Willingness 

MTS-3119

Willingness

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable
according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”      II Co 8:12

 

     Evidently it’seasier to give to the Lord or toward the needy according to what we don’t have
than according to what we have. We may have an intention to do good, but actually
doing it is an entirely different thing. It’s only imaginative if we intend to
do something but lack the means to do it. It makes us feel good because we can
at least claim that we intend to give to charity, but simply are not able to do
it at the moment.

     Willingnesshas to be there for us to do any good work, but mere willingness isn’t enough.
There should always be action following after our good intentions; otherwise
doing good merely resides within our imagination, which brings no fruition.

     We will soon have paid off our debt and then we will be able to give more toward helping the
poor and the needy. This is just an idea that comes out occasionally and we do
have the intention to do it, but we may become reluctant to do it when the time
comes, for that will be the time when the rubber meets the road. It will not be
imaginative any more; it will become reality.

     Dealing with reality is always more difficult than handling something merely in the realm of
imagination. We can fancy this and that, but when reality strikes, we often
swoon.

     “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” the Lord Jesus said the disciples. The Lord was
simply telling the disciples that instead of thinking about what they would do
in the future, they should be focusing on the thing at hand, which was to put
their love for the Lord into immediate and concrete action. Mary took hold of
one precious opportunity and did what she considered the most urgent and most
precious. Meanwhile, the disciples were still dreaming what they would do to
help the poor in the distant future.

     Serving and loving the Lord is always in the present tense, for all the things that we plan
to do to serve the Lord in the future are uncertain and unpredictable. No one
can be one hundred percent sure that he or she will have another tomorrow;
therefore now is the time to turn our willingness into reality.

     The disciples might have deemed Mary impulsive when she broke a jar of perfume and poured it
onto the Lord’s feet, yet it was really a calculative move on Mary’s part. She
knew her opportunity of doing something extraordinary to show her affection for
Jesus was quickly slipping away and she swiftly did what she intended to do
while she still could.

     What the woman did was a beautiful thing, which the disciples could have done, yet didn’t, for
one reason or another.      

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Finish 

MTS-3118

Finish

“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”     II Co 8:11

 

     I did it once, but have forgotten whether I kept my promise or not. It’s likely that I did not. I had every intention to keep my pledge to the church, but I probably did not have enough income to cover what I had promised to give toward a certain church mission project. I regret having done that. I should have thought more about it before I made the pledge. The “faith promise” was probably quite small, but my income was a lot smaller. I was only a college student then. I was passionate toward God’s work, but did not finish what I had intended to do for lack of resources. I made a pledge beyond my means, which wasn’t a wise thing to do.

     My eager willingness didn’t match by my completion of it.

     It’s our emotions that do the talking when we are moved to do something in the initial stage, but our reason will cool us down if we give it a chance. Decisions based purely on emotion are usually not long-lasting, so we must let a cooler head join in concerning our decision making. Our reason isn’t as fleeting and unreliable as our emotions.

     We are called to give within our means, yet we are free to give beyond our means. We tithe according to our income, but we can certainly give ninety percent of our monthly stipend if we are able. But we should not pledge to donate ninety percent of our salary without careful calculation and deliberation.

     “Now finish the work,” Paul urged the Corinthian Christians. It was all good when they made the pledge to give certain sum of money in helping the Christians in Jerusalem. But it must have been a while since then and they didn’t seem to be making any move in carrying out their promise. Paul felt it was necessary for him to remind the Corinthians. It might have been a little awkward for Paul to do so at the time, but it was nonetheless essential. The matter was urgent.

     The promise had been made and what was left to do was for the Corinthian Christians to pony up and get it done. They were not rich by any means, but their situation was a lot better off than people in Jerusalem. Their promise would have easily been met had everyone in the church given according to their means.

     Our eagerness to do good work always comes upon us first, but the rest of it is hard work, which takes a strong will to please the Lord and a persistent effort to get the job done. Emotional strength can only carry us to a certain point, but going the distance demands our sweat and tears, blood and guts and, ultimately, it may demand our lives.       

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Grace of Giving 

MTS-3116

Grace of Giving

“…see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

            II Co 8:7

 

     Paul was commending the Corinthian Christians for their excellence in speech, knowledge, and love, but that wasn’t quite enough; he exhorted them to excel in the grace of giving as well. Of all the gifts Paul mentioned in this context, I guess the grace of giving is the most beneficial to needy people.

     It takes constant practice to master this grace. Very few people are born givers.

     There is a certain amount of my income that I have never considered mine and it’s relatively easy to give it up. In fact, I will feel extremely guilty if I touch the untouchable, for I am certainly not entitled to other people’s money - God’s money in this context. But anything beyond what belongs to the Lord I have a tendency to consider mine and mine alone, which is a grave mistake on my part.

     What I deem mine is very difficult to give away.

     We have to change our attitude toward our possessions before we can begin to freely give. What we have always believed to be ours isn’t really ours at all. Take our good health, for an example. It is something vital and without it we will never be able to earn a living. It is also something over which we have very little control. How can anyone accumulate anything through hard work without sound health? So let’s ask ourselves one important question: Who is the sustainer of my good health?

     What about our intelligence, on which we have relied to do well at school and to earn a good living. Is it genetic? Perhaps. But there is something beyond mere genetics. Many highly intelligent people have struggled their entire lives to make ends meet and have died paupers. Why should we be any different? Are we naturally smart and ingenious?

     Our action of giving will surely follow if our attitude toward our aptitude is altered. All our proceeds belong to the Master who has endowed us with all the “capital” by which we do all our investments. If we fail to do what our Master requires us to do, he may come back someday and instantly take everything away from us with no questions asked. What did Alexander the Great take with him at his death after he had conquered many nations and taken possession of half of the then known world? Not a cent, right?

     After we have excelled in doing all things, there is still one thing left for us to master, which is the grace of giving. Unfortunately, this is something in which most people rarely excel and, consequently, their excellence at all things becomes useless before God. Besides, they will be held accountable someday for not giving their proceeds back to the Master.

Monday, September 26, 2011 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Give First 

MTS-3115

Give First

“…but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”           II Co 8:5

 

     India and the African continent seem to be so much closer when I look at a coupe of pictures of the boys we sponsor on our refrigerator. They both look a little forlorn but appear to be well-nourished. I pray that our monthly support makes a slight difference in their lives.

     I only get to know these two boys by their names and photos and can’t say that I have a lot of affection for them, for I haven’t gotten an opportunity to know them personally. This doesn’t really matter, though, since they are both God’s children and the Lord knows them. As a matter of fact, one of the boys’ is aspiring to become a minister.

     We give out of our love for God, not out of our affection for people. Affection is a kind of feeling, which is very unreliable, and our giving will become very inconsistent if we base our giving solely on feelings. If we give ourselves to God first, we will be able to practice monetary giving consistently.

     We don’t usually ask non-believers to give, since they don’t really know the meaning of giving within the church. They may consider it charity work when they make any donation toward our church’s needs. It makes very little difference to them whether they give to the Buddhist temple or a Christian church.

     Giving toward the Lord is a heart thing based on our intimate relationship with God. We give out of our obedience, but there is still something severely lacking if we do so void of affection. “Where your treasure is, you heart will be also,” said the Lord Jesus.

     We can evaluate our spiritual state by looking at our checkbooks, for our money often goes to the place where our hearts lie. We spend our money on something or some people for whom we have the most affection.

     “Two of the three biggest checks I wrote every month for a number of years were to our boys’ school and our church,” Kathy mentioned to me the other day. It pleased me a great deal for we seemed to have spent our meager income for some fifteen years on the ones we loved the most. This is by no means boasting, for we simply do what most Christians do naturally. I am afraid there is something wrong with us since our mortgage payment has surpassed our tithe check by a couple of hundred dollars. We may have to do something to correct this “injustice.”

     Let’s just take a quick look at our credit card report or our checkbook and we will easily find out whom or what we love the most in this world. We can shout to the mountain top how we love and adore the Lord, but our spending habits will bring us back to the dark valley where our true spiritual condition is revealed. “Where your treasure is, you heart will be also.” Isn’t this the time we face up to the truth?  

           

Friday, September 23, 2011 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Giving 

MTS-3114

Giving

“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”         II Co 8:3

 

     Macedonian Christians were not rich by any means, but they insisted on participating in giving toward the needs of the Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. By their good example we know that monetary giving isn’t the honor of a special few, but the privilege of all people. It matters not whether we are rich or poor, we always have something to give and, the more we give, the richer we will become.

     I sometimes find myself giving an apology for our students’ inability to support our church financially. “They are just students with a very small income, if they have any income at all.” This is our standard line when we have any discussion with people about the finances of our church.

     I have gotten it all wrong. Our ability to give tithes and offerings does not have anything to do with the size of our income. Even beggars can generate some income by begging; therefore they do have the privilege to give tithes and offerings.

     We used to teach our boys to save ten percent of their weekly allowance and give it to God as their tithe at the end of every month. The amount was indeed very small, but if they weren’t taught to tithe when their stipends were small, they would not do it when their salary became bigger. In fact, it would become increasing difficult for them to give as their income increased.

     We are mere stewards of all our resources and God is the true owner of our money, therefore we ought to spend it according to our Master’s commands. The true value of wealth lies in how we spend it, not in how we accumulate it. Surely spending money on God’s kingdom and on relieving people’s suffering or starvation does increase the value of our money by a hundred fold, but using our wealth to buy bigger and greater toys for ourselves may reduce the value of our wealth to nothing.

     “Can a man rob God?” asked the prophet. Not only do we steal from God by not tithing, we rob from ourselves the honor, blessing, and privilege of giving to the Almighty. God is completely self-sufficient and has absolutely no needs. Therefore we do God no favor by giving; we actually do ourselves a great favor. It’s not for his own sake the Lord asks us to give; it’s rather for our sake that he makes this particular demand, for the Lord is well aware that his children can find true fulfillment by giving and they will become more and more selfish and fearful by hoarding.       

    Being wealthy or poor is only a false perception we conjure up within our minds by comparing ourselves with others. The true measurement of one’s financial state should lie in how much we give away, not on how many digits in our savings account. We don’t become rich by keeping all things to ourselves; we become the wealthiest by giving the most away.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Generosity 

MTS-3113

Generosity

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”         II Co 8:2

 

     It takes a lot of spiritual and emotional energy to go through trials and suffering; therefore when people are in any kind of trouble they are usually preoccupied with themselves and their immediate needs. It’s rare for them to be thinking about helping others during times of personal difficulties.

     That wasn’t the case with Dr. Paul Han, who was president of a medical college in Taiwan and a strong church leader, however. While he was dying with cancer, he invited many Christian friends to the hospital and together they spent time praying for the Taiwanese church and church leaders. Dr. Han did something he considered to be the most important and meaningful during the few weeks before he went on to meet the Lord.

     Preoccupation with one’s suffering may intensify the pain of one’s emotional or physical ailment.

     “O, I am so sick,” my brother-in-law always moaned when he had some sort of illness, which didn’t seem to alleviate his suffering in any way; it only made people around him feel a little awkward and ill at ease. Not so with his wife, though. Barbara has had a few bouts with major illnesses, but she never complained and acted as if nothing was happening to her and was always preoccupied by her children’s needs, even in times of illness.

     I came down with a cold a couple of days ago and was lying in bed all day yesterday, which was indeed quite miserable. I was little annoyed when Kathy came home from work a little later than usual. Didn’t she realize that I needed some TLC?

     What do poor people think about most of the time? Probably about their own poverty and ways to get out of it. This wasn’t what was happening to the Macedonian Christians, though. Their poverty seemed to have made them more sympathetic toward the poor and caused them to become more eager to help them in whatever way they could. They donated money toward helping the church in Jerusalem out of their poverty, not out of their abundance.

     We do have a lot to learn from the Macedonian Christians.

     Our suffering should make us more aware of other people’s suffering and, knowing how horrific it is, we should do all we possibly can to help relieve people’s pain. Misery does love company, but knowing that we are not alone in our sorrow does not in any way reduce our pain. In fact, it may increase it, if it does anything at all. I am positive that our misery may be reduced if we show compassion toward the needy in the midst of our sorrow, for by doing so, we may be able to escape from ourselves and cease to continue to dwell in our own problems and grief.    

              

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 7:07:00 AM

Worldly Sorrow 

MTS-3112

Worldly Sorrow

“…but worldly sorrow brings death.”

          II Co 7:10

 

     Godly sorrow leads to repentance and the end result is life, but there is no comfort given for worldly sorrow and the end result is hopelessness and death.

     There was not any hope left for Rachel when she wept bitterly in Ramah over the death of her children. She refused to be comforted, for nothing would mend her broken heart unless her children were brought back alive to her. The woman probably lived the rest of her earthly life a sad and broken woman.

     Worldly sorrow takes away our hope for renewal or recovery, which is something that has no positive effect on us whatsoever. It’s a dark cloud that does not bring any rain and vexes us with its foreboding heaviness, causing our hearts to sink lower and lower until they hit the ground.

     I seemed to be dragging my heart on the ground as I walked in and out of the hospital where my mother lay on her sickbed, with no hope for recovery. My sorrow for her was worldly, for I could see no hope for her renewal. Death would come a few weeks later and created a void in my heart that would never be filled. That was what worldly sorrow did to me.

     The Lord Jesus was afflicted with great sorrow while he was praying in the garden, pleading that his Father would remove the bitter cup of affliction from him. Yet such sorrow wasn’t worldly and the Lord’s joy was restored to him after he humbly submitted himself to God. “He learned obedience from what he suffered,” we read in Hebrews.

     We need to convert worldly sorrow into godly sorrow.

     Looking beyond the affliction that we are undergoing may not be an easy thing, but that’s the only option we have. Things don’t happen randomly and we may be able to endure better if we believe there is a purpose behind all our suffering. “Curse God and die.” This is the kind of worldly sorrow that leads to death to which Job refused to succumb. He was severely afflicted, yet he held on to his faith and was able to convert worldly sorrow into a godly sorrow. The difference was Job held onto his faith in God, even though the circumstances seemed to be pointing to the opposite.

     Death occurs when there is no hope left; but life happens when hope exists. When all medication fails and death seems to be inevitable, what hope is there for us still? If renewal and recovery become impossible physically, we can still hope that God will restore us spiritually. When earth is no more, there is still heaven; and while time vanishes, there is still eternity.

     Hope and faith in God is what makes our worldly sorrow godly, which leads to complete healing and recovery.          

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Godly Sorrow 

MTS-3111

Godly Sorrow

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…”          II Co 7:10

 

     I am sorry that I didn’t really fulfill my parents’ dreams and aspirations for me. It used to cause me pain when I thought about how they were disappointed about the way I have turned out. I did my best to make them happy, but I couldn’t have made the core of my being match the life that they had mapped out for me.

     Such sorrow was human sorrow that left me with a lot of regret.

     Had I been totally transparent with them while they were alive, things would have been quite different. There were some things about me that they dared not touch, and I was too cowardly to mention. I kept silent for the sake of maintaining peace and harmony within my family.

     Paul could have kept quiet about what was happening in the church of Corinth and things would have been alright on the surface. The carpet may appear to be clean after it’s been vacuumed, but there is still a lot of dust underneath. The rug may have to be removed in order to make the house clean.

     It was indeed a painful process.

     The perpetrator of the particular sin Paul mentioned in the letter had to be confronted and disciplined, which might have been a difficult task to do, for we have no idea who the man was. The person could have been one of the church leaders or a promising new believer, and taking any drastic action against him would have been excruciatingly painful and would bring the church people a great deal of sorrow. Yet had they not done anything about it, the purity of God’s church would have been compromised.

     The Corinthian Christians did the right thing and the issue was resolved according to God’s teaching.

     Godly sorrow is actually very beneficial to our spiritual growth. We can’t help becoming remorseful when we grieve the Holy Spirit by committing sin. We rarely sin intentionally, but we may sin knowingly. We don’t intend to sin against God, but we know what sort of things we do that displease the Lord, and sometimes still fall into the trap of sin by not being vigilant.

     Sweet things do have a strong aftertaste. No wonder we yearn to have a cup of water after we have eaten an ice cream sundae or banana split. This is nothing compared to the bitter aftertaste of the pleasure of sin we have often experienced. It’s akin to a severe hangover drunks experience when they wake up from their stupor in the morning, head-splitting and heart disheartened.

     Thanks be to God that he vexes us with godly sorrow that leads to repentance. It’s a great cause of concern if we feel perfectly at ease after we have done something sinful against God or men. We will never repent unless we have godly sorrow within our hearts, urging us to reconcile with the Lord through genuine repentance.     

    

Monday, September 19, 2011 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Assurance 

MTS-3110

Assurance

“He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.    II Co 7:7

 

     In the midst of sorrow, Paul was comforted by the coming of Titus, who brought the news to Paul that the Christians in the church of Corinth had truly repented of their wrongdoings and had reaffirmed their love and concern for him. Paul was thrilled when he heard the news, for he was anxious the Corinthian Christians might have held some resentment against him because of the harsh letter he had written to them previously.

     “My joy is greater than ever,” Paul wrote.

     Paul’s intention was to maintain peace and unity within the church, but not at the price of sacrificing purity and holiness. People’s hearts needed to be broken to be mended, Paul believed. His words in the first letter to the Corinthians were indeed severe, but his purpose was to keep them from straying too far away from the truth. What he was dealing with was an issue that shouldn’t have been compromised.

     The church could have turned against the apostle, but fortunately that didn’t happen. The Christians humbled themselves when they heard the stern warning from Paul and did what was necessary to put themselves on the right path. They didn’t let their pride get in the way and they did what was right.

     Nothing could have made Paul happier in the midst of troubles than this piece of news, which made him realize that he hadn’t spent those years teaching them in vain. The Corinthian Christians were putting what they had learned from Paul into practice.

     I did have some good feedback from the people who heard the messages at the retreat and I was happy to have contributed a little something toward people’s growth as Christians, but what tickled me more than anything was the few people who had become Christians at our little church in Lubbock years ago and were now growing Christians and serving the Lord as church leaders.

     Nothing is as comforting to our souls as the deep awareness that we are standing squarely in the center of God’s will. We may not be highly accomplished in people’s eyes and may not amount to anything if we are measured in the balance of worldly standards, yet we can all be joyful if the Lord is gracious enough to make us his instruments to accomplish some tasks great or small.

     “I want to make a difference in your life during these three days and I pray that you will be a different person when you leave this campground by the bay,” I remember telling people in my first talk and I believe it turned out to be exactly the case with some people who attended the retreat. I was happy at the end not because I had caused some earth-shattering events to happen; I merely rejoiced at the fact that the Lord seemed to have used Kathy and I to accomplish some tasks. We were just a couple of rings that connected a broken chain of events that were preordained by the Lord to take place during the retreat.    

       

Friday, September 16, 2011 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Purification 

MTS-3109

Purification

“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”         II Co 7:1

 

     Even though a lot of research has been done on what certain foods do to our bodies, the results seem inconclusive, so we continue to eat them with a little bit of apprehension, not knowing what the end result will be.

     My brother has been abusing his body by drinking and smoking. He probably looks ten years older than his actual age and has been dealing with various health issues. What he has been doing for the past twenty years appears to be coming back to haunt him.

     We can easily tell when people do things to contaminate their bodies, for physical appearances simply don’t lie, but it’s relatively harder to tell when people do things that are harmful to their spiritual life. We may not be aware of our spiritual illness, for it doesn’t seem to cause physical pain.

     We may die prematurely if we continue to contaminate our bodies by not eating right, but we may die eternally if we neglect to take good care of our spiritual life, which has a far more severe outcome than our bodily death.

     Since research on food contamination is somewhat inconclusive, we must diversify our food intake by not eating one single thing consistently. I have been trying to urge my son Michael to abstain from diet soft drinks to no avail, since I have no scientific data on which to base my argument. “My instinct tells me drinking so much of something other than water isn’t a good thing,” I told him.

     Michael obviously knows more about the human body than I do. I guess I’d better stick to my field.

     Perfect holiness is impossible for us mere mortals to attain, but we should never use this as an excuse for not trying to become holier. God is perfectly holy; therefore we can never have any close association or intimate fellowship with him unless we are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.  We have been justified by faith, yet we must continue to be sanctified by faith as well.

     We are washed by water and blood. The Lord Jesus made us clean with his cleansing blood, shed on the cross once and for all, but the cleansing by water is an ongoing process. I am not speaking about the washing Lady Macbeth did in the river, which had absolutely no effect on true purification; what we must do is cleanse ourselves with the living water supplied by the Lord Jesus.

     In this context, to drink the living water is to be washed by it.

     To be purified by the living water is both active and passive at the same time. We are being cleansed when we read the living Word of God, but we have to first apply ourselves to the act of reading. To be filled by the Holy Spirit appears to be passive, looking at it from a human point of view, but we must seek to be filled by the Spirit through fasting and prayer. Reading the Word of God renews our minds, and receiving the filling of the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts. Both are actions of purification that we must diligently take in our pursuit of holiness.  

          

Thursday, September 15, 2011 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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