Chosen 

~~MTS-4054
Chosen
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”           Eph 1:4

Contrary to what we believe, the Lord chose us before the foundation of the world to be something, not do something. He chose us “to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
Aren’t we all task and achievement oriented? We somehow believe that the Lord chose us to perform great tasks and achieve renown in this world. Not so at all; he called us to become holy and blameless in his sight.
We need to reorient the priorities of our life if we are convicted this is truly the case, and focus more attention on our interior life than our exterior, our thought more than our action, and our attributes more than our achievement.
What was the purpose of the Lord creating the first man? The Lord created him to be holy and blameless so that he could have perfect fellowship with him. Indeed, Adam had jobs to do, but they were more diversions than anything else; the first man’s main purpose of being was to have sweet fellowship and union with his Creator. The union was lost because of Adam’s sin, and the Lord intended to have the relationship restored by sending his own Son to have the issue of sin resolved. Therefore, the purpose of creation remains the same.
“Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we read in the book of Hebrews. Surely we don’t have holiness of our own; we are clothed in Christ’s holiness and by his merit we are able to see God. But this doesn’t mean that we can quit pursuing holiness as long as we live in the flesh. We have been chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and his holiness has become our own, yet we are called to become more and more like Christ.
No matter what our earthly professions are and wherever the Lord places us on earth, our main goal in life is to strive to become holier and more blameless in his sight and all things that occur in our lives seem to be pointing to this particular goal. Whether we are promoted or demoted at our jobs, the purpose of what happens remains the same - our holiness. Whether we are well or ill, the goal is still unchanged - our holiness.
No wonder so many people feel so unfulfilled and become remorseful on the death bed, mourning that they have wasted their lives. Why? They have squandered their entire lives seeking the wrong things and neglecting what they had been chosen to fulfill as God’s children.
Such is the occupation of all eternity, even after we are glorified, for Christ is immensely holy and our eternal striving is to be more like him. In the meantime, it should be our primary occupation here on earth as well.                                     

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 22, 2015 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Spiritual Blessings  

~~MTS-4053 (Ephesians)
Spiritual Blessings
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Eph 1:3

Of course we desire to have both blessings, earthly and heavenly, but if we can have only one without the other, most people will probably choose the former.
“Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” Isn’t this short line from Frost’s “Birches” what we feel toward the world as well? The earth is the place we have come to know and love so dearly, and all others apart from her are speculations at best. Therefore, we continue to seek worldly blessing and hold onto it as if it will last forever and ever.
Deep inside we know full well that it doesn’t last, yet what else is better than the tangible, the things we can feel and touch and can also give us physical pleasure? I suppose the ones who have collected the most toys in this world will have the last laugh.
A boxer who had the biggest payday in boxing history recently purchased the most expensive car in the world, which must have excited him greatly, yet the vehicle will likely be sitting in his garage most of the time, collecting dust and the euphoria it had generated will quickly fade away. I am sure the boxer will move on to other things, for he has the means to do so, but his capacity for excitement and happiness will be wearing thin and it will take a stronger dose of worldly opium to generate for him the same amount of happiness. Such is the nature of world pleasure, really. It’s a lot more pleasurable and long lasting if we take in a small dose each time.
I recently started a small watch collection, and the one I acquired at $75 doesn’t seem to generate in my heart any sort of pleasure; instead it serves as the evidence of my greed for earthly things.
Earthly pleasure is still earthbound and it does not transcend the physical realm. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” Paul wrote in the second letter to the Corinthians. Given the choice between the temporary and the eternal, it seems totally logical for us to choose the latter, yet this doesn’t seem to be the case at all, for we are all drawn toward the tangible and deem what’s invisible nonessential.
Do we have any inkling of what Paul was referring to when he spoke about blessings from the “heavenly realms?” Even if there are truly blessings from above, their attraction to us seems to be minimal at best. What eludes our eyes and escapes our mind will always fail to appeal to our senses. We are indeed made of dust and need to be constantly reminded that there are spiritual blessings that we ought to be seeking as well.

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 21, 2015 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Death 

~~MTS-4052
The Death
“He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”
          1 Ch 29:28

Seventy wasn’t really “a good old age” from a human point of view. “Life starts at seventy,” goes a popular saying. “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures,” we read from Psalm 90. So a seventy-year life span seems to be what we can count on. Of course some may hang on longer, but that’s not a given. By this calculation, I most likely only have seven years left, which is only one tenth of my life. If this is the case, why do I act as if it’s an accident that my eyes are starting to fade and my teeth are beginning to fall out one after another? I guess they are made to last about seventy years, and if I last longer than that, they will be replaced with man-made ones. In fact, my dentist just informed me that tooth implantation will be needed soon.
David seemed to have lived a lot longer than that, considering how much he accomplished with his life. He apparently packed the years with a lot of heroic activities, starting from the confrontation with Goliath to fighting against Saul’s army and the Philistines and, in the meantime, he was able to take many wives and start a rather large family. Besides his military campaign, the man still found time to make beautiful music and composed many beautiful psalms. Seventy years might not have been all that long; surely those years was quite an abundant.
When it comes to leading this life, we should take quality over quantity, so people say. Yet who determines the quality of our lives is subject to debate. David might have been a great man who lived a full and good life from his friends’ point of view, but his enemies might have strongly disagreed with such an assumption. Who is to give the final and definitive verdict of the man?
The verdict belonged to the Lord and we read: “He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”  This final assessment of the man is something we are all craving for, isn’t it? Seventy years may be a little short compared to some, but “wealth and honor” surely is quite enticing. This comment on David’s life, however, does sound more human than divine, which should not be something we aim for in this life. David’s life obviously transcended all that.
The man reigned for forty years and he obviously enjoyed all the honor and privileges that came with the crown, and he was duly honored at his death. Yet such shouldn’t be how he is ultimately defined; the man should be defined by how he related to God, which should also be the way we are defined as well. It matters very little whether David was a pauper or a king, what really matters is he was a man after God’s own heart. That’s exactly how we will be defined as well.   
  

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 18, 2015 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Desire 

~~MTS-4051
Desire
“…keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.”        1 Ch 29:18

There is still hope if I still desire the Lord, for by the desire that’s in my heart I know the Lord is still at work in my life. No matter how far and wide I have strayed from his love, the Heavenly Father is still by my side and yearns for me to return to him and to embrace his mercy and love. He will never forsake me even if I seem to have forgotten him.
There is the filth of sin if I look inward and there are actions of rebellion if I look outward and there is not an inch of cleanness in me. Woe is me, I mourn as the prophet Isaiah did when the glory of the Lord was revealed to him. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,” the prophet cried out.
Indeed, who in the world can look at himself or herself and be completely happy with the inner state? One has to be totally blind or self-deceiving to feel that way. We are ruined if there is a sovereign judge who will hold our every thought and action accountable.
How can’t there not be, considering all the injustices taking place every day in this world? It has to be the greatest abuse of justice if people are able to get away with murder or other offenses great and small. A couple of intruders got into one of our neighbors’ house through an unlocked window. They duck taped the owner, beat him up mercilessly, and ended up taking all his valuables away. Are they going to get away with this heinous crime if they are not caught and brought to justice?
“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” The Lord proclaimed.
O how important it is to still have the thought of repentance in our hearts, when we can still hear the calling from our conscience to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness! Isn’t that a sign that the Lord has not given up on us and is still reckoning us redeemable? Isn’t it a sure indication of God’s mercy, reminding us there is still hope of salvation?
“…keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” 
Since we do have a strong desire to please and to serve the Lord, is it a given that we will feel the same way tomorrow? Is there an absolute certainly that we will love the Lord forever? Some may have such confidence, but I am not one of them, knowing how fickle and frail I have always been and will ever be. Surely I dare not base my confidence in my flesh and my constancy on my strength; I will instead depend on the Lord’s grace and sustenance to remain faithful to him, which is my only hope of remaining in him till the end.
Therefore I am greatly comforted when I find myself still having the desire and thought to repent and to continue following the Lord, even at the very moment after I have sinned against the Lord.               

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 17, 2015 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Everything 

~~MTS-4050
Everything
“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”           1 Ch 29:14

Such is the essence of giving. Being a godly man, David appeared to take this truth to heart. He had been giving, yet he had absolutely no intention to take any credit for his giving, for he knew all his possessions were bestowed on him by God, and he was merely giving back what rightly belonged to the Almighty.
Do we think the same way as David? The shepherd lad started out with nothing, but ended up with everything the world had to offer, including fame and fortune, and he was willing to give it up, knowing that all he possessed were gifts from the Lord.
Didn’t David earn all he had with blood and guts? Did the man of great courage risk his life countless times just to get to where he was? Surely he could easily have been killed by the Philistine giant, by the temperamental king, or by many others who sought to take his life. Yet against all odds, the man survived to see the day of prosperity. Indeed, the man was worthy to receive fame and fortune, for he seemed to have earned it.
Of course, apart from the Lord’s providence, not a single thing mentioned above would have taken place. Goliath could have ended the whole thing with one decisive stroke, and David’s name would have been erased from people’s memory forever.
Yet the man who could have died a thousand deaths considering the adverse circumstances he had faced, managed to live to a ripe old age and died in his own bed, surrounded by his loyal subjects and the ones who loved and adored him, and his reputation as a man after God’s own heart outlived him by thousands of years. What more could a man have asked from the Lord than what he had been given?
Even though David had labored hard to get to where he was, not a single thing along the way was earned through his own effort or ingenuity. The Lord certainly played a vital part in whatever he had achieved and for anyone to deem otherwise is sheer foolishness.
The more we are convicted of this important truth, the humbler and the more grateful toward the Lord we will certainly become. No wonder David continue to ask the same question: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?”
What kind of mindset do we have when we place our offering in the offering box or mail out an offering to some mission? Do we do so with a profound sense of gratitude and undeservingly, or with a sense of pride and entitlement, believing we have single-handedly earned all we possess? The best time to evaluate our spiritual state is the moment when we give our tithes and offerings. 
  

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 16, 2015 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Who am I? 

~~MTS-4049
Who am I?
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?”        1 Ch 29:14

Being able to give to the Lord financially is a sign of God’s blessing, for whatever resources we have all come from him and we will have nothing to give apart from God’s provision and generosity. Therefore we ought to have a sense of gratitude whenever we place our tithes and offerings in the offering plate, for it’s by God’s mercy and grace that we are able to give.
Unfortunately, when people’s expenses increase and they realize that their budget is bursting at the seams, the first thing to go is their monthly tithe and offering, for it seems to be a nonessential and no one will make a fuss if it goes away. I think this is quite an unwise thing to do, because by doing so we seem to ignore the reality that the Lord is the provider of all our resources and is worthy to receive our first fruits. By cutting him off from our giving, we cut off our supply line as well.
Not only do we do a prudent thing by offering to the Lord our tithes and offerings, we also make a pragmatic move since the Giver of all our resources will surely increase our bounty because of our good stewardship. If we fail to give faithfully, our ability to give will surely be reduced and we will end up having nothing to give at all.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” This is the kind of question often asked by people who are accustomed to giving, for they are constantly overwhelmed by the privilege and ability to give toward God’s kingdom and, to their great surprise, the more they give, the more they seem to have to give. The math just doesn’t add up, does it?
As a seminary student whose only income was two hundred dollars a month working in the library, combined with whatever meager amount my wife earned working in the seminary clothes closet, the grand total of our monthly earning probably didn’t surpass three hundred; yet as meager as it was, ten percent must have been deducted from the amount and after paying the campus apartment rent of two hundred dollars, we probably had nothing left. Even so, we never starved or lacked any absolutely necessary essentials over the span of three years. Indeed, tithing is the wisest and most practical thing to do, whether you are rich or poor. The poor widow in the holy temple must have learned this all important lesson as well, for she knew how faithful and resourceful her Giver was.
Not to give or give less than one should is a sure sign of lack of faith in God. We can make all kinds of claims about loving and following the Lord, our financial giving is where the rubber meets the road from which we can honestly tell how serious we are about our faith and by which we can find out exactly where our hearts are, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 15, 2015 5:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Strength 

~~MTS-4048
Strength
“In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”
           1 Ch 29:12

By nature I am quite a fearful person who is often timid and withdrawn. I am often overcome by a sense of pessimism, as if something bad is about to strike anytime. How can a man laden with such negative attributes be joyful? Rather questionable, isn’t it?
I was hoping that becoming a Christian would do away with my undesirable temperament once and for all, yet some thirty years later, it hasn’t been the case at all. If anything, I seem to have become worse and worse as I have aged. I had at least been fortified by my youth and its invincibility in the past, but at my age, even the last defense is gone and I am becoming more and more vulnerable on all fronts and am frequently afflicted by a sense of helplessness.
What difference did it make being a Christian? I often wonder, since I have rarely experienced the strength from above at a time when I desperately need it. What I did was to ride out the storm and pray it would pass before I was crushed under its weight.
“In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” Is this merely a theory and ideal that can’t be tested in real life? We can’t help but be a little skeptical about this, considering how much suffering we are witnessing in this world. Many Christians are being harassed and some even butchered, yet the Lord seems to remain silent. Well, at least that how we perceive it from a human point of view, from which we tend to equate non-action with inaction.
What I am constituted are my various attributes and temperament, either good or bad from a human perspective, and I will no longer be me if they are all stripped away and replaced with something else. Our created temperaments are double-edged swords and with the good come the bad and we simply can’t pick and choose from the entire package. My powerful emotions may cause me to compose some beautiful verses and it may also make me sink into deep depression on occasion. How can I have one without the other? I certainly would like to have the former without the latter, yet the Lord doesn’t seem to operate that way. A perfect temperament is nowhere to be found in a sinful world.
Youthful enthusiasm caused David to confront the Philistine giant without fear, yet the same passion also led him to another man’s wife and he committed an unthinkable crime. The passion that caused the young shepherd to write so many psalms became also the cause of his deep sorrow when he suffered the losses of his beloved friend and favorite son.
What then are we to do but to embrace who we are and thrive wherever we can thrive and endure whatever weakness comes with it. Indeed the Lord can strengthen us in time of need, yet our infirmities as God’s creatures in a sinful world will not be removed until we are no more.       

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 14, 2015 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Consecration 

~~MTS-4046
Consecration
“Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the LORD today?”
        1 Ch 29:6

Was David doing an altar call? It sure sounds like it. He charged his audience to take action after he finished stating what he was doing in gathering materials for his son to build the holy temple. If the project was going to become successful, most Israelites would have to get involved, either in donating silver or gold toward the building or participating in the actual work of the construction. David tried to make it clear the project was a sacred one, and the ones who intended to take part in the work must first consecrate themselves to the Lord, realizing that they must dedicate themselves to God before they could participate in the actual construction itself.
Kathy and I signed up to cook a dish for the church every month and we often find ourselves hustling to get something ready when the time comes, and often end up cooking something rather ordinary. Why don’t we put more thought into the work if we reckon what we do is holy unto the Lord? We may think the work is just too small to be considered any sort of spiritual service at all.  If it’s not spiritual service, then what is it supposed to be? I ask.
Whatever we do unto the Lord in his kingdom should always be deemed spiritual, no matter how small the task is, be it sweeping the kitchen floor or taking the garbage out.
Can the ones who have failed to dedicate themselves to the Lord’s service do anything to serve him? They can surely do things behind the scenes within the church, yet what they do isn’t done unto the Lord since they are yet to come into the fold of the church. Serving the Lord isn’t the right of all people; it’s rather the privilege of God’s children. But it’s discourteous to discourage non-Christians from doing anything in the church if they are willing to help, things such as washing the dishes in the kitchen or mopping the dining room floor.
Spiritual service should always be constituted in two parts - one being the ones who serve and the One who receives the service. The ones who perform the service must be aware of what they are doing and the sacredness of it; and the One who receives the service must be worthy to receive our service and worship. If one of these is lacking, the work we do will be reckoned profane and ordinary.
    Therefore before we do anything for the Lord, either within or without the church, this question must be addressed: “Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the LORD today?” For the sacrifices we offer to the Lord to become acceptable in God’s sight, we must consecrate ourselves first. The spiritual quality and acceptability of our sacrifices before the throne is determined by the thoroughness of our self-consecration and complete dedication.

    
 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 11, 2015 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Wealth and Honor 

~~ MTS-4047
Wealth and Honor
“Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.”
           1 Ch 29:12

Instead of seeking wealth and honor, which most people do in this life, they should seek the Giver of both, for we may find wealth and honor by seeking the Lord, but we will lose whatever we have acquired if we seek earthly things other than him.
If we truly seek the Lord, wealth and honor in this life will become less and less important and appealing to our hearts. If we continue to consume ourselves with passion and desire for both, our desire for God may just be mere fantasy, an outward show void of inner substance. I am afraid our churches are filled with such people, which explains why the prosperity gospel has found a fertile ground among Christians.
“Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” We need to ask ourselves this question: “What sort of God are we seeking? Are we looking for the God of wealth and honor, or a God who is wealthy and honorable?”
Obviously the Lord has many other attributes other than the two mentioned, yet we seem to choose to relate to him in those aspects and desire to be more identified with him in both qualities. Indeed, we want to be more like him in both wealth and honor. The aspects which we choose to be more like him indicate what we truly are as God’s children.
What kind of Christians are we craving to become?
The single most predominate attribute of the Lord is love, for God is love and all the other qualities pale greatly compared to this; therefore we need to strive to be more  like him in his love. The root of the incarnation is love, and the reason behind the crucifixion is the same, without which no redemption could have been accomplished.
Besides his love, we should be more passionate in seeking God’s holiness, for it’s the very attribute which separates him from all others and it’s also the characteristic that tells us apart from the people of the world. Indeed, love is the cause of our justification and holiness is what drives us forward in our sanctification. Compared to these, wealth and honor, which are primarily earth-bound, seem to be so superficial and dissatisfactory.
If the Giver of all good things both in heaven above and on earth below decides to bestow wealth and honor upon us, we will surely accept them with gratitude and profound thankfulness; if not, we will still be satisfied with all the other more desirable treasures he has so richly given to us, such as his love and purity, and no true joy on earth can be attained apart from both.       
 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 10, 2015 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Personal Treasures 

~~MTS-4045
Personal treasures
“Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God…”    1 Ch 29:3

For some reason I am able to keep a small bank account and I don’t have to answer to anybody, including my wife, how I spend the money from it. I don’t usually spend it on myself, yet I still consider the funds in the account to be mine, and it will hurt if I have to part from them. Taking money from that account and giving it to the poor is out of the question since I deem the money mine, and mine only. Even though the amount in it is quite meager, it matters not since I consider it my possession and I reckon it unmovable.
There is a larger family bank account which is maintained by my wife, and I don’t usually care too much about how the money is spent. Since I don’t particularly consider it to be mine, I can let it go a little bit easier. By the same token, it might have been easier for David to exhaust all the national treasuries in preparation for the construction of the holy temple, but it was entirely different to part from his personal valuables. Therefore he made a point to mention that the gold and silver he donated were from his own coffers.
Whatever we deem ours, including our lives, may not be ours after all, for apart from God’s provision and sustaining, we would have absolutely nothing. If we look at our possessions from this point of view, giving will become much easier and more natural.
Out of my affection for my loved ones, I often use the money from my personal account to purchase gifts for them and don’t really feel the pinch of parting from my personal possession. I guess love does have the power to conquer our vices of selfishness and possessiveness. Is it because my love for the Lord isn’t as strong, therefore that I am reluctant to offer to him what I deem mine?
If we consider what we possess ours, our tithes and offering will be given out of a sense of duty, not out of our love and gratitude for God, and we may even feel that we are doing God a great favor by giving, as if he has any lack at all and whatever we give will make up his deficiencies.
Of course, offering to the Lord what we possess might be easier than offering to him our bodies as “living sacrifices.” Indeed, our possessions are merely a part of us, yet our bodies are our entire beings and we will have nothing left if we offer ourselves to him. Again, do we think our bodies are truly ours, by which we get to enjoy all things in this world? Paul once referred to our bodies as instruments with which we can either serve the Lord or the evil one.
The Lord’s demands to those who follow him seem to become greater and greater, and we end up with nothing left of our own. If this is the case, how is he going to replenish what we have lost? I guess we still don’t have any inkling what it really means to give if we still consider our offering to God in terms of investment and return.
         
     

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 9, 2015 5:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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