Reconciliation 

MTS-3091

Reconciliation

“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

          II Co 5:19

 

     “Your Heavenly father is mad at you.”

     “What?”

     “You need to be reconciled with your Father in heaven.”

     “What?”

     Silence.

     Is it a felt need that we should be reconciled with our Father in heaven? Not exactly.

     I knew it when my earthly father got angry at me, and I would do anything to make peace with him again, but the idea of a heavenly Father is just so vague. 

     First, we need to accept the reality that we have a Father in heaven who desires to have an intimate relationship with us.

     It’s quite puzzling, isn’t it? A heavenly Father. That’s just so far-fetched.

     I wonder why something children and infants have no trouble believing presents such difficulty to us adults. Perhaps we have become too sophisticated to believe in anything.

     I have been trained in academia to think critically and not to accept anything unless it has creditable evidence.

     Do we really have to doubt? To grow up is to become more and more suspicious and, unfortunately, we may become incapable of believing in anything when we are old and frail.

     Innocence is hard to restored after it is lost.

     What our heads fail to detect, our heart will easily identify. We may have to return to our hearts to find the vital message that was lost in the maze of our fuzzy reasoning 

     Who is the Author of our conscience that constantly nags us and urges us to heed its voice?

     Who writes the chips and places them in human computers?

     Why do I have some secret longing of which I am not always aware, yet it seems to be ever present in the depths of my heart?

     Why is there fear of the unknown if the unknown is merely nothing? Why do I sometimes look beyond the horizon and search for something if there is nothing out there?

     Why am I moved to tears when I behold something beautiful or hear something exquisite?

     “You are just fooling yourself, for you have created something to fill the void in your heart.”

     “Why is there a void if the human heart is a whole?”

     “Ok, there is no void.”

     “But…”

     What I am doing is trying to convince you that there is a Father in heaven for all of us, and our relationship with him has been broken because of our sin, and unless we are reconciled with him we will find no peace, joy, or fulfillment in life.

     That’s all. 

    

Thursday, August 18, 2011 7:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

New Creation 

MTS-3090

New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”             II Co 5:17

 

     Being in Christ is living and acting like Christ and makes our entire life a reflection of Christ.

     Adam was a created in the perfect image of God and the image was greatly tainted when he rebelled against God’s command. We have a very vague idea of what that image was like, since the perfect picture was forever lost.

     In Christ Jesus we have a clear glimpse of what a man should be like, the ideal model which we should imitate. We don’t know what a man should be like until we meet Christ the man, the Lord Jesus, the second Adam, who was the original man, the truest and the most authentic. 

     Has the new come into your life? Is your life what you were created to be, the restoration of Adam’s life before he fell into sin?

     Rather than being proactive in all we do, I suppose many of us just lead our lives “responsively,” merely reacting to what we encounter in our daily lives. If we are still in the process of evolving into a higher order of species, we can afford to be passive, since we have no inkling concerning what we will become. Therefore we are incapable of formulating our path and direction. We are merely tossed to and fro by the random power of natural selection.

     In Christ Jesus the man we can envision what we were designed to be and can put our entire effort into pursuing to be more like him and we can make “behold, the man” our lifelong endeavor.

     We have become a new man, or woman, in Christ Jesus, but our passionate pursuit is to bring this reality into our daily experience by “lively-portraying” the image of Christ. We lose all our creditability as Christians if we only claim to be new creations, yet fail to back it up with our new actions.

     Very few of us have the courage to declare to the watching world: “Look at me if you want to see Christ.”

     Evidently the first Adam did reflect the entire image of God; what he possessed was an infinitesimal piece of God’s entire image. By the same token, the image of Christ which we Christians represent is only a very small resemblance of his perfect image, yet there is something seriously wrong if people can see absolutely no likeness between Christ and us.

     The Jewish authorities were dumbfounded by Peter and John’s eloquence and courage, for they were uneducated. “They were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus,” we read in the book of Acts.

     Will people say the same thing about us? I am sure they will if we lead our lives in such a way that we are always aware of the reality that we are image-bearers of Christ Jesus and make a concerted attempt to portray such an image in our words and actions.      

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Point of View 

MTS-3089

Point of View

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”

          II Co 5:16

 

     I don’t rank my children in terms of their intelligence or appearance. I just see them for who they are and appreciate them accordingly and I have never favored one over the other. As far as I am concerned, they are the best.

     I guess that’s the way God looks at all his children. We are all apples in his eyes, since he created all of us according to his image and he does not judge us according to a worldly point of view.

     What a relief! I am doomed if the Lord looks at me by worldly standards.

     Oh, there is this guy who is average in every way and hardly stands out in any crowd. Besides, he is rapidly approaching sixty and it’s unlikely he will accomplish anything significant with his life. Didn’t Confucius once make a definitive statement: “A man will not be any good if he hasn’t accomplish anything after he passes fifty.” Isn’t this discouraging?

     How I am looked upon is exactly in accordance with the way I look upon others. What I need to do is to alter my perspective of looking at others so that I will become less sensitive and self-conscious when other people look at me. All things are innocent to the innocent, and pure to the pure.

     There is only one supreme judge and his view is the only view that should concern us. What’s the point of working so hard to make a good impression on people who have absolutely no say in our eternal destiny? We are not really good when all people consider us good; but we are not as bad as people reckon us to be. We are what the Lord regards us to be.

     “You are who your heroes are, because they are the ones who you would like to become ultimately,” I said to the congregation in my sermon on Sunday. Nobody breathed a word when I asked them who their heroes were.

     May Christ be our hero.

     We will never have a true view of him if we perceive him from a worldly point of view. What’s there in his human side that greatly impresses us? Not much at all. He was a mere carpenter’s son and most likely labored as a carpenter for over ten years; neither did he possess good looks that drew people to him. Yet from a divine point of view, Christ was what a man was supposed to be, a man who completely reflected the glory of God’s image in him, which is something we should be looking for in a person.

     The more we reflect God’s image in our lives, the greater we are as creations of God. This is the way we should look at ourselves and our neighbors. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Living for Christ 

MTS-3088

Living for Christ

“…those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”      II Co 5:15

 

     We seem to be living for ourselves most of the time since we do all things to sustain ourselves both physically and emotionally and to prolong our lives on earth. We will not survive in this world too long if we cease doing things for ourselves. If this is the case for most people, how do we live for Christ?

     We should have sound health both emotionally and physically before we can start thinking about living for Christ. Our bodies can easily become a hindrance in our pursuit to serving the Lord if they are not well taken care of. We will not be effective in serving God if our bodies constantly demand our attention because of their many frailties.

     Taking good care of ourselves is the first step toward living for Christ. We can live for the Lord so much better if both our mental and physical health is sound. Therefore caring for our emotional and physical needs in no way conflicts with serving God.

     Do I have to feel guilty playing an hour of tennis before I head to church to work on a weekday? Not really. If daily exercise helps me stay healthy and keep from my sick bed, to exercise is to serve the Lord, for being sick will certainly hamper me from attending to the needs of God’s kingdom.

     Do I have to feel uneasy spending some quality with my wife and children regularly? Not necessarily. I can never maintain my church well unless I first maintain my family; therefore to maintain my family is to serve the Lord. Having an unhappy wife and misbehaving children will most likely keep me from serving the Lord effectively.

     To live for God is to put God first in all we do at all times, yet we can still put him first, even when we are doing mundane things and daily chores. Taking out the trash daily may be more spiritual than singing and praying at church. Cooking for my family can be a spiritually uplifting time for me, for I can listen to the Bible and do the kitchen chores at the same time, and I sometimes feel closer to the Lord in the kitchen cooking than on my knees in my inner chamber praying.

     Living for God has little to do with what we do, but a lot to do with who we are.

     Sister Lan, after she was released from prison after the Cultural Revolution, was condemned to sweep street for the rest of her life. Being a devout Christian who had been persecuted for her faith for years, Lan was determined to serve the Lord by being the best street-sweeper she could be. Her testimony quickly became known in the neighborhood and God’s name was lifted up because of her testimony. Thousands of people attended her funeral when she passed away. Surely she was a good example of someone who lived for Christ, even though she was a prisoner and a mere street-sweeper.         

Monday, August 15, 2011 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Death 

MTS-3087

Death

“…because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”           II Co 5:14

 

     This is very hard to imagine. We were dead, yet we are still very much alive. We died with Christ over two thousand years ago, yet we weren’t even born then. How can that be? This is indeed mysterious.

     Am I a dead man walking? I am aware of my mortality for sure, for I often count down the years I still have left on earth, but I want to live my life to the fullest as long as I still have today.

     It all depends how we define living. The way we perceive life and the way we live may not be the life that’s meant to be lived. We may have to die to ourselves in order to truly live.

     We can’t help but be preoccupied with ourselves as long as we still live in our bodies and we seem to consider it our primary duty to care for our bodies, for without them we can hardly function. We are our bodies, we believe.

     We are not really alive if our sole goal in life is to dress our bodies and to do all things to make our flesh cozy and our bodies comfortable. Our bodies are mere instruments, which we utilize to serve the Lord.

     We tune the piano to make it more accurate in making music; we sharpen an axe to make it more efficient in cutting trees; we discipline our bodies so that they can be more effective in serving the Lord. Instruments of various kinds are defined by their function and their fulfillment is found in what they do, but not what they are. An axe is totally useless and void of purpose if it is used only for decorative purposes.

     The issue is: our bodies as instruments have a will of their own and often become insubordinate to the rightful masters, which are the inner selves that dwell within the bodies.

     This isn’t an issue for those people who believe that they are just their bodies and nothing more and, since there is a perfect unity, there is absolutely no conflict existing in their lives. I think you are among the rare few if you reckon this is the case. Being human, inner conflict is inevitable. There is an inner voice that tells us that we are more than our bodies.

     If there are two entities dwelling within us, and they are constantly vying for supremacy. One must die for the other to live, yet neither one of them is willing to give in.

     The best solution to this predicament is to die in and with Christ when he was crucified on the hill of Calvary. If we consider our flesh with all its sins has been put to death with Christ, we will be able to function as one entity, which is our renewed and restored spirit.   

Friday, August 12, 2011 6:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Our Goal  

MTS-3086

Our Goal

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”         II Co 5:9

 

     Grandpa commented in his letter to the family when he was a seminary student that he was once tempted not to attend Sunday night church, but he was pleased that he overcame the temptation even though he had every reason to stay home that night.

     I can count with my fingers how many times I have attended Sunday night church. There wasn’t one at my church in Taiwan and I never developed a habit to go, therefore it never bothered me when I missed it, even when I was a seminary student. Grandpa and I went to the same seminary, but he seemed to have studied ten times harder than I did and, from reading his letters to the family during his seminary days, I could tell his spirituality was far superior to mine. I was more a tennis bum than a serious student when I was there.

     Was it my goal to please the Lord then? Perhaps in words, but not so much in deeds. I was young and spiritually immature and did not always do what I was supposed to do. I guess being a romantic did work against me in my walk with the Lord. I have never been all that determined and only scratched the surface in all my previous endeavors.   

     I am becoming nervous when I consider how little time I still have to improve myself spiritually. I sure don’t want to meet the Lord the way I am now and, if there is any connection between time and eternity, I am afraid I will have a lot of catching up to do when I get there.

     Pleasing the Lord takes a lot of spiritual discipline. I think I need to put myself under an authority so that I can do things against the grain of my natural temperament. I don’t usually mind when I decide to do something on my own, but feel rather uneasy when someone tells me to do something, even it is as simple as lifting a finger or running an errand. How can I submit to the Lord if I have difficult submitting to authority? No wonder I only lasted for a year being an associate minister.

     “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” Paul wrote. May this be our goal, as well.

     Pleasing the Lord means walking the second mile.

     Being Christians, we may just be satisfied with our spiritual state if we think we have done enough or have met the minimum requirement of being a believer. So it has never bothered us if we miss Sunday night church, unless we make it the only service we attend on the Lord’s day. The Bible also talks about us giving our tithe and offering, but we feel rather pleased with ourselves as long as we give our tithe, after tax nonetheless. The thing is, we seem to still have a lot of strength left after we have walked the first mile and squander all our extra energy doing superfluous things.

     Grandpa passed away two years ago, but he still speaks to his children through the letters he wrote, which are unembellished and totally honest, reflecting who grandpa truly was as a godly man. I do have a lot to learn from him as far as pleasing the Lord is concerned.             

Thursday, August 11, 2011 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Preference 

MTS-3085

Preference

“…and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”          II Co 5:8

 

     Those were dark days, the couple of trips back to Taiwan that I took to see my ailing mother. I was overwhelmed by sadness, yet I had no desire to be “at home with the Lord” even during the darkest hours of my life.

     Kathy and I managed to visit a few restaurants that we liked and my sorrow didn’t seem to take away my appetite for a good Chinese breakfast of “fried bing and oily stick” every morning before we went to visit my mother in the hospital.

     I felt a little guilty about enjoying the food so much while my mother was suffering great pain. What should I have done? I asked. Starvation? I would have done that had it helped reduce my mom’s pain.

     I was totally alone at home when I received my sister’s call and I burst into tears. I cried and sobbed in bed for quite a while and then took a long walk in the neighborhood. I felt numb and empty during the walk, but still managed to make myself a big bowl of noodle soup for supper, which was pretty tasty. I felt a little uneasy for enjoying the food so much during a time of mourning.

     What was my preference during this time of difficulty? Can I honestly say as Paul did when he stated that he “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord?”

     “A good death is not equal to bad living,” goes a Chinese saying. Life might be bad, but most of us still cling to life as tightly as we possibly can.

     If being with the Lord is so wonderful, why do we continue to hang on to our lives?” The logic doesn’t add up, does it?

     Who are we to compare with one of the greatest saints in church history, who had been lifted up to the third heaven and had the rare opportunity to witness its surpassing beauty while he was there? People who have had near death experiences seem to have less fear of death. I suppose Lazarus had less fear than most people since he probably realized it wasn’t all that dreadful after all.

     Cultivating God’s presence in our lives daily may greatly lessen our fear of the unknown and death. We dread the journey because we are ill prepared for it and have no clear knowledge where we are heading. If we do this, we will have less fright when the time finally comes.

     Grandma is ninety-two years old, yet her zeal for life is still quite strong. She has lost most of her eyesight, but she still manages to acquire new knowledge of various fields everyday by listening to teaching materials. I guess her fear of death is a lot less than most of us, yet her zest for life is just as vibrant. Our desire to be at home with the Lord should never take away our passion to live for him while we are still at home within our bodies. When we become one with him, it makes very little difference whether we are here on earth or out there in heaven.            

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith and Sight  

MTS-3084

Faith and Sight

“We live by faith, not by sight.”

          II Co 5:7

 

Faith: There is a personal God who cares for us.

Sight: There is no God because I cannot see him.

Faith: Life has meaning because God endows humans with meaning when he creates them.

Sight: We are pure material and meaning is created for our convenience.

Faith: There is life after death.

Sight: Nothing.

Faith: There is a final judgment.

Sight: Nothing. Again, nothing.

Faith: Love is possible because we are connected to something beyond ourselves. The essence of love is self-sacrifice, self-giving, and self-abandonment, which a purely materialistic human being is incapable of performing.

Sight: Love equals lust, which is an evolutional appetite for procreation, guaranteeing the survival of our species. We can lie, cheat, and do whatever necessary to achieve our purpose of mating. Love is a means to an end, not an end itself.

Faith: We relate to people to establish genuine fellowship, for we have an innate need for friendship and having good relationships is a key to our happiness.

Sight: Baloney. The essence of life is competition and we compete to survive and to thrive. All our neighbors are our potential enemies and they are either stepping stones or stumbling blocks to our survival and our success.

Faith: Children are an inheritance from God and we love them with disinterested love.

Sight: Wrong. We produce children to ascertain our survival as a species. The purpose of producing children is purely utilitarian.

Faith: Truth is absolute.

Sight: There is no truth. Everyone’s perception of truth is equally valid and our evaluation of reality is relative.

Faith: Beauty is eternal and the imperfect copy of an eternal ideal.

Sight: No. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

Faith: The chief end of people is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Sight: The goal of life is to maximize my physical pleasure and to please myself until I die.

Faith: Eternal something.

Sight: eternal nothingness.

Faith: Good-bye. You are so beautiful and I love you.

Sight: Silence. “There is no appropriate response to such nonsense,” he whispered to himself as he walked into the darkness, whistling as if to cast away his fear.     

    

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Purpose  

MTS-3083

The Purpose

“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”   II Co 5:5

 

     If the journey itself becomes too comfortable for us, we may lose the desire to get to our final destination. I am afraid we may be enjoying our trip on earth a little too much to entertain the thought of pushing ahead to where we want to go.

     It took the Israelites forty years to finally reach the Promised Land. Surely some of them would have liked to settle in the desert for good to avoid risking their lives conquering a land populated by the ferocious Canaanites. Obviously the Lord didn’t make the desert life cozy for them and their leaders were constantly reminding them that the howling wilderness wasn’t their permanent home. I guess eating the same food for a span of forty years was enough to make them hungry for a better diet on the other side of Jordan.     

     We seem to have created for ourselves a paradise on earth that causes us to lose our yearning for the real heaven elsewhere. The reason that makes the “heaven on earth” theology so detrimental to us is its earth-centric idea that causes Christians to lose the zeal to continue running toward their heavenly destination. Aren’t we all tempted to choose an earthly town on our journey heavenward and settle there for good?

     That’s why the Lord constantly tries to make us feel a little uneasy by stirring us up with adverse circumstances when we feel too much at ease and at home on our earthly journey. A flat tire here and a blown engine there may just do the trick and make us yearn for our real home on the horizon.

     It may start with the eyes, then the teeth, and followed by our digestive system that seem to cause us daily inconvenience and pain, which actually remind us of our mortality. We simply can’t push the limits of our bodies since our tents aren’t designed to last forever. Even if our earthly dwellings are still in good shape in all ways, we may encounter other difficulties that bring us down, be they financial or relational.  

     That’s the very purpose of our suffering.

     It’s a constant reminder of our mortality so that we will focus our attention on heavenly things and develop within us a sense of “other-worldliness.” Being sojourners in this world, we dare not sink our roots too deeply and make it hard for us to move when the bidding comes. We develop a homesickness for home when we are sick of maintaining our temporary home during our journey.

     Suffering is not an anomaly, it is a necessity; for without it we may mistake transition for permanence and hold onto fleeting things as if they were long lasting.

     If this reasoning is sound, it appears to me one of the ways to avoid suffering is to have a constant sense of “other-worldliness.” He who knows who he really is needs no additional reminding.          

Monday, August 8, 2011 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Life 

MTS-3082

Life

“…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

           II Co 5:4

 

     “Eat, drink, and be merry” is the kind of life that we know and are pursuing and anything beyond that philosophy is pure speculation that dwells in the realm of imagination.

     Do you agree? We are mortal and are well acquainted with mortal things. “My life span on earth is less than a hundred yet I am always concerned about things of a thousand years, (生年不滿白百, 常懷千歲憂)” goes a Chinese saying. Does this make sense to you?

     “For tomorrow we die,” Paul continued in the statement.

     It’s so much like gambling, really. We put our chips down and hope for the best. If atheists happen to be right concerning our eternal destiny, all will be happy, for there is nothing to worry about beyond the portal of death. Our main concern in life is to choose a lifestyle that maximizes our physical and emotional pleasure.

     What if we are wrong? There is always a possibility that we may guess wrong. There have been so many rumors and speculations over the ages concerning the next world that should make us feel a little uneasy.

     Can we imagine how horrific we will feel when we suddenly realize there is a supreme Judge who will hold us accountable for every action that we have ever done when we wake up from our sleep of death? How are we going to handle the life after this life? No wonder Shakespeare’s Hamlet considered suicide a poor option to take, since he wasn’t entirely sure that to die is “not to be.” 

     Isn’t this quite puzzling to you?

     It’s not that worthwhile for us to risk our eternal destiny for seventy or eighty years of carnal pleasure. Don’t we all have a sense of emptiness after a night of revelry? Don’t we all have some regrets after we indulge in some sort of carnality?

     Even though we may not agree on what goodness is, we all long to be good, for being good makes us truly happy. We may mock the ones who believe in the afterlife and immortality, yet deep inside we seem to envy their childlike innocence and occasionally we even mourn for our inability to believe in Jesus and the message of the cross. Our sophistication is indeed quite suffocating.

     We need to become fools to be wise.

     Here is what I experienced as a young man. I was heading toward death even though I considered myself very much alive. I was pursuing my passion and was leading a life I deemed appropriate at the time, but in reality I was walking on a precipice. What I reckoned to be life was really death. Then there was the invasion from above and what was mortal was completely swallowed up by life. Darkness vanished when the light came and I became a new creation.

     There you go again. The jargon, the cliché, the usual preaching to the choir, and the ready conclusion you have drawn from your Biblical knowledge and personal experience.

     Yes, I hear the mocking, the sneering, and the belittling of my lack of sophistication. It matters very little to me now, since I deem the lifestyle that I have chosen is far more pleasurable than yours and, as far as our future destiny is concerned, we will wait and see what happens. If I am wrong, and I don’t think I am, I lose nothing; but if you are wrong, which I believe you are, you lose everything.

     A pastor, who supposedly had died for ninety minutes and was taken up to heaven during that short period, firmly believed that was his final destination after he came to, but an atheist “minister” who had a similar experience believed it was a mere illusion after she came back to life. “Whatever happens after we die isn’t important,” she said in an interview. The vision might have been the same for both of them, but the interpretations were drastically different.

     Where does your logic lead you?                 

Friday, August 5, 2011 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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