indeed, the Christian faith becomes extremely difficult to sustain if all the outward forms and ceremonies are stripped away.
    Where did the Israelites go to perform their religious ceremonies or to offer their sacrifices? They either went to the holy temple, or to the high places, didn’t they? I guess I will continue to preach and perform the holy sacraments in the little church to make sure people have a place to go to worship the Lord.   
       
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 4, 2017 7:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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