Made Alive 

~~MTS-4512
Made Alive
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.”         Col. 2:13

    Being alive is able to see things in their essence, not merely their appearances. Indeed, what we see is who we are. This isn’t merely a cliché; what we see in things actually reveals what we are inside.
    I continued to see, yet I wasn’t really seeing, for I was actually blinded by the philosophy and custom of this world. And I was greatly puzzled by what I was beholding after I was converted. It was a new world that I had never encountered my entire life.
    It was during this time my personal resurrection took place. In a matter of weeks, I turned into an entirely different person with whom I was yet to get acquainted, and it would take years for me to readjust to my new identity. I guess that is what it meant to be “made alive with Christ.”
    I became truly alive for the very first time in my life, and started to lead the kind of life that was designed to be led.
    I am not speaking about something foreign at all, for such is the collective experience that most Christian have tasted at one point in their lives after their conversion. Whether we are aware of it or not on the conscious level, the so-called born again experience is absolutely essential. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” uttered the Lord Jesus.
    On the other hand, dead people have no idea that they are dead, for death means the unawareness of things. Unless people are exposed to the light, it’s natural for them to deem dense darkness normal and to become rather accustomed to it. Sea creatures obviously have no idea that they are wet.
    Does the newness in Christ ever wear out in our lives?
    It will never wear out or wax old if the newness continues to be renewed and revitalized. So much like a love relationship, which needs to grow for it to remain viable and enjoyable.
    Yes, we are alive in Christ, but being alive is merely a beginning, and the process of growing in Christ and into his likeness is what makes the Christian life so worthwhile, so exhilarating and breathtaking. Indeed, the Christian life is a thing of eternality; it is also an experience of moment by moment. Indeed, the best is yet to come, and what we will see in the future will be something we have never witnessed before.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 9, 2018 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Flesh 

~~MTS-4511
The Flesh
“Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ…”            Col. 2:11
 
    The key to this is to figure out how our flesh always functions over the years and develop a strategy to react against it. To believe in the Lord is to formulate a new habit of doing things so that we don’t always fall back to doing things the old way. This is a lot harder than we realize, for our flesh will not give up her absolute control over us. The Christian walk in essence is revolutionary in so many ways.
    For instance, there are certain sites on the internet we often visit without thinking, and within them we may encounter some things that are unsightly or unbecoming. So concerning this, are we going keep on following our instinct and succumb to the tyranny of our flesh or root out the ungodly ingrained in the fertile soil of our emotion?
    “When will this end?” we ask. This feels so much like an endless journey and there is still a long way to travel the moment we think we have finally arrived. No sooner do we overcome a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle in our spiritual struggle than yet another arises, far greater than the first, and our end turns out to be merely just a beginning.
    “Woe is me,” we often cry out. Will our struggle against our flesh ever end? We wonder.
    Yet there is just so much we can do with our bodies and they are such wonderful instruments which we can utilize to do so much good if they are willing to be obedient to our every command. Our flesh isn’t all bad after all. What’s important is to bring it into complete submission to the intent of the spirit.
    We can start out by cultivating good habits of the heart. If we exercise some godly things consistently, we will be surprised to find out we can actually be obedient to God’s will unaware. So much of leading a holy life is building up daily routines.
    One thing I have determined to do is to utter a word of praise every morning after I get up out of bed, and after doing thus for a while I can’t seem to do otherwise. It has become second nature for me to do so. Another thing is I always pray when I take a walk alone and this has become so natural that I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t do it.
    It’s a constant battle to bring our flesh to submission, which demands our daily attention, yet nothing is as rewarding as our spirit and flesh working in unison in serving and praising the Lord. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 9, 2018 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Circumcision 

~~MTS-4510
Circumcision
“In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.”            Col. 2:11

    Such is the mark in our flesh that reminds us always that something happened in our past that will never be erased. Nothing, absolute nothing we do will alter the fact that we have been circumcised, baptized rather in our cases, into the name of Christ Jesus, and we have been crucified and buried with him.
    In most cases, inner transformation takes place before people are baptized. Even though the two events don’t necessarily occur simultaneously, they nevertheless happen, for both must be included for salvation to materialize, and the mark they leave will remain with us forever.
    It may even be such a gradual thing that we hardly notice when it was transpiring, yet we can surely figure out something significant seemed to be going on when we look in retrospect at the time when our inner transformation was occurring. Isn’t this transformation a circumcision performed by the hands of God?
    Epiphany may be various events that occur in people’s lives, and they are often subjected to human interpretation, and in most cases human subjectivity is involved in them.
    What was happening seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary; it just took place so naturally. It was the second time I spoke to this lady, a visiting researcher from China, who would be heading home within a week, and she appeared to be ready to receive the Lord into her heart. I felt I needed to speak to her for the second time concerning the important matter.
    “Are you sure this is something you would like to do?” I questioned. She was rather indecisive when I spoke to her last Sunday after church.
    “I have thought about it, and I am absolutely sure this is what I intend to do. I have decided to get baptized before I leave,” she said to me, resolutely this time.
    So we both got on our knees and I led her to say a prayer of profession. I have done this so many times and the magic of the moment is yet to lose its appeal. It’s always miraculous, feels so much like an epiphany.
    Her voice started to tremble and crack as we drew near the end in our prayer. She gave me a hug, which was highly unusual for a Chinese woman to do. I suppose she was just so moved and couldn’t but do something that was so out of the ordinary to express her gratitude to the Lord.
    I had very little to do with what was transpiring, for an American lady had been studying the Bible with her for quite a long time, and she should have been the one to reap the harvest. Why does it matter anyway? We should give the Lord all the credit, lest we forget this reality: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.”
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, August 6, 2018 7:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Head 

~~MTS-4509
The Head
“He is the head over every power and authority.”      Col. 2:10

    This is a comforting thought, isn’t it? There is just so much powerlessness in this world and some ruthless people seem to have assumed absolute authority over the common people, causing us to feel utterly desperate and helpless. Indeed, “He is the head over every power and authority,” which reminds us of this verse in the book of Psalms: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.”
    “They will have their days under the sun, but they will have to stand before the judgment seat of God just the same,” I said to my wife, grumbling about what I see and read in the press every day. I am just so thankful that under the current system of our country no one in the government has absolute power over people. They may be able to abuse their power to a certain extent, but not all the way, thankfully.
    It is, however, not my business to judge what others are doing; my primary concern should always be how I relate to the Supreme Power of the universe and how I should submit to him in all things. Knowing how weak we are and how we are so prone to doing the wrong thing, we would fare no better than the ones whom we criticize if we were put in the same position.  
    “Is the Lord the head over us?” This is the question that we ought to address ourselves.
    The exercise of putting the Lord first in our lives is an endless task which we must practice daily, and we may easily slip up the moment we are not on guard. This kind of exercise should always start from the bottom up, which means that we must first learn to do small things right. If we honor the Lord in little things, we will also esteem him in great things. This may sound simple and elementary, yet it’s nonetheless the foundation of all things beautiful and good.
    All good things start from how we rightly relate to those who are closest to us, and we must always treat our loved ones with respect, for the mere fact that they are also bearers of God’s glorious image, worthy of our reverence. We can easily tell whether or not people hold the Lord in the highest respect by the way they treat their family members.
    This is indeed a good start for all of us actually. What I can do to rectify the injustice of our government is rather small and insignificant, for all I have as an individual citizen is merely one vote which can only be exercised occasionally, once every four years even; yet I can in fact make a small difference among the people in my small circle of family and friends by lifting the Lord up in all things. This may actually create a ripple effect that extends far and wide. Surely one man’s obedience to the Lord may make a great difference.
   
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 2, 2018 6:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fullness 

~~MTS-4508
Fullness
“ … and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”           Col. 2:10

    I guess I have grown to be too old to dream any dreams and, if there is still a dream left to dream at all, what will it be? I often wonder.
    There were plenty of excuses to be made in my youth if my life was full of holes, yet by this time I seem to have run out of pretexts to make to apologize for the incompletion and imperfection of my life. There is really very little I can do to fill up the holes in my life if they have not been filled already.
    Many people whom I admire a great deal had already passed away at about my age, Lewis and Eliot included; why should I be any different? And what I have achieved up to this point pales so much compared to what the aforementioned people had done. Indeed, my life has been rather incomplete, and there is just so little time left to make up the difference.
    What else can I still do to make my life fuller as I am rapidly approaching my retirement age? I am wondering.
    I was surprised to see that there was gap of one month before I posted my devotional. How did it happen? I was greatly puzzled, for it had never happened before. There was only one constant in the previous fifteen years or so that I seldom failed to post my daily devotionals. Am I quitting? I ask. Will my life even be complete without me “writing through” the entire Bible?
    One thing that I am pretty sure of at this point in time is that I may not have sufficient time to finish what I have started and, if this turns out to be the case, will my life still be fulfilled?
    The apostle Paul might have been convicted that he should end his earthly ministry in Spain, yet there is no definite answer whether he made it there or not. If this particular wish wasn’t fulfilled, was his life fully fulfilled just the same?
    Whether we are fulfilled or not, a person’s life shouldn’t be determined by what we do but by who we are. We can only be completed “in Christ” really, for “in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Therefore, my main focus should always be on whether I am in Christ or not, not on what I can do to bring about my fulfilment as a person.
    Will I be able to finish the mission the Lord called me to do years ago? This is the question I am wrestling with constantly, and it seems to become increasingly difficult to compose, yet I will continue to dwell in him, and what I may produce in writing will be the direct result of my relationship with Christ, and my fullness as a person will ultimately be the fullness in him. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 31, 2018 8:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Bodily Form 

~~MTS-4507
Bodily Form
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,”       Col. 2:9

    What we see in Christ does make the greatest difference in our lives. There is absolutely no doubt when I consider the life of Christ and how he was radically different from all of us. What else could he be except what he claimed to be - the Son of God?
    “We really have no other option,” I said to a visiting researcher who was seriously thinking about believing in Jesus. Unfortunately, her time is running out, for she will be going home in a couple of weeks. It’s really a now or never kind of thing, humanly speaking.
    “Either Jesus was what he claimed to be or he was the greatest imposter in human history,” I continued. “If he turns out to be genuine, we really have no other choice but to follow him.”
    The lady became teary a few times during our lengthy conversation after church, and every time it happened I looked away. I have always had trouble dealing with women’s tears. The Holy Spirit evidently was knocking at the door of her heart, yet she wasn’t about to open it.
    “I am a Party member and it will surely make things very complicated after I return to China,” she said with a sigh. The issues she will be encountering are unavoidable if she does decide to put her trust in Christ. I had no idea what to tell her to do at this juncture and the conversation ended without her making any definite decision.
    I prayed afterward that the Holy Spirit would reveal to her who Jesus really is, for unless she has a glimpse of Jesus’ deity, making a choice to follow the Lord would become almost impossible.
    “What can the lady do?” I ask. The persecution she will be facing in the future is far too real to her if she believes and gets baptized, and she won’t be able to overcome the fear unless the appearance becomes absolutely real and transparent in her eyes. There is very little I can do at this moment but to continue to pray for her.
    “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Isn’t this the key thing for anyone to know to follow Christ? Yet isn’t this too much to ask someone to do who only recently heard about Christ? Isn’t this something we sometimes have difficulty believing, even though we have known the Lord for so many long years?
    I was actually tempted to apply a little pressure on her to utter a profession of faith, yet I thought better of it, for the timing might not have been right, and it really isn’t my job to take on the task that rightly belongs to the Holy Spirit.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 30, 2018 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Deception 

~~MTS-4506
Deception
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition…”     Col. 2:8

    There is just so much self-deception going on in the composing process that I can no longer write with a clear conscience. Is there still anything left worth speaking that I haven’t already spoken before, I ask myself.
    “Lord, isn’t this enough? I have written so much and anything more is mere superfluous,” I uttered to the Lord as I was walking to Starbucks this morning. I have never ceased speaking and anything I say will be repetition of my utter ignorance.
    Then a thought came into my mind that does make a lot of sense, and it seemed to be a perfect response to my puzzling question: “The sacrificial lamb placed on the altar seemed to have remained the same year after year, and the offering the Israelites offered the Lord appeared to lack severely originality.”
    It’s my arrogance and pride that stand in the way of my moving forward in this meager enterprise, really, for I have always wanted to impress the Lord with what I have to offer - something original and new.
    Indeed, “there is no new thing under the sun,” and all things beautiful are mere duplicates of something that graced the earth before. The creation of the world, performed by the Almighty, is the only original act, and we are merely copying what has been done before.
    Is there anything new to know about the difference between good and evil? Not at all, yet it seemed to be such an enticement that Eve and Adam could hardly resist. The evil one has been doing it from the very beginning and those who follow hard after him are doing exactly the same thing, which amounts to nothing but fantasy and human deception.
    “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition…” We must heed Paul’s warning and be very vigilant, guarding ourselves from straying away from the eternal truth uttered from the mouth of God and recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
    Therefore, I will continue to observe the seasonal rituals by offering to the Lord the same sacrifices of lambs and goats, figs and grapes, and all that my meager talent can ever afford. Offering to the Lord a small coin is far better than not to offer at all, for it is not out of his need the Lord demands us to give, it’s rather out of his love for us that he even allows us to offer to him our paltry gifts.
    How many varieties of our gifts of thanksgivings can there be, I ask myself. Not all that many, really.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 26, 2018 6:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

rooted and Build 

~~MTS-4505
Rooted and Build
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him…”             Col. 2:6
    To live our lives is to have our lives decentralized and dislocated, when we are no longer the masters of our souls anymore, and our beings are uprooted, dislocated, and placed elsewhere.
    This is a revolutionary change, isn’t it?
    I have never been much of a thoughtful or a calculating person before I was converted to Christianity, and I primarily led my life by instinct, and often took the route of the least resistance. That was just me as a pagan.
   Did coming to the Lord make any meaningful change in my life? Surely it must have. Yet the Lord seems to have been working with me more on the level of feeling and emotion than the rational. The Master knew quite well how best to get things done in me and steered my life toward the right and desirable direction.
    Eventually, I had to learn to root my life on the Word of God and continue to build upon the solid foundation of the eternal truth. My emotions and powerful feelings were rather unreliable and was leading me nowhere. Upon this shaky foundation nothing could have been built.
    What’s more challenging than anything else is not to blindly follow my emotions and feelings and do what comes natural to me, but to will myself to do what’s right and true, which has proven to be much more daunting that I had ever imagined. I have found myself wanting to follow my emotions more than anything else as far as my decision making is concerned. Consequently, my spiritual growth has been rather stagnant and painfully slow. Our lives must first be rooted in Christ and his holy Word before we expect it to grow.
    I was quite ill before I followed my reason to seek medical help, even though my feelings and emotions continued to wage war against my better judgment. The truth of my health condition couldn’t have been altered no matter how hard I tried to fool myself. My feelings were leading me nowhere and unless I started to do the right thing, things would have become worse and worse until they became irredeemable.
    I suppose that was what the Lord was trying to teach us when he told the parable about erecting our house on the solid foundation of the rock. For sure the reason behind my lack of spiritual progress lies squarely on my insistence of doing thing based on my feelings, and resistance to do things according to the unchanging truth.
    At my age, I am not so sure that there is still sufficient time for me to make a drastic transformation concerning the issue at hand. If not, what choice is still available except to continue to trust the Lord and believe his grace is adequate for me, despite my innate character flaws.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 25, 2018 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Present with You 

~~MTS-4504
Present with you
“…I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”             Col. 2:5

    The Apostle was always on the move and never stayed in one place for a very long time, yet he seemed to be rather “omnipresent” as far as his spirit was concerned. No matter where he was, his constant care and thoughts were for God’s church everywhere, and his parish appeared to cover the entirety of Asia Minor and the far corner of Europe. After a church had been planted through his tireless labor, his heart would never depart from there ever though he might have left the church physically. He truly loved God’s church and his affection for God’s people was undeniable.
    Paul appeared to have possessed a pastoral heart that I have found wanting in myself throughout the years. In fact, I am actually rather ashamed to be called “pastor.” I am no shepherd to the flock in the small congregation I have been pastoring for the past twenty-five years. One thing that puzzles me a great deal has always been why in the world God hasn’t removed me from the position.
    As a matter of fact, I am about to remove myself from the post. Well, the Lord is removing me in a couple of months to be more exact. Yet twenty-five years is simply far too long to be wasted on my own negligence and lack of motivation. There hasn’t been a single day during this period that I ever felt that I was doing my job to the best of my ability. I have been serving more like a hired man than a faithful servant of God.
    Indeed, Paul’s every word only serves as a reminder of how short I have fallen as a minister of the gospel and how unfaithful I have been. There is no more opportunity to redeem myself since I will be retiring, and what has been composed by my own hand will never be erased. The ship has already sailed.
    “I will soon be a retired pastor, but I will never tell when I am asked,” I said to my wife.
    “What will you tell people, then,” she became curious.
    “Well, I will just tell people that I used to teach a little, write a little, and preach a little. That’s all.” Surely my life can be summed up perfectly with this word, just a little bit. I have led my life on such a small scale that there will be nothing to show when I appear before the throne. I am merely a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and it doesn’t amount to anything at all.
    The only comfort that I will still have, ultimately, is the Lord Jesus and his precious blood, and his amazing grace that says all my deficiencies and shortcomings, all my imperfection and my sins, have all been forgotten and forgiven. Isn’t this quite enough?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 24, 2018 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fine-sounding Argument  

~~MTS-4503
Fine-sounding Argument
“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”
                                         Col. 2:4

    Making small talk has never been my kind of thing and it bores me rather quickly. One thing that I enjoy doing the most even in casual conversation is to develop some sort of argument. I am by no means argumentative; what I like to do is to engage in meaningful dialog.
    Besides some practical functions, words should always be employed to explore meaning. Surely meaningless chatter is merely a waste of time, for it achieves no purpose except to occupy space and crowd out important things from our minds.
    Meaningful conversations don’t just happen; they must be created intentionally. If we just go with the flow, our dialog will inevitably go toward the direction of least resistance, which is composed mostly of mindless talk.
    We must turn to Christ for the meaning of all things, since in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Life is not a journey to search for a final destination and a sort of on-the-job training in which we make out the meaning of things as we travel; it’s rather a passage toward a goal that has already been predetermined. We aren’t seeking for an undetermined destination; we are merely journeying toward home.
    Haven’t we all done the same thing before in our formative years when we were so idealistic and life seemed to be full of promises and we were so optimistic that we could easily carve a path that led to eternity? How many fine-sounding arguments have we formulated thus far and will continue to do so until the end? I ask.
    Indeed, I have experienced them all: I have sat in the hallowed halls of a university, listening to great lectures delivered by renowned scholars and famous poets, and they might all be finely-crafted and well-argued, yet in essence they were bellowed out, full of wind, for they consisted of only knowledge generated by human invention, and there was absolutely nothing left if investigated from eternity’s perspective. They were merely words void of meaning. Yes, I have attempted to create meaning of things with poetic diction and ended trashing them all, for they embarrassed the poet himself at the second reading, and further revisions became impossible, because upon the fancy structures of words no solid foundation was found. Indeed, the emperor had no clothes.
    It frightens me toward the end of my earthly ministry that the Lord seems to be handing back to me my long forsaken self and I find myself seeking meaning and exploring reality with words, and I seem to be experiencing a sense of aimless wandering, rather similar to what I have experienced before.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 19, 2018 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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