The Spirit 

MTS-3368

The Spirit

“…so that by faith we might receive the
promise of the Spirit.”

         
Gal 3:14

 

We make a profession of faith by inviting Jesus into our hearts, which makes it possible
for the Spirit to enter into our bodies to dwell. We may not be conscious of
what’s going on, yet mysterious things do take place when we put our trust in
the Lord.

When this happens, it will become the most important event in your life and from that
moment on, everything that will ever happen in your entire life will be defined
by that monumental occurrence. It can be mysterious, yet it becomes more and
more obvious as time goes on, just as happily married couple becomes more and
more aware of their love for each other as they age.

Nothing is as obvious and significant as the truth of “the Spirit in me.”

Paul didn’t mention in this context about our being saved by faith in Christ; he talked
about our receiving the Holy Spirit, which was far more crucial to him than our
being saved from damnation.

It’s easier for us to tell than anything else whether a person is redeemed or not by
observing whether the Spirit is present or not in his or her life, for the
Spirit is the seal of our salvation.

Are you aware of the inner work of the Holy Spirit every moment of the day?

We can be working throughout the entire day or doing all our chores, but his unseen
presence is always there, reminding us to return back to the inner chamber of
our heart to fellowship with him. Unless we do that a few time during the day, we
will have a sense of loss or a feeling of homesickness that is hard to explain,
a sense that is akin to not communicating with the ones we love for a period of
time.

Something must be seriously wrong with our Christian walk if we go through day after day,
month after month even, without thinking about the Spirit or listening to what
he has to say to us. How can we not think about him if the Spirit is truly
residing within our heart? The Spirit simply cannot be ignored if he is truly
present in our life.  

By faith we receive the Spirit into our heart; and by the presence of the Spirit we know for sure
that we do have faith. This may be a good time to do some soul-searching to see
whether we have the indwelling Spirit or not.

What do we find when we dare to enter into our hearts and to examine what’s really in
there? Is there greed for wealth and longing for fame? Perhaps. Is there
remorse for love lost and anticipation for love yet to occur? Maybe. Is there a
place in the center of your heart where the Spirit is enthroned? Whenever you
visit your heart, is he the One you see first and foremost?

 May we never cease to mediate on the truth of
“the Spirit in me,” and to seek spiritual nurture from the meditation.

 

Friday, October 19, 2012 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Curse 

MTS-3367

Curse

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of
the law by becoming a curse for us…”

            Gal 3:13

 

“You can do it as long as you try a little harder.” How many times do we hear this sort of
well-meaning exhortation? This does not make us feel better about our inability
to accomplish some things or to overcome certain insurmountable obstacles.

My wife is the best encourager I know, but there were times her words of affirmation fell a
little short, especially during the time I was struggling with my doctorial
study at Ole Miss. I was on a verge of giving up several times, for I simply
couldn’t get the required score in my GRE to meet the standard of the graduate
school. Kathy did everything possible to help me, including encouraging me by
quoting Bible verses and tutoring me in basic math, starting from long division
to fractions.

Math was a curse throughout my entire career as a student. It kept me from getting into
better schools and it cast a dark shadow over me, even when I was well into my
thirties. Surely this curse wasn’t removed through my own efforts; it was done
through my teachers’ mercy and generosity. I continued to fail math throughout
secondary school and college, and my math teachers continued to show mercy by
passing me. Had justice been served, I would have had gotten stuck in the
fourth grade.

What I have deemed a curse turned out not to be a curse at all; it has turned out to be the
greatest blessing in my life.

Had I done well in math, I would have gotten to a decent university, yet the 25 points I scored
in math simply wasn’t good enough and I ended up going to a small Christian
liberal arts college where I heard the gospel for the very first time. It was
indeed a blessing. The domino effort of my failure at school finally led me to
my future wife, which turned out to be another great blessing.    

Had I been better in math, my life’s path would have been entirely different. I would have
become either a college professor, like many of my friends, or an arrogant
writer who would never have stepped into the door of a church. Mercy wouldn’t
have been necessary had I been strong and self-sufficient.

Is salvation for the weak?

I guess the strong will keep on trying to save themselves from damnation and they may
achieve a certain amount of success, not knowing the curse will never be lifted
unless they become completely unblemished both in their thoughts and actions,
which is humanly impossible to achieve. If salvation through observing the law
was achievable, it wouldn’t have been necessary for the Word to become flesh
and to be crucified on the cross.

Isn’t this the time to assess what blessings and curses are in our life and know the
differences between the two?

 

Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Blessing 

MTS-3366

Blessing

“All nations will be blessed through
you.”

           Gal 3:8

 

Abraham was probably an ordinary man who didn’t really aspire to do anything great at all.
More than half of his life was gone when he was called to leave his homeland
and he had no idea what it might entail. He might have given up hope on life,
since he didn’t even have something people considered most precious - a son. He
might have accumulated some wealth through his ingenuity, but he had no one to
whom he could leave his fortune, which might have caused him to become less
motivated to work hard. All things considered, things were not going too well
at the time and Abraham was becoming a little disillusioned. The man was having
great difficulty being a blessing to himself, let alone being a blessing to
others.

We don’t entertain this thought all that often, do we? How can we, being so ordinary,
become a blessing to others?

Abraham couldn’t have become a blessing to all nations through his own strength, could
he? Something like that was pretty farfetched to him, nor was it his main
concern. All the man desired was that he would become a blessing to his father
in his old age and a blessing to his wife who was afflicted by the pain of barrenness.

How did this ordinary man become a blessing to all nations? The key was his obedience.

Being a blessing to all nations was way too great of an aspiration for the man, really,
and it was very difficult to achieve. But being obedient to God’s calling was
something more immediate and down to earth, and it was something that he could
do. Abraham didn’t have the foresight to see what was yet to take place
thousands of years henceforth, but he could take care of the immediate concern,
which was obedience to God’s calling.

Everything became possible through his obedience, apart from which nothing would have
happened. Through one man’s obedience, a holy nation came into being, into
which a Savior was born who would become the blessing to all nations. It all
started from Abraham’s obedience.

The key to me becoming a blessing to others is my obedience to God’s bidding in things great
or small.

I might have blessed a few people by accepting the call to become a minister to this small
congregation. Few people have expressed any sort of appreciation to me over the
years, but deep inside I know I have blessed some people by bringing the gospel
to them. My obedience to God’s calling hasn’t brought blessing to all nations
by any means, but surely it has blessed a few.

On a much smaller scale, all of us can become a blessing to our loved ones by our
obedience to God. If we walk with the Lord faithfully, we will inevitably
become a joy and blessing to our family, friends, and neighbors. If we can’t
bless those who are closest to us, speaking about blessing strangers far away rings
pretty empty.   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 6:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Abraham 

MTS-3365

Abraham

“Understand, then, that those who have
faith are children of Abraham.”

            Gal 3:7

 

Abraham was a pagan residing in the land of Ur where the Chaldeans lived and, like all his
neighbors, he must have intended to live there until he died. There was no
reason for him to move away from the comfort of his home and venture out to the
wild, but the Lord had a different idea for him.

How much did he know the Lord when he heard the call? Probably not all that much. He did not
know whether the Lord who appeared to him was trustworthy or not, yet he took a
big risk by trusting him and did what he was told to do, not knowing what the
consequences would be.

Abraham was relative young then, and his family wasn’t that large. He didn’t have to worry
about his children since he had none at the time, which might have made it a
little easier to uproot his family. Besides, perhaps he was by nature a
venturesome person and the calling seemed to have suited his temperament. Of
course, I am looking at his calling purely from human point of view.

It was far more difficult than we can imagine. Surely Abraham needed divine aid to follow his
divine calling.

If that was the case, God could have called anyone from Ur and, since no one could have
resisted him, his calling would have been effectual. Was there something
special in Abraham that caused the Lord to choose him among thousands of
people? Was Abraham already a man of faith before he made the decision to obey
the call from above? How could the man have faith in the Lord, since the Lord
was yet to revel himself to him?

Faith is indeed quite mysterious.

Faith is a way of seeing that is totally different from our physical sight. In fact, what
it sees is often the opposite of one’s eyesight. God did one very important
thing when he was issuing the call. He opened Abraham’s inner eye, the eye of
faith, so Abraham could see what his physical eyes failed to see. What was
going to transpire in his life was clearly portrayed before him; therefore, he
was able to take the first step of faith. He could envision his future
offspring when looked up at the starring sky.

Abraham is our father and we can see what he saw and experience what he experienced.

All God’s promises to him seemed so farfetched and humanly impossible. The man and his
wife had tried many times to produce an heir and every time it ended in
disappointment. He had long concluded he would never have a son. Abraham had
every reason to question God’s promise, yet he was able to believe through the
eyes of faith.

Can we see with our physical eyes the Promised Land which we will inherit after departing
from the earth? Not really. But we can make the invisible visible by looking
into our future with eyes of faith, and the more we visualize it, the more we
will yearn to be there.    

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 6:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Finish 

MTS-3364

To Finish

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by
means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?               Gal 3:3

 

How much action is too much
action, and how much inaction is too much in inaction? This is the question.

We are people of action by
nature, so doing nothing is much more difficult than doing something and
inaction is more intolerable than action. We are born to act, not to rest.

John Milton was forced to rest
after he became blind at a relatively young age. He was an accomplished scholar,
an outstanding poet, and the Latin secretary of Oliver Cromwell during the
English Commonwealth. He was obviously leading an extremely active life, yet
his untimely blindness brought everything to a halt.

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" asked Milton in his famous poem: “When I
Consider How My Light is Spent,” and the answer he received from above is a now
much-quoted line: “They also serve who
only stand and wait.”

Did the poet spend the reminder of his earthly days standing and
waiting? Not so. He composed an outstanding epic poem, Paradise Lost, through dictation, “justifying the ways of God to
men.” 

Paul was speaking about the
justification and sanctification of Christians in this context, emphasizing that
it was the Lord both who saves and sanctifies the believers and it was a grave
mistake for them to assume they could finish what the Lord had started.

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish
by means of the flesh? Paul asked.

I have indeed been foolish
like the Galatians.

My performance as a Christian
has absolutely nothing to do with how I was saved or how I will be sanctified;
it has everything to do with how I please or displease the Lord by my action or
inaction as a Christian. I don’t think, however, my meager effort to please him
adds to the divine heart an ounce of pleasure; it does increase my peace and
pleasure as a Christian. To put it more plainly, it’s for my own sake, not for
God’s sake, that I strive to please him.

God is entirely self-sufficient; therefore his glory does not increase by our glorification of
him and his joy does not increase by our rejoicing in him. We are by nature
selfish; therefore we come to the Lord mainly for a selfish reason, which is
the salvation of our souls. You may be so altruistic that you were completely
disinterested when you decided to embrace the Lord, but that doesn’t seem to be
my case at all. I am just amazed that God’s love for us is so great that it
doesn’t bother him in the slightest that our believing in him and our love for
him is motivated by yearning for blessing, our instinct for self-preservation, or
our dread of eternal damnation.     

             

  

 

 

    

Monday, October 15, 2012 6:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Believe 

MTS-3363

Believe

“Did you receive the Spirit by the works
of the law, or by believing what you heard?”       Gal 3:2

 

I believe Julius Caesar existed and what he proclaimed himself to be might have been true
to a certain extent; but my belief has absolutely nothing to do with my
personal wellbeing or salvation. It’s just a piece of historical knowledge that
I have collected and stored in the treasure house of my brain.

I also believe the existence of Confucius and consider him to be one of the greatest
teachers who ever lived. I, too, like a lot of my high school classmates, have memorized
many of his sayings and some of them might have become the foundation of my morality
and value system, but such belief is more of an intellectual activity for me,
and for many others, than a spiritual pursuit. Even though Confucianism has
become a sort of world religion, no one is saved through believing in Confucius
the person. The man himself never claimed that he was the savior of the world. He
was merely a moral philosopher and teacher and we can become better people by
practicing what he taught.

Believing in Jesus isn’t merely an intellectual activity; it’s rather an emotional
adherence. Merely believing in Jesus’ claims about himself isn’t enough; we
must love him and embrace him. Believing in Jesus is more of a thing of the
heart than of the head.

Strangely I don’t remember saying a prayer to receive the Lord Jesus into my heart. In
fact, I have no idea when I officially became a Christian; therefore I have no
spiritual birthday, for my new birth was more a process than a specific event. It
was about a year or two after I became born again when I finally received the
ritual of baptism.

For those who have fallen in love with someone, I doubt many of them can recall the exact
moment when they fell in love. It might have been going on for a long time before
they became aware of their romantic involvement with a special someone.
Romantic love happens without us knowing it in many cases. What we see is the end
of a lengthy process, just as when we see flowers fully blossomed.  

We can work on our belief system by accumulating more knowledge, but our love for Christ
must be forged by the Spirit. It’s something we reckon as “chemistry” or
“electricity” within our romantic relationship, and without it romantic love is
impossible. We fall in love with someone, not through hard work, but through submitting
to our heart’s natural impulse and inclination after we are stirred,
stimulated, and aroused by someone special and desirable.

The Lord is wooing us through the Spirit and he enters into our heart at the moment when we
surrender to him by saying: “I believe.”

    

 

Friday, October 12, 2012 6:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Clearly Portrayed 

MTS-3362

Clearly Portrayed

Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was
clearly portrayed as crucified.

       
Gal 3:1

 

We may feel disillusioned and disappointed at times in our spiritual journey, but we will
be greatly encouraged and rejuvenated if we behold the crucified Jesus with blood
dripping down from his hands and feet, for God was demonstrating his great love
to us, and his love remains the same no matter what happens.

The key is to see the crucified Jesus at all times.

Have we ever felt disregarded and abandoned? Have we ever been rejected by our friends and
neighbors? Let’s lift our eyes and look up to the hill far away where the Lord
Jesus was lifted up on the cross and let us be amazed by the love of the Lord.

Are we worthy of his love? No. What have we done to bring the Lord Jesus down from his
glorious heaven to this sin-stained earth? We have never lived for him, yet he
came down to die for us; we have never evoked his name, yet he has engraved our
names upon the palm of his hand.

Why does it matter so much and hurt so badly when people scorn and rebuke us and consider
us as the scum of the earth? We may be worth nothing in the eyes of the world,
but we are still precious enough for God’s son to die for us. O let’s rush to the
foot of the cross and see we who really are from the tender eyes of Jesus.

No love is greater than the love illustrated on the cross and no blood is more precious
than the blood flowing down from the cross. It’s from the cross where we should
derive our worth as men and women and our strength to live.

Let the atheists continue to mock the cross and the skeptics keep on suing for the
symbols of God’s love to come down in their neighborhood and thus erase all traces
of divine love and care. They may be self-sufficient and strong enough to stand
on their own and to brave the thunder and storm of life, but we know we are
weak and frail and we are doomed apart from the cross and what it embodies.

We will look at the cross even when our eyes are clouded and dimmed by our tears; we will
listen to the voice of love uttered by the Wounded Healer even when our hearing
fails with old age. We will continue to envision the crucified Christ when
there seems to be no vision for us in this world and we seem to have finished
the task to which we were called. We will see the cross when we live and after
we die.

Therefore we should find no reason to sigh or to cry when all things seem to go wrong and
life deals us blow after blow. When all things vanish and there is nothing left
for us to crave in this world, there is still the precious cross we can embrace
and the Savior we can emulate.    

  
 

 

 

 

   

Thursday, October 11, 2012 6:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Grace 

MTS-3361

Grace

“I do not set aside the grace of God,
for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for
nothing!”      Gal 2:21

 

We need to change our head knowledge of God’s grace into heart knowledge. We may know it
in theory, but not necessarily in practice; we may know it rationally, but not
always emotionally.

Don’t we always feel that the Lord must be pleased with us if we perform better in our walk
with him and our service for him and that he becomes displeased, angry even, if
we fail to achieve what he asks us to do?

Our salvation is, in so many ways, performance based.

Some Christians are so capable and through their sheer will power and ability, they
seem to be able to do great things for the Lord, yet these people often make me
feel extremely uncomfortable, for they appear to exude an air of judgment and
condemnation when you happen to be in their presence. I will be very frightened
if the Lord acts the same way as these so-called ultra-spiritual people.

If one believes that he or she can earn God’s approval through personal merit, either
consciously or unconsciously, he will surely expect the same from other people.
Not many Christians can be both demanding and comforting at the same time.
Being human, I think it’s always better to be comforting than demanding when
dealing with one another.

It was something Paul could have done, since he was more capable than most people and
worked harder than anyone else. Moreover, he suffered more for Christ’s sake
than all the other apostles. He could have demanded from other Christians just what
he did from himself, couldn’t he?

Had he done that, he would have been declaring “Christ died for nothing,” something against
which he was constantly arguing. Paul knew from the bottom of his heart that he
needed God’s grace more than anything else, even though he was almost flawless
in his thoughts and actions.

If the apostle needed the covering of God’s grace, we need it even more; and if he was
so generous in dispensing God’s grace, we need to do it even more.  The more we receive God’s grace, the more
gracious we will be to our brothers and sisters. Paul believed he was the worst
of all sinners, yet the Lord had saved him; therefore, he was able to lavish
his grace and forgiveness on others.

Was he gracious to John Mark, who left the missionary team in the middle of the
journey? We may be wondering. Indeed he was gracious and forgiving at the end,
and what he did to the young man proved to be beneficial.

May we never treat our fellow believers as if “Christ died for nothing.” People may have
fallen short in their thoughts and actions, but that’s exactly the reason why
Christ came to die on the cross.

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Spiritual Imagination 

MTS-3360

Spiritual Imagination

“The life I now live in the body, I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”        Gal 2:20

 

Faith is a way of seeing. We don’t see with our eyes, we see through faith, our inner eye.

I felt like pulling out my hair and gnashing my teeth when we I was listening to a debate
between a Christian apologist and a prominent atheist. It was quite a painful
experience.

“Aren’t you afraid you will harm your faith listening to that?” Kathy was concerned.

“Well, I may lose my sanity.”

The two had entirely different ways of seeing things and, no matter how hard they tried or
lack of effort thereof, they simply couldn’t find a middle ground. Their
differences were heaven and earth, literary.

I see the face of God when I behold the sky, but others only see endless blueness and
floating clouds and, beyond that, nothing. I sense the Lord is whispering to me
when I hear a bird singing, but others may just hear meaningless chirping in
the empty air and, beyond that, nothing.

“You are a poet. You are imagining things,” you argue.

“Faith combined with imagination equals reality.”

People without faith only daydream; people with faith can imagine spiritually, which
is an “extension” of the Scriptures. Faith is a kind of spiritual imagination
which leads to heavenly reality.

Faith does not create reality; it reveals it. That’s why we like to close our eyes when we
pray or mediate. When our outer eyes are closed, our inner eye open up. That’s
why we can still see when we dream and God can communicate to us if he so
chooses.  

Random imagination is a hit and miss ordeal, but spiritual imagination is guided by
faith and our knowledge of the Scriptures; therefore it enables us to see what’s
shrouded in deep mystery.

How do we comfort a family friend who just lost her only child who was only twenty-four? Ryan was
a medal-winning body-builder and was in his prime.

Kathy is going to send her a card with some scripture verses, hoping to strengthen her
faith in God with God’s word, enabling her to see beyond the awful tragedy and
to envision where her beloved son was heading and to anticipate the future
reunion with him. When she envisions with faith, it may actually feel like
reality, and therefore bring hope and comfort.

“Curse God and die,” Job’s wife was at her wit’s end caring for her ailing husband when
she uttered these words. We are domed without faith, for what we witness in
this life is nothing but vanity.

A famous atheist debater who was universally lauded for his intellect has since passed
away and, true to his words, he remained an atheist until he breathed his last.
Heroic indeed, but whatever he did in this life will surely follow him and he
will be held accountable for all, I imagine.   

  

 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Christ in Me 

MTS-3359

Christ in Me

“I have been crucified with Christ and I
no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

             Gal 2:20

 

Is this some sort of unfriendly cohabitation? Probably. My flesh still seeks to control my entire
being and sometimes it manages to gain the upper hand in this unending
competition for domination between the Spirit of the Lord and my carnal self.

My body has turned into a war zone and the battle has been going on for many years.

To which side am I going to declare my allegiance? Is this even a question? “I have been
crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” May this
verse be our daily reminder when we are tempted to choose to surrender to the
enemy and take up his cause.

It’s not me who lives; it’s Christ who lives in me.

I have fallen short in so many ways, both as a Christian and a servant of the Lord and,
consequently, I have developed a bad habit of condemning myself for not
striving hard enough to lead a life of holiness and for not working diligently
to advance God’s kingdom. I don’t think it’s Christ who lives in me doing the
condemning; it’s the accusing voice of Satan who tells me that I am not worthy
of Christ’s love and am not deserving to be a minister of the gospel.

The Holy Spirit who dwells within me does not condemn me in anyway; he only convicts me
of my sins and enables me to repent. The Lord cannot condemn and forgive at the
same time. Christ’s death on the cross is the basis of his forgiveness.   

The ones who have the indwelling of Christ don’t judge or condemn themselves.

When I was taking my morning walk, I was trying to calculate how many people truly love
me, and the number turned out to be quite small. “Isn’t God’s love enough for
you?” I said to myself, becoming rather impatient with my lack of self-esteem.
I seemed to have developed another bad habit of self-pity over the years and
have often felt sorry for myself when things are not going well.

How can I, the one who is shaped in the image of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit,
feel sorry for myself? It’s insulting to the Christ who lives in me if I start
to pity myself.

Self-pity is contradictory to the spiritual reality of Christ in me.

Self-loathing is also something against which I have been battling for as long as I can
remember. Although I have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, there seems to
be a wide chasm existing between my ideal self and my real self and, as a
result, a strong sense of self-loathing gradually has crept into my heart.

Is Christ-in-me to be loathed? To loathe myself is to despise Christ who lives
within me.

To be crucified with Christ means to put our old self to death on the cross, including all our
feelings of self-condemnation, self-pity, and self-loathing, and by doing so, a
new self created in the image of Christ through resurrection will be born.    

Monday, October 8, 2012 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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