Mystery 

~~MTS-4502
Mystery
“…in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”          Col. 2:2

    To know Christ is to know God himself, which in and of itself is a mystery beyond measure. What a thrilling experience to know and to experience the reality of “Christ in me”, yet this is something often taken for granted, as if it were merely a commonplace kind of thing.
    What we know about Christ, compared to what we ought to know about him, will be an eternity’s endeavor for us to gain, and the process will be endless. What’s euphoric about this is the more we come to know him, the more we will love him. Indeed, when knowledge about him increases, love will increase as well.
    Even so, we will become so much wiser in worldly affairs if we seek to know Christ more deeply every day, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
    We are all eager to become worldly wise and may be striving to gain new knowledge to keep up with the rapid pace of progress the world is making, yet “all neglect monuments of unageing intellect.”
    Come to think of it, the college I attended wasn’t even accredited by the Taiwanese government, yet Bible was a vital part of the core classes students had to take. Therefore, this fact alone might have made the student body of the college the wisest among all the students on the island. I might not have been overly impressed by the academics while I was there, yet I am grateful that the school at the least did one thing right, which made the study of God’s Word am absolute requirement.
    There is one thing that I have learned through the reading of the Scriptures, which is an important lesson of humility. We can’t help but to become utterly humble when we have an encounter with an infinite God, and we have no choice but to bow down to him in worship and adoration. Indeed, Eliot was exactly right when he uttered in his poem “humility is endless.”
    There is no other way to become truly wise except through the study and meditation of God’s Word, and the older I get, the better I know this to be true. All the knowledge that I have gained in the process of acquiring an education doesn’t seem to do me any good in times of crisis, and it will vanish with the vanquishing of my physical body; yet spiritual knowledge that I gained through God’s word will still remain, and it will remain until eternity.
    Our spiritual wisdom and knowledge of the almighty God is the only bridge that will bridge the gap between the vast chasm of time and eternity. 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 17, 2018 7:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Contend 

~~MTS-4501
To Contend
“I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.”      Col. 2:1

    After I had decided to retire from church ministry that has lasted close to twenty-five years, I suddenly came to realize that I didn’t change a bit as a person. I remain who and what I was and will be. The things I have been doing to serve the Lord, and to earn a living at the same time, do not define me as a person in any way. Even though I will lose my job as a minister of the gospel, I will nonetheless continue to keep my identity as a servant of God.
    I won’t be preaching every Sunday anymore, so it will be strange for me to be sitting in a pew, listening to spiritual nourishment from other people. I have no idea how I will handle such a thing, since I have never been a good listener. Strange to say, listening is a far more daunting task for me than speaking. Yet it’s an important lesson I will have to learn.
    “Will you continue to help if we cannot find a pastor in due time?” someone asked.
    “Most likely not,” I replied. I guess it will take further self-scrutiny to find out the real reason behind my decision. I am sure my not wanting to continue to speak from the pulpit might be caused by the lack of positive response or feedback from the pews over the years. “It’s rather vindictive, really,” I said to my wife, feeling a little uneasy. Perhaps I was hoping the church would finally come to her senses and start to realize how much they have lost in my leaving. Isn’t my decision to retire a form of revenge, a sort of protest against whatever was opposing me within the church, real or imagined?
    If this is truly reality, I may have to reevaluate my position.
    “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” Have I given up “contending for” the congregation I have come to know and love for so many years? Indeed, people have taken the news of my impending departure with resignation, indifference, sadness, or other sorts of emotion, yet the fact still remains: the decision I made feels so much like desertion, as if I have given up the fight for the Lord, and for the people whom I was serving.
    Even so, what will take place is inevitable, for I have often thought no one in God’s church is indispensable or irreplaceable. My position will soon be replaced by someone far more capable and I will quickly be forgotten. What really matters to me is that I remain to be what I was and will be - a servant of God. My office title may be stripped away, yet my servanthood still remains. We should never be defined by our job titles; we are what we have been called to be.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 16, 2018 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fully Mature 

~~MTS-4500
Fully Mature
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  Col. 1:28

    This is as mature as I am going to be, since at my advanced age, I will probably not be doing a lot of growing.
    I have already reached my ceiling, haven’t I? I have never been all that ambitious as far as my career and academic pursuits. Of course, I seem to have reached my limits on both. I am quickly approaching my retirement and have pretty much quit reading books. Old age is rather depressing in general, and I seem to spend most of my days musing about superfluous things and becoming anxious about the inevitable.
    This isn’t maturity at all; it’s digression if anything. If aging is this boring and monotonous, I have no idea what eternity is going to be like. Indeed, longevity is what we crave, yet there was a one hundred and four-year-old Austrian scientist, evidently tired of being old, who flew to Switzerland not long ago to end his life legally. If this life becomes intolerable, there is at least a way out; yet there is no such choice in eternity. Isn’t annihilation a far better option than having eternal life?
    Life simply becomes unbearable and void of joy if we cease to grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus. I think this is the issue I am encountering. What makes life exciting and exhilarating is the fact that we are still growing into something and we continue to have something to look forward to in the future. What do elderly people have remaining in their lives to be looked forward to except the end of their earthly journey? Indeed, life is not worth living if growing isn’t a part of it.
    I suppose that’s what makes retirement so very depressing. Indeed, there are a lot of retirees nowadays who do nothing everyday but stare blankly at the TV screen between their waking and sleeping. They seem to spend a lot of time waiting, yet having no earthly idea what they are expecting.
    Did the Apostle Paul ever complain about being old and having nothing to do? What’s amazing is he seemed to be busily doing something while he was sitting in a damp and dark dungeon, waiting to be executed. In the last letter he wrote to Timothy he was reminding his spiritual son to bring the parchment to him so that he could continue to study and to grow into full maturity in Christ Jesus. He wrote: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”
    If I cease to grow into the full maturity in Christ here on earth, will I still find it exciting to grow spiritually after I enter into eternity?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 13, 2018 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Christ in You 

~~
MTS-4499

Christ in You

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

    The people we think about constantly are the ones who dwell within our hearts. They are the most beloved of our lives and apart from them our lives will be void of excitement and joy.

    We can count them on our fingers for the number within the inner circle is rather small, and we feel pain when one happens to be missing. What makes life so much more joyful and meaningful are the few loved ones and friends by whom we are always surrounded.

    We can’t help but keep on counting the days before the red letter day when we will be reunited with our loved ones or the how long before our husbands or wives return from their business trips or vacation. Indeed, we all have a few special people whom we consider persons closest to our hearts.

    I suppose by this time you should know the point I am driving toward. How often during a given day does the thought of Christ enter into your mind? Are you keenly aware of his presence when you are busily engaged in various activities at home or in the office? This will not occur if Christ is not your beloved or and he is not in you.

    This is, according to Paul, “the riches of this mystery, which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Isn’t this the time to ponder on this important truth and, if this isn’t the reality in your life, should you do something about it?

    When my parents were growing older, I used to dread getting phone calls from them, for there was always a chance that I would hear some bad news. Sad to say, my love for them had long turned into obligation and they seemed to have turned into some sort of liability. The reason why I am saying this is it appeared that my love for them was waxing cold and there wasn’t much joy when they happened to come into my mind. This is obviously one of my greatest regrets concerning the way I treated my parents, and the same result may occur if I treat the Lord the same way. Our relationship with the Lord should always be based on mercy, not law, so there is always affection and joy when we think about the Lord, not what he requires from us. Therefore, “Christ in us” will become a thing of beauty and joy, not a sense of obligation and bondage.

    There is always joy and loveliness when we think about the ones we dearly love, why does it have to be different when the thought of the Lord surfaces in our minds?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 12, 2018 8:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

This Mystery 

~~MTS-4498
This Mystery
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

     This was something the Jewish mind could never fathom. They believed salvation was reserved for the chosen people of God, Gentiles were second class citizens, and were by no means worthy to receive God’s favor.
    “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This doesn’t seem to be all that mysterious to us, yet it was unthinkable to all the Jews, Paul included. In fact, what’s mysterious to us is that the whole “household” of the Jews will be saved at the end time, which Paul alludes to in Romans. This is rather improbable to us, since there have been so few Jews who have come to the Lord throughout church history, except during its initial stage, of history of course.
    What the Lord was determined to do among the Gentiles was mysterious to the apostle Paul and he could hardly believe what he was witnessing at the time. We must realize that Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles not by choice, but by necessity, by force even, for his main concern was his own people. So the first place he visited in a city during his missionary journey was always the synagogue where the Jews gathered together to worship on the Sabbath. Paul was caught by surprise when a large number of Gentiles started to embrace the Christin faith and he was greatly mystified by it.
    He could only conclude the miraculous phenomenon was from the Lord and it wasn’t through human will that things were turning out this way. Paul knew who he was and by no means were people drawn to the Lord because of his personal effort or charm; it was entirely from the Lord, and whatever came from the hand of the Lord is mysterious to mere humans.
    Aren’t we all Gentiles who by nature are hostile to God and have absolutely no desire to know the Lord? Had it been through our own volition, would we not have preferred to stay away from Jesus of Nazareth as far as we possibly could? Yet look at who and what we are now. Do we all feel exactly the same way as Paul when he wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am?” Isn’t this rather mysterious to you?
    Why did I turn out to be so vastly different from my sisters and brother, and all the people from the little village where I was raised? This mystery can never be understood from a human point of view, and if the Almighty wasn’t involved in it, we can only attribute it to the luck of the draw just like all other things that have ever occurred in the world - capricious and meaningless. A world void of mystery is rather sterile and cold.
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 11, 2018 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Mystery 

~~MTS-4497
The Mystery
“ …the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.”                Col. 1:26

    Salvation is a “collective mystery” that took place in human history, and it will not become real to us unless we experience it individually. The “collective mystery” must be transformed into “individual mystery” through our personal experiences.
    Faith loses its meaning if it’s reckoned merely as a collective noun. When Emperor Constantine established Christianity as a national religion, the essence of the Christian faith started to deteriorate instantly. The quantity of the Christian church mighty has been greatly increased, the quality inevitably decreased. The Christian faith was demystified after it turned into a collective faith.
    Indeed, the mystery that has been kept hidden is now disclosed among God’s people and it has become accessible to God’s people everywhere.
    Isn’t it a walking miracle that our lives have been transformed through the preaching of the gospel? If you consider this transformation anything other than a miracle, you might not have experienced the awesomeness of the miracle at all. The mysterious element is taken away when the miraculous event is taken as commonplace, an occurrence void of unique significance.
    Indeed, Christianity has been demystified in the age of evangelism when getting saved is reduced to simply uttering a prayer, professing Jesus is the Lord and accepting Him as a Savior. There is very little mystery involved in this process, is there? Even the act of receiving the ritual of baptism has become so sterile that people may hardly feel anything at all. 
    Something invisible must have taken place when people are visibly transformed before our very eyes. Indeed, there is no realm of reason for me to have instantly turned into a new person, as if my twenty-three years of life experiences had lost their impact and grip on me. How mysterious and spectacular was that! Within a period of a few months, I seemed to have turned the collective mystery of Christianity into a personal one; therefore, there was left no doubt in my mind from then on that I was a person born from above, which is, in and of itself, a great mystery.
    It has been a rather humbling journey since I became a Christian, for there is no other choice for me but to continue to embrace the mysterious element of my faith, and humbly accept the reality that faith does have its reasons that the mind can never comprehend.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 10, 2018 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Word of God 

~~MTS-4496
Word of God
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”        Col. 1:25

    I have been preaching through the book of John, and I have found the message rather repetitive and I am often tempted to skip some of the passages to get to the “meat” that I feel more comfortable preaching. After serving in the same small congregation for almost twenty-five years, being repetitive is something I have been trying to avoid, albeit rather unsuccessfully.
    Being a creative writer by nature, I have often tried to bring some sort of original idea into my preaching, which is superfluous to say the least. Indeed, “there is no new thing under the sun,” and the only one who has anything original to utter is God himself. Who and what do I consider I am, to have the audacity to venture into the territory of true originality?
    “Things may not be all that black and white,” someone said to me. “How can the word of God be that black and white?” he added.
    “What choice do we have, then?” I asked. “Chop the word of God to pieces so we can pick and choose what and what not to believe?”
    Where do we turn except to the inspired word of God? I question. There are obviously questions and doubts that creep into our minds when we read the Scriptures, yet do we question our lack of intellect and knowledge or lay all the blame on the Lord who authored the book?
    We are not omniscient by any stretch of the imagination, but we may occasionally be tempted to consider ourselves to be so. We may even believe that we have earned the right to judge what constitutes the word of God and are free to discredit what the Lord has uttered through various people and events.
    My math ability is rather limited and I still haven’t advanced beyond the fourth grade level; therefore, it’s pretty ludicrous for me to try to dispute the truthfulness of any time-proven mathematical equations. The truth remains forever truthful no matter how we perceive it.
    “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”
    What message do I have but the message of God, and where do I turn to find the message of God but to the Bible? Why do people get tired of reading or listening to God’s voice except for the fact that their hearts have turned cold and stony hard? I guess I will continue to repeat myself as long as my message sticks to the inspired word of the Lord.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 9, 2018 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Commission 

~~MTS-4495
The Commission
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”           Col. 1:25

    This was what I was commissioned to do when I was called into the church ministry, and I have been doing this for the last twenty-five years. Will the commission ever become obsolete or invalid?
    I have been thinking about this for the last year or so, and am still pondering about the issue. In fact, the decision has already been made, I am merely waiting for the approval from the Lord, and the indication of being approved that I am seeking is inner peace, indicating that I have made the right choice.
    Retirement isn’t even a Biblical concept, I thought. I can’t imagine the thought ever entered Paul’s mind for, despite his advanced age, he continued to seek new fields to spread the gospel. He was speaking about going to Spain, which might have been rather foreign to him both culturally and linguistically.
    To the apostles and other servants of old, retirement from preaching the gospel only meant one thing - the end of their earthly journey, which isn’t really something I have in mind at this point.
    Surely retirement from church ministry is by no means cessation from preaching the gospel. Besides, I have become stale and worn out, staying in one place for such a long time, and I might have outstayed my welcome.
    “The church does need injection of some new blood. They need young people to minister to young students,” I mentioned to Kathy. I do feel more and more justified to retire at this time.
    There was nonetheless a sense of sadness and loss after the decision had been made, as if the Lord was about to replace me with someone else, someone more suitable and capable for the young generation.
    “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”
    The commission will remain steady and unchanged when the retirement becomes a reality, for to me the commission has long become a personal identity, which can never be violated, and to turn away from it is akin to nothing but self-betrayal.
    If this is really so, retirement is a mere misnomer, because it’s really a recharge of inner batteries, preparing ourselves for a new challenge. I guess I will soon be recharged. I guess I will thus include the word “rechargement” in my aging dictionary.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, June 7, 2018 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Suffering 

~~MTS-4494
Suffering
“…and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”           Col. 1:24

    As if Christ’s suffering was not quite enough, Paul had to fill up what was still lacking by his own suffering in the flesh. This is rather puzzling, isn’t it? If that were so, does it mean that we must do the same thing as the apostle once did, which was to suffer afflictions for Christ’s sake?
    Wasn’t the suffering of Christ on the cross all sufficient and nothing more was needed to be done to secure salvation for people then and now, and the ones who are to come? Did Christ really mean it was finished when he uttered with his last breath from the cross, “It is finished.”
    The mighty work of salvation was indeed finished some two thousand years ago, yet our suffering on Christ’s behalf isn’t finished, and it will never be finished until the day Christ returns.
    Why hasn’t the suffering ended, then? We may be asking. The answer to this is rather simple: Until the glorious day when we are delivered from this sinful flesh and from the world torn up by sin, we will continue to suffer afflictions of all sorts, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Isn’t this what we are experiencing at the present time?
    What we can hope for at best is to have a longer respite between our afflictions so that we can store up enough physical and emotional energy to endure pain when it arrives, and sufficient spiritual strength to overcome the inner weariness and dryness that usually come along with sorrow and suffering.
    In a small congregation such as ours, some of our members seem to have experienced enough suffering to “fill up” what was lacking in regard to Christ’s suffering. God’s people continue to suffer pain even after they have been redeemed, for they haven’t been completely saved. The Lord saved us from the dominance and damnation of sin, yet we are yet to be saved from our flesh and the tyranny of the world. We have been saved, yet continue to be saved, and it does looks like Christ’s redemption is yet to be finished, doesn’t it?
    I hate to be pessimistic and be a bearer of bad news, but suffering is inevitable and affliction will fall our way sooner or later but, as days go by and years pass, the gap between Christ’s suffering and our affliction will ultimately be filled up and suffering will be no more.
    
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, June 6, 2018 7:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Servant 

~~MTS-4493
A Servant
“This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”    Col. 1:23
     It’s not a requirement that servants should serve their master willingly, for to serve is an obligation and services must be done whether they are willing to do it or not.
    Being duty-bound may be an important indication of one’s spirituality. This is probably one of the main differences between my wife and me as far as our spirituality is concerned. I tend to do things only when I feel like it, which doesn’t happen all that often; yet Kathy does what needs to be done whether she feels inclined to do them or not. When obligation calls, she always answers, which is not always the case with me.
    Which one of the two is the true servant of the Lord? I think the answer to this is rather simple.
    I seemed to be more willing to answer to the call of duty when I was a teenager working in a chicken farm than what I am as a minister of the gospel. I guess my job was on the line and I had to do what was required of me to survive. Therefore, for a little less than a year I continued to do the meaningless and mean chores on the farm day and night. Considering the importance and significance of my employment at the moment, why can’t I do the same things as when I was a small farmhand?
    The difference is rather simple, really. I was working under an authority who had the right to fire me on the spot then, so I had no option but to work hard. Yet being a minister in a single staff church, I serve more like a lone ranger than anything else. Indeed, I could have done a lot more than I have been doing for years, and I believe I will be held accountable before the judgment throne someday. Isn’t this one of the reasons why I am so eager to retire from church ministry? I simply have not measured up to the calling to which I have been called, and to retire from it appears to be the right decision.
    One thing that I do quite well is I have seldom pretended to be what I am not, and what I have written is by no means self-denigration at all; I am merely telling the truth.
    By the same token, the apostle was also telling the truth, for he was a duty-bound person who had an impeccable sense of integrity and he would do what he was called to do “in season of out of season.” When he seemed to have run out of places to preach, he decided to take the gospel to Spain; yet I decided to retire when I became too lazy to take the gospel to the unbelievers nearby. I suppose this is the difference between a true servant of God and a hired hand.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, June 5, 2018 8:01:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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