Likeness 

~~MTS-4130
Likeness
“…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”      Eph 4:24
     Do I want my children grow up to be like me? Not in a million years! I would have to be terribly narcissistic to even want my children to grow up like me; in fact, I want them to be the opposite of me. The less they grow up to be like me the better, for I have never been that fond of myself. For them to grow up to be like their father is more an insult than anything else. There is one way, one and only way, however, I want them to be like me - to become beloved children of God through new birth by the Holy Spirit. This is the one and only thing that I desire the most for them and all the rest is just bonus.
    I pray that my three children and I are all working hard on one thing - to grow into the likeness of Jesus. I will be thrilled beyond belief if this is truly the case. I am tickled to death for all their successes and am always anxious to share with others the accolades they have earned, yet deep inside I am very aware that only one is absolute necessary - to love God and to be more like Jesus. 
    What thrills my soul more than anything else when I look at myself? I see the growth of the Lord Jesus in me. What disappoints me the most when I consider my life? When I behold the overwhelming darkness cast by my sins within my heart. I rejoice when I see the Lord within; I am saddened when I see myself occupying the throne of my life and soul.
    I want to be more like Jesus, but this passion is yet to become my constant occupation. I don’t seem to want it badly enough to work hard on it. Is this merely some sort of lip service I am paying to the Almighty and being left alone by God is what I truly desire? Yeah, the idea and thought is good, enticing even, yet we are the worst procrastinators as far as figuring out a way to turn our dream into reality; therefore we pretty much remain who we have always been. I am terrified at the thought that I will be what I have always been when I die. 
    May the rest of my earthly life become the best days of all my years. This has been my prayer and resolution for a while now, yet the fruit of my labor, my wish really, is yet to be seen.
    “…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The Lord knows this is all I want to be and ever wanted to be, and even more so, this is what I want my entire family to be. What else in the whole world can be more beautiful and glorious than to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness and holiness? What brings our hearts more joy and a sense of well-being than to be like Jesus in all his loveliness? Nothing at all.
    May this become my daily prayer and labor: that I will continue to strive to become more like Jesus both in my desire and my action, and the person I am today will be slightly different from the one I was yesterday and the one I will become tomorrow will be a better version than the person today.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, January 27, 2016 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

New Self 

~~MTS-4128
New Self
“…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self…”              Eph 4:23
     What I have been identifying to be me as a person might not be the real me after all; it might have been a desirable image most people were wearing to which I thought I had to conform to be accepted by society. It was something cool to be, I suppose. 
    What’s cool in people’s eyes may not be all that cool in God’s perception. We claim to be Christians, yet our viewpoint toward our religion may be pretty far off from God’s ideal. Surely our inner self must be renewed daily to bring it into conformity with the image of God.
    We are trapped within ourselves in many ways and have been programmed to think and act a certain way, and it would take m monumental effort to constantly escape from ourselves and run toward Christ. Even so, we must make a daily effort to escape from ourselves and return to who and what we are supposed to be, which is the image of Christ in which we have been created.
    “Your closet doesn’t smell too good,” Kathy has said to me more than one time.
    “It smells fine to me,” I replied, thinking she was just being too picky, and I was offended a little bit because I took it as a remark on my personal hygiene. But feeling a bit uneasy, I went and took a deep breath from inside the closet and it proved Kathy was right. What was the issue? I asked myself.
    “Don’t put the clothes you have worn back in the closet,” my wife told me more than once, yet I ignored her every time, which is the reason why my closet stinks, and I hate to admit, I probably don’t small too good either.
    Indeed, we put on our new self once when we were converted and our inner self was transformed once and for all, yet we may still be wearing the same old clothes unaware and continuing to act and think based on the principle and philosophy of our old selves.
    Putting on Christ every day should always be a conscious act and when we start to do that we will begin to smell like Christians. We certainly have been transformed inwardly yet we must keep on being transformed by putting on Christ and taking off our old selves. Christ will remain forever new within our hearts, yet we will continue to grow old because of our sins unless we are renewed daily by putting on Christ. 
    I put my shirts back into the closet thinking I had just worn them for a few hours and they should still be clean, not realizing they were contaminated by my sweat, even if I just worn them for a short time. That’s what sin does to us, really, and we will smell rather bad unless we take off the old and put on the new every day.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 26, 2016 5:01:00 PM Categories: Devotional

Old Self 

~~MTS-4127
Old Self
“…with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”          Eph 4:26
     How are we corrupted? We may wonder. We are “corrupted by our deceitful desires,” we read in this verse.
    Surely Eve had all things that she ever wanted and needed, yet there was one thing the Lord seemed to have kept away from her - the fruit of knowledge; as a result, what was kept from her became her preoccupation, something that consumed her being and robbed her of her peace and joy without which her life wouldn’t have been completed.
    No matter how much we possess in life, whatever we fail to obtain will forever remain the most precious and desirable, and we believe that’s exactly the elusive thing with which the void of our lives can be filled. Indeed, we often murmur to ourselves: “If only I could have such and such I would be completely satisfied.”
    There is no other way to put off our old selves unless we first get rid of the deceitful desires we once had, the things that dominated our every thought and action. What we have often witnessed among Christians is they continue to hold onto the same desires as those that non-believers have and keep on searching for the same thing they did before, even after they come to the Lord.
    What were the desires that directed my actions as a young man before I was converted, I try to recall. In order to forsake them I need to know what they are. Individual desires are mostly derived from collective ones and it’s obvious that people’s desires and wants for life are quite similar. We are all desirous to become successful in life and what constitutes success are fortune and fame. I guess those were the very things I was seeking for as well. Being a man with high ideal, I might have considered myself above such desires, yet deep inside those things were what I was burning to possess within my heart. I longed to become rich and famous and was gradually being corrupted by pursuing those things through various means, whether legitimate or illegitimate, justifiable or unjustifiable.  Shall I continue to hold onto those desires? By no means.
    In order to become pure before the Lord, my desires need to be purified first. Indeed, I need to die to my old self in order to put on a new self. There will be no space for Christ if my heart is jammed with all the junk I have been accumulating and the new toys I am so desirous to collect. 
    Thirty some years have elapsed since the day I embraced the Lord and I need to take an inventory of what I truly desire to possess at this point in my life to see whether I have been thoroughly transformed or not. Surely this is what we need to do from time to time, lest we again become entrapped by the corruption that once poisoned and polluted our lives. Unless we know who we truly are inwardly, we will have no idea what area to improve in as Christians. We simply can’t afford to go through the motions every day as if all manner of things with us are well and will continue to be well.
    
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 26, 2016 5:00:00 PM Categories: Devotional

Way of Life 

~~MTS-4126
Way of Life
“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”   Eph 4:21
     We might have made attempts to combine the new with the old after we made a decision to receive Christ into our life, thinking it might be possible for us to keep our old way of thinking and doing things and, in the meantime, practicing the new way of life was well. Therefore, we turned into strange creatures who were neither this nor that, “tweeners” who were at odds with all things and were recognized by none and mocked by all.
    We evidently are not the only ones who have tried to do that. The Lord told his disciples: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” I often wonder what the mixed wine would taste like. Could they have made a completely new kind of wine by mixing the new and the old? It might have become something like what is described in the book of Revelation: “Because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Some nameless thing that was completely out of the ordinary.
    What are so-called “nominal Christians?” Are they Christians who are yet to become mature or are they simply not Christians? This is indeed a strange phenomenon that we encounter everywhere we turn in America. Through the evangelistic movement of the twentieth century, we may have produced a lot of such creatures, which is rather unfortunate. Many people, who by the Biblical definition are not Christians, seem to reckon that they are, and have developed a false sense of security that they are saved, even though their life style and world and life view indicate clearly that they are not.
    What kind of “way of life” did we learn when we first heard about Christ and the gospel, and what kind of things were we instructed in when we were brought into the church? Were we even taught at all, come to think of it?
    When it was time for me to get baptized, I dropped by a Methodist church to request the sacrament and I was instantly baptized without any questions asked or an interview done. I vanished from the church as soon as the ritual was done, and heard nothing from the church after that. Obviously it was of very little concern whether I was truly saved or not; and as far as they were concerned, I became a Christian after I received the baptism.
    Four people received baptism at our church during the Christmas season, yet two were missing from the church service the following week, which was disappointing. I am determined to track them down and start to teach them the Christian way of life and I pray they will start to walk on it. What I fear the most is that I will become part of the problem of the modern evangelistic movement by creating more nominal Christians who merely talk the talk, yet fail to walk the walk.  
 
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 19, 2016 7:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Indulgence 

~~MTS-4125
Indulgence
“Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”    Eph. 4:19
     “My New Year resolution is,” I told the congregation during my sermon on the first Sunday of the year, “to not make a resolution only once a year, but to make one every day.” I guess by making one every day, it will probably be easy for me to keep it. Indeed, keeping one resolution for twenty-four hours is a whole lot easier than doing it for three hundred and sixty-five days, isn’t it? From my previous experiences, I considered it a success if I managed to keep it for a month or so.
    Making resolutions of any kind is a good thing since it indicates that we haven’t given up on ourselves yet, and we are still fighting against whatever we dislike about ourselves. Not to make any resolution is to go with the flow and to indulge in whatever you have been doing, and not give any kind of resistance at all. It’s akin to raising up the white flag and accepting defeat. There is still hope of victory as long as we continue to engage the enemy and fight to the last bullet. By raising the white flag, we have lost all hope of triumph and have accepted failure as something inevitable. That was what the apostle meant when he wrote “they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”
    I have been fighting against some of the infirmities that I either inherited from my parents or developed in the course of growing up. Wherever they came from is not so much of my concern; what counts more than anything is that I am still fighting against them and I suppose the battle will never end until my life ends. Why should I not indulge in every kind of impurity and surrender to the tyranny of my flesh? Surely giving myself over isn’t an option and I am going to battle them to the death. My victories may be few and far between, yet I will celebrate every small success and will deem every little step forward as great progress. To continue in spiritual warfare also tells me that I have not lost my sensitivity toward God and am still tuning in to the voice the Holy Spirit. What matters isn’t that I continue to stumble and fail along the way; what counts is I haven’t gone AWOL yet and, with God help, I never will be.
    It causes me great grief when I do an inventory of my spiritual state up to this point in my life and come to realize that I haven’t made a whole lot of progress in terms of spiritual growth. What I am struggling with at the present time seems to be no different from the issues I had difficulty with when I was a new believer thirty some years ago. Woe is me! Is there any hope for me at all?
    For certain we may still have issues yet to be cleared out, yet the good news is that we are not indulging in them and, thankfully, we are still fighting against them, not accepting all the vices as something to live with, but rather something sinister to fight against.  
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, January 18, 2016 7:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hardening 

~~MTS-4124
Hardening
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”                Eph 4:18
     Hardening of our hearts always happens first, then comes the darkening of our minds. Our minds will always have great difficulty accepting or embracing what our hearts have rejected.
    “We believe in order to understand.” To believe is a thing of the heart and to understand comes from our minds. We don’t believe something merely because of its rationality or believability; we believe for its plausibility and approvability, which are more of the things of the heart than the mind.
    “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing,” wrote Blasé Pascal, a renowned scientist who is considered the “father of fluid dynamics.” He was also a devout theologian who was well aware of the limitations of human reason and the mystery of faith.
    In the long process of acquiring worldly knowledge, our hearts seem to become increasingly hardened and they gradually turn into unbreakable and impenetrable stones, unable to be moved or touched by the love of God. In the name of becoming wiser, we actually become more foolish, and the more knowledge we accumulate, the more ignorant we turn out to be.
    The Lord captured my heart first, and then he started to transform my mind, which was a much easier job, really, for I was convinced before I became persuaded.
    Indeed, in the course of acquiring an education, we might have been misguided and misdirected by the ones whom we loved and respected dearly. Of course, most of them had the best intentions in the world, yet they themselves were victims of half-baked teaching and simply handed down what they believed was wholesome and true. Surely, what enters our minds first always takes precedence over others, (先入為主) and it would take a monumental effort to uproot what has been planted in our soul and mind.
    “Batter my heart, three-person’d God,” John Donne cried out in his holy sonnet. For sure our hearts must be broken to become soft and tender in order to embrace God’s love expressed and illustrated in the gospel, which may appear to be rather irrational and unreasonable. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we overcome the human rationality that has kept us captive for such a long time.
    Something such as this isn’t anti-rationality; it goes beyond rationality. In fact, the more precious something is, the more mysterious it seems to become. We are bound to fail if we make an attempt to explain what love is, for the moment we think we have grasped its essence, it immediately defies and defeats our explanation. The mysterious aspect of love can never be explained in human terms. We may know it in part, yet will never grasp the meaning in whole.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, January 15, 2016 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Lost 

~~MTS-4123
Lost
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”          Eph 4:18
     The night was deep and I had no place to go, so I just kept on walking down the streets and alleys of the city. I had one day off from the military and wanted so much to do something exciting, something out of the ordinary, yet I found myself utterly alone, wandering in the city aimlessly.
    It wasn’t fair, was it? Military service was more akin to a forced labor camp than anything else and every morning we were taken to a river bank to load rocks in an army track and bring them back to the jobsite where we were building some sort of military facility. Life was so dreary and meaningless and I was desperate to have some fun during my one day off, yet I became a homeless person in a large city where I only had a few acquaintances and not a single friend.
    The city lights were bright even in the darkness of the night and the misty drizzle continued to fall. I found myself looking at all the windows of the buildings, imagining what was going on behind the window curtains and I sensed a strong longing within my heart that I wanted to go home.
    Where was home then? Was it the place from which I had been trying to escape since I turned thirteen and even made one attempt to leave for good. It was the home of my parents and siblings, yet it had never felt like a home. Perhaps being a true romantic I had always cast my eye on an exotic world beyond the horizon and could hardly wait to test my wings and fly to all the unknown places with beauty in their foreignness.
    Indeed, I had succeeded in escaping from home, not realizing that I would become homeless as a result. Being homeless might have been rather romantic, yet reality hit hard when I was walking down the street in the middle of the night. Yes, I was lost, absolutely lost at the time, and I was searching for a destination, but had no earthly idea where and what it was.
    The dim street lights seemed to be making a mockery of me, since I was searching for the light, yet found no comfort in their glow and no warmth in their cold metallic stare. The streets seemed to be turning darker as I reached the edge of the city. Indeed, I had out walked the city lights and found myself engulfed in darkness. The night was becoming deeper and darker and I became very afraid. I longed to return to my military camp where at least there were familiar faces and a warm bed. Being homeless and lost for one night wasn’t all that romantic after all. Perhaps behind my longing to become lost was that I really wanted to be found and to be brought home. No wonder I had such a feeling of relief when I saw my grandmother appear at the door of the bookbinding shop where I was working as a child laborer during the week I succeeded in running away from home at age thirteen.     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, January 14, 2016 6:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Love 

~~MTS-4121
In Love
“…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Eph 4:16
     The issue of life resides in the blood within the human body and without it life becomes impossible; by the same token, a Christian church becomes lifeless unless there is stream of love running in her every vein. For us to become an increasingly vital member of the body, we need to spend more time and energy cultivating our love both for the Lord and our brothers and sisters.
    Love becomes extremely hard to forge unless there is a sense of oneness among all the church members, yet oneness is unlikely to be achieved unless all members of the body are connected to the head. Lifeless members cannot be attached to the head by force or by any other means. Similarly, a given member who has been cut off from the body cannot be reconnected to the body, for there is no longer life remaining in the organ.
    It’s rather likely that they may not have had the life of Christ in them to start with if people decide to leave a given church for good and never make any attempt to join another church body. I simply cannot think of any other explanation except this one. An organ of the body isn’t viable unless it is connected to the body, is it? It does not take more than an ounce of intelligence to figure this out, yet more and more people, young people in particular, seem to claim that they love Christ yet they can do without his church. Indeed, a lot of people seem to lump the Christian church with all the other so-called organized religious institutions and give it a bad name.
    Personal spirituality void of church’s participation and fellowship is a misnomer and contradiction in terms, for spirituality simply cannot be forged in absolute isolation. Surely it takes at the least two people or more for love to take place; otherwise it’s nothing but narcissistic self-love. Of course I am not speaking about the church in a more or less traditional sense; I am merely talking about the church defined by the following statement made by the Lord: “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
    The place to build our love for the Lord and for one another is primarily within the church, and it extends to the larger world from there. It’s quite obvious that we learn what human love is by how we relate to our loved ones within our families and, by the same token, we learn divine love by how we relate to God and to our Christian brothers and sisters. Certainly, if we fail to love our brothers and sisters whom we can see within the church, how can we love the ones outside the church whom we don’t even know? We must build up our love for one another within the church before we can reach out to the unbelieving world with the love of God. A mature church is a clear manifestation of Christ’s love, which is something non-believers find rather appealing.
   
   
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 12, 2016 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Togetherness 

~~MTS-4120
Togetherness
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament…”         Eph 4:16
     We are not individual islands disconnected on a vast ocean; we are a great continent on earth and all of us are tied together as one. This may not be an accurate depiction of the world with various peoples and nations, but this should be a portrait of the Christian church universal. We are indeed not independent individuals who merely attend church for worship and other activities; we are family members who are dependent on one another. A church home isn’t just a catchy name void of real meaning, it’s a home in every sense of the word, and going to church should feel like coming home for all of us.
    Don’t we all have a sense of sadness as we round up our children and head home after the Sunday service and the fellowship meal afterward? I have witnessed over the years that some seem to rush out of the church immediately after the closing prayer is uttered as if they can’t wait to leave, while there are others who linger in the church as long as they possibly can. People who often act as if they don’t want to be at church while they are there don’t usually last long in their church attendance. One simply can’t keep on doing something they don’t really enjoy doing. It’s nice and fine to visit someone else’s home occasionally, but paying frequent visits will quickly become unbearable.
    Is church going a homecoming to you, or merely a visitation you pay at some other person’s home and nothing beyond that? Of course, the key is whether you are one of the members of the body and are closely connected to other members within the church or not. This is undoubtedly the determining factor whether we feel at home or not when we go to the church to worship.
    What’s more puzzling is some people seem to be able to drop in and out of the church without saying hello or good-bye. Some Christians, at least they claim to be, may have been accepted as family members already and have been loved and treasured by other people within the church home, yet they suddenly vanish out of the blue, never to be seen again. It amazes me when it happens and never fails to cause me to wonder if perhaps they never considered our church their home at all, for people simply can’t forsake their homes so readily and easily.
    Come to think of it. Are we truly a church home to the Christians who are members of the church? Well, it has to be, since the head of the church body is Christ himself, which is the lone fact which determines whether the church is a spiritual home or not. Surely the members of the body may not be all that beautiful or desirable, and they may not be all that functional in many ways, yet they remain connected to the head, and to look down or reject the members of the body is to disdain the head. There is no other way to look at this, I believe. We may not be very fond of our siblings, yet we always go home because we love our parents. Of course it’s an entirely different story if we no longer love our parents.
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, January 11, 2016 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Maturity 

~~MTS-4119
Maturity
“…we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”        Eph 4:15
    My struggle as a Christian has always been coping with the wide chasm existing between my head and my heart. To be more exact, my flesh doesn’t always heed the commands issued from my head. In another word, my spirit is willing most of the time, but my flesh is often weak, therefore the pace of my spiritual growth has always been rather slow.
    Christ is the head of the church, yet the members of the body don’t always obey the orders of the head and, consequently, the church remains immature in all aspects. The issue is obviously not the head; the members of the church are to blame. Obedience to the head of the church, that is, Christ, is the key to the church’s growth into maturity.
    I guess this analogy works to a certain extent. The Spirit of God, wherever he dwells, it matters not either within the head or the heart, should be the command center from which the orders are issued, and we must do what he says at all times in order to grow into maturity as Christians. All the necessary conditions for us to grow into maturity are there and all we need to do is to surrender to the leadership of the Spirit and growth will become natural. There simply is no other way provided for us except the way of obedience.
    We will just be a bunch of lifeless people doing lifeless things unless we are connected with the Head and do what we are told to do. A chicken with its head cut off still moves frantically, yet there is no sense of purpose and direction in all its moving; it’s mere instinct, I suppose.
    Activities within the church do not equal spirituality. They are two different things. I may be quite active during the day and engage in all sorts of activities, but that doesn’t mean that I am making big strides in my growth as a person. In fact, I may become weaker by continuing to do superfluous things that only sap away my spiritual strength. We should not just do things; we should do the right things, the things that the Head tells us to do.
    It has long become an annual routine for our church to conduct monthly outreach meetings, and we may be doing it for the sake of doing it, even though the results they generate may be rather meager. Surely doing something does beat doing nothing, doesn’t it? The opposite of activity is inactivity and we know well what our preference should be, not realizing inactivity sometimes is a viable choice. Waiting is better than action if action isn’t really what the Lord intends for us to do. Indeed, “in repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength…” What is the use of all our activities, as a church or a person, if deep trust and love for the Lord is absent?
   
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, January 8, 2016 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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