Other Gods 

~~MTS-4462
Other Gods
“Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made…”     2 Ch. 34:24
    We may be leading our lives in such a way as if the Lord doesn’t really exist; or even if he does exist, he isn’t really sovereign and is in control of all things.
    We are not really consistent in our faith and practice. The chasm between the two appears to be rather wide, wider than we can ever imagine.
    Aren’t we often anxious about different things? Of course, being anxious or worried about things is an indication of lack of faith in God, believing that his power is insufficient and things concerning me are out of his control. Even worse, we may even think he has bad intentions for us, since he is all powerful, yet he simply refuses to act on our behalf.
    We may claim to believe the Lord is both powerful and good, yet our actions seem to say the opposite. By our conduct we seem to believe that he is neither, and our actions do speak louder than words.
    Indeed, we don’t actually burn incense to other gods, but we oftentimes act like atheists who don’t believe in the existence of a loving God; therefore we are inclined to take things into our own hands when the situation becomes dicey, trusting men more than God.
    How do we mend the gap of our inconsistency between faith and practice? This is the question, isn’t it?
    To be born again is to be renewed in all aspects of our being, yet the renewal appears to have occurred in the spiritual realm and seems to have very little impact on our minds. Therefore our new birth doesn’t seem to engender a new way of thinking. Surely, what I am is what I think, so we may be remaining who we have always been emotionally and intellectually, albeit we have been regenerated spiritually.
    There is no other way, really. The key to resolving this issue is to reprogram our thinking patterns by conforming to the word of God. We have been lagging behind in reading the Scriptures and acting on the truth contained within them. Consequently, the chasm between our faith and practice has become wider and wider. It may even get to point when we seriously doubt the validity of our faith.
    This appears to me, a rather serious issue, and if nothing is done over time, we will become no different from unbelievers.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, February 13, 2018 6:35:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Law 

~~MTS-4461
God’s Law
“When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.”     2 Ch. 34:19
    Surely it wasn’t an ordinary book the king had obtained; what he heard were the words of the Law proclaimed to him.
    Surely he must have heard the Book of the Law mentioned to him, yet it created very little impression on him, for he had no idea what the content of the book was, and how he was supposed to view the book.
    If the book was the words of God, it was merely one of the books composed by men the kings of Israel had collected over the years. There wasn’t any reason to pay special attention to it.
    I have a small collection of books and they have been placed in my bookcase, collecting the dust of West Texas. Many of them I have read, but a lot of them I haven’t, yet they are all solemnly standing on the shelf, waiting to be inspected.
    Does it matter whether I read any of them? Not all that much. My knowledge about certain areas may increase a little by reading those books, yet it matters little in the larger scheme of things.
    “Words, words,” says Hamlet, when asked what he was reading.
    How can I bring all the words I have read over the years to a coherent and unifying whole? Can I ever reconcile all the differences among them and establish a consistent idea void of contradiction?
   “It’s better to read no book if we believe in all books,” goes a Chinese saying. “A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing,” said Pope. By the same token, much knowledge can also be a grave danger, unless the knowledge acquired is truthful and without human error, for knowledge can both lead and mislead.
    I don’t put my Bible on the bookcase as if it were merely one of the many other books. It holds a special place in my heart as well as on my bookshelf. In fact, I often put it on my nightstand next to my bed, easily accessible when I need it.
    “When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes,” we read.
    That was the moment when the king suddenly came to realize what he was hearing was not the words of mere humans; they were the very words of the living God. Tearing his robes was an expression of Josiah’s deep remorse and repentance. Perhaps we have to do the same thing as the king if we have been taking the Law of the Lord too lightly.
    
 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, February 12, 2018 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gatekeepers 

~~MTS-4460
Gatekeepers
“Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.”    2 Ch. 34:13
    Which of these three types of jobs would I have preferred to do had I been a Levite? I sometimes wonder.
    The first two jobs probably were more respectful than the third, since they all dealt with words, and it would have required more training to do the work well. On the other hand, being gatekeepers of God’s temple appears to be rather easy, for all they needed to do was merely stand there. No skill or special training was ever needed.
    Truly, that was the job that I wouldn’t have chosen.
    That was the job I had to do when I was in the service, and the mere mention of it brings back all sorts of bad memories. Every shift that we had to do lasted for two hours within a twenty-four-hour cycle. Obviously, the worst shifts were the times between midnight to day break.
    I had to do the same thing while I was working at the National Palace Museum when I had to be a gatekeeper part of the time, collecting tickets from visitors. The job itself wasn’t all the glamorous and the monotony of it was sometimes unbearable.
    Was being a gatekeeper in God’s temple any different than the chores I had to do as a young man?
    “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,” Psalm 84 says.
    In this world we seem to be classified and identified by our professions, the jobs we do to make a living, and we are ranked either high or low by how much we earn at each job. Indeed, our value system is basically determined by how valuable and prestigious our jobs are.
    Come to think of it, being a doorkeeper in God’s house may not be all that undesirable after all, for the job itself seems to provide an ample amount of time to meditate on God’s words and to pray, which are the things that I have enjoyed doing the most.
    King David might sometimes have looked at his younger days as a shepherd in retrospect with great nostalgia and longing, for they were the days when he had all the leisure in the world to meditate on God’s grace and to compose psalms praising the Almighty.
    To be completely candid, I would have had great difficulty choosing among the three jobs had I been in the position to choose. I might have chosen being a gatekeeper in God’s house after all.     
 
 
 
  
 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, February 9, 2018 8:35:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Levites 

~~MTS-4459
The Levites
“The Levites—all who were skilled in playing musical instruments— had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job.”   2 Ch. 34:12
    The Levites appeared to be multitasking at this time since it wasn’t their expertise to supervise all the workers doing various the jobs of repairing the holy temple. Most of the Levites appeared to be musicians who “were skilled in playing musical instruments.”
    It doesn’t mean that the Levites weren’t able to do other chores besides praising and serving the Lord with their musical skill. Besides being equipped with the particular spiritual gift of playing music, I am sure they also possessed other gifts of service as well. Playing musical instruments and supervising repairing workers certainly weren’t maturely exclusive.
    No job of serving the Lord in his kingdom is either above or below us. We should always be equal to the task when we are called upon to do certain work for the Lord.
    Being the pastor of a single staff church, I have been doing a lot of other things besides preaching on Sunday services. In fact, I seem to have been doing janitorial work more than anything else over the years, and I am usually the first one to arrive at the church and the last one to leave. Obviously, this is not a complaint; it’s rather a privilege if anything at all. I have never considered any job that I do routinely to be below me.
   All things are worth doing if they are done unto the Lord, and nothing is worth our effort if it is done merely to make money or to earn people’s applause. There should be an eternal value attached to whatever we do, and all things we are conducting on earth are a form of storing up treasure in heaven.
    Either positive or negative, all our words or actions have certain applications and, oftentimes, the applications they generate determine the meaning and intent of our actions. So “I don’t mean that at all” may not be a good apology.
    The Levites could have complained about what they had to do, for they must have preferred to do what they felt the most comfortable and enjoyable, which was to play music and worship the Lord. This is obviously a misconception, for what they were doing was an important form of worship. In fact, what they were assigned to do, manual labor included, was just as sacred as singing praises to God in his holy temple.
  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, January 26, 2018 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faithfulness 

~~MTS-4458
Faithfulness
“The workers labored faithfully.”          2 Ch. 34:2
    At the tender age of fourteen, I worked as a hire hand on a chicken farm owned by a local banker. All I remember about him was he was a chubby middle-aged man who rode a motorcycle when he came to supervise our work. My primary jobs were mixing chicken feed, feeding chickens, and collecting and packing eggs early in the morning and hauling them to town a few miles away on a large tricycle. Riding and controlling the tricycle was far more difficult than it looked for a weak fourteen-year-old and it took me quite a while to master the skill. Being a farmer’s son who was required to work on the farm during school breaks, it didn’t bother me to do most of the work there, yet there was one thing that was rather unpleasant to do, which was to dry chicken droppings under the scorching sun by constantly turning them with a shovel, and then bagging them when they were completely dried up. The droppings smelled pretty badly when they were still wet and it was hard to turn them, for they were still rather muddy.
    It was something that the workers at the farm were required to do, and I had no other option if I intended to remain employed. Chores of that sort might have been foul, but were necessary.
    Therefore, I continued to do the unpleasant job for about half a year, not out of my choice, but out of necessity. I remained faithful in performing the task not because I wanted to be faithful to anyone in particular, but remaining faithful is rather easy for anyone if their livelihood is on the line. Being a child laborer, I didn’t earn all that much at all, yet my young body was beefed up considerably after months of eating all the broken eggs on the farm. I guess the Lord might have had that in mind when he led me to the chicken farm to work. I was very well fed at the least while I was working over there.
    “The workers labored faithfully.” The people who did the repairing at the holy temple didn’t merely work to make a living; they knew they were involved in an eternal enterprise, which was to beautify God’s dwelling place on earth, and by working on the project they brought glory to God.
    Instead of looking at the immediate effect of our labor in this world, we should consider the eternal impact that we may generate by doing what we do. A physician, for instance, by bringing people back to sound health, enables them to keep on working to support their loved ones, and they may also direct their gratitude to God. Therefore, by their faithfulness in doing their job God’s name may be honored and lifted up either directly or indirectly.
    The things great or small that we do routinely may be far more impactful than we will ever realize and we ought to conduct them as such.
  
    
  
            
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 23, 2018 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Entrusted 

~~MTS-4457
Entrusted
“Then they entrusted it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the Lord’s temple.”              2 Ch. 34:10
    The money had been collected and some men were appointed to supervise the repairing work of the holy temple. They were entrusted with a great responsibility, which was to do the work that had long been neglected - to bring the house of God up to date.
    How were those people chosen to perform such an important task? Besides having the skill set necessary for the job, their hearts must have been right before the Lord. It is a given that they realized the importance of their assignment, and were determined to devote their whole being toward the project.
    What have we been assigned to do? Do we really have a sense of calling as we go to do our work every morning, spending our entire day doing what we are told to perform by our superiors?
    We need to ask ourselves this all important question from time to time: Is life a calling with a clear purpose or a mere accidental kind of thing? The answer to this question does make a great difference in the way we conduct our lives.
    It’s obviously much easier for the ones who are dealing with big sums of money or great political issues at their jobs to develop a sense of great importance in what they do daily. As far as what I do every day is concerned, it’s not as easy to find a clear purpose. It takes creativity and imagination for me to figure out the meaning behind all I do, and faith in God must be calculated into the equation in most cases.
    Of course, meaning is an objective entity and it’s by no means self-created and self-evolved. Meaning in all things originates in God, who is the One who calls meaning into being. Something becomes meaningful when God says it’s meaningful.
    How do we make a meaningful connection between our work and God’s kingdom, between the sacred and secular?
    We deal with people at our work either directly and indirectly, and we are called to be salt and light in their midst. The way we act and the things we do have some sort of impact on people, and our jobs will become so much more meaningful if we consider ourselves ambassadors of Christ and our primary mission in life is to make Christ known wherever we are and whatever we do.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, January 18, 2018 8:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ashes 

~~MTS-4456
Ashes
“He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem.”            2 Ch. 34:5
    They might have devoted their lives to Baal worship and considered their time on earth well spent. Or some of them might just have done what was necessary to survive and considered being priests of Baal as merely a job. It mattered very little when they breathed their last and all things were out of their hands. It would have been too late for them to make any revision then, for the final draft of their lives had been turned in and, for better or for worse, a final grade would be assigned to them when the time came.
    Their bodies were laid to rest, yet they were brought to the light one day and were scorched by fire on the altars of the gods whom they had worshipped, and their ashes seemed to be whispering a prayer of regret. Yet by then nothing could have been done and all they could do was wait for the “second death.”
    Indeed, they had their day under the sun and got to enjoy their popularity for a short season, for Baal worship was sanctioned by previous kings and embraced by people all over. It was indeed a good job and brought them wealth and fame, making them the envy of their peers. Yet it all mattered very little in eternity and what was left was the dire consequence of their evil deeds that they would have to endure eternally.
    They would have done rather differently had they considered more deeply the validity of their worship and the result they would incur if their belief turned out to be erroneous. Like most people, we are merely so nearsighted and ignorant that we have failed to make a close link between time and eternity. We are blind to the fact that what we have planted in time we will surely harvest in eternity.
    The bones of the priests felt no pain when they were consumed on the altars, yet there is another kind of flame which simmers eternally. Under that flame they will eventually be placed and the pain it will cause will be painful beyond human imagination.
    Consider who we are first, for our being is far more essential than what we do for a living. Those priests of Baal might have just been going through the motions, neglecting to look into what they were truly doing. They did not consider how offensive it was to the almighty God to bow to false gods whose only intention was to rob the Lord of the glory he rightly deserved. Moreover, not only did they do it themselves, they also led so many people astray. How could they? 
    Surely we are not priests of Baal and have absolutely no desire or intention to become one, yet it doesn’t mean that we are not bowing down to some sort of idol. In fact, we may be worshipping idols unaware, and for this reason we must constantly examine ourselves and repent before the Lord if repentance becomes necessary.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, January 16, 2018 8:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Purge 

~~MTS-4455
To Purge
“In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.”            2 Ch. 34:3
    A few years later after Josiah made a monumental decision that he would seek the Lord, the king realized it was time to take solid action to implement his belief. He started “to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.” He removed the high places where people went to worship the Lord and other deities to keep the religion holy and pure. Of course anything related to idolatry practiced during the previous years was taken down and demolished. The reformation conducted by the young king was thorough, leaving no remnants of idolatry behind in the nation to tempt the Israelites to backslide.
    This is one of those outward things that people often neglect to practice after they have come to the Lord, thinking the remnants connected to their pagan lifestyle are unimportant. Some people even keep them for sentimental reasons, as if their sinful past were something worthy of remembering.
    “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret,” wrote the apostle Paul. Do we have a sense of shame and guilt when we mention the sinful deeds we did as a pagan? If so, why do some people seem to be gloating over them as if they were badges of honor?
    To purge the sin we have committed is to get rid of its haunting memory, along with all the things that remind us of our filthy past; not to do so is to underestimate the seductive power of sin.
    I have been rather cautious not to bring any article that has anything to do with idolatry into our house. The things may well be harmless, for idols are vanities, yet I do so for my own sake, because I simply don’t want to be reminded of the days of my youth when I was under the influence of the idol worship my family was practicing. It always causes me a great deal of discomfort when I smell the aroma of incense burning every time I go to a local Chinese grocery store. The aroma is indeed harmless, yet the memory it evokes may have an adverse effect on my psyche.
    When our sins are cleansed by the blood of our Lord, our memory should also be purified as well, for to a certain extent we ourselves are our memories.
    So there were good reasons behind what King Josiah did when he got rid of all the filth relating to idolatry that remained from the reigns of his father and grandfather. He intended to purge the collective memory of idolatry from an entire nation, lest it come back to haunt the people and to seduce them into going back to the old way of doing things.
    Are we keeping some memorabilia related to our sinful past and do we often look at them with nostalgia? 
 
                                          
 
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Youth 

~~MTS-4454
Youth
“In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David.”         2 Ch. 34:3
    What would I do as a young Christian if I had the opportunity to do it all over again? It has been forty some years since the day when I started my spiritual journey, and a lot of time has been wasted. Unfortunately, what I have become is not as I should be and what I am is a lot less than ideal. It frightens me when I ponder about what the end result of my being in this life will be. Will the Lord utter “that’s not what I had intended at all” when he looks at me in disappointment and disbelief.
    King Josiah seemed to have done it right. “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David,” we read. He was sixteen years old by this time and he knew exactly what sort of man he wanted to become and proceeded to do what was necessary to accomplish his goal. “He began to seek the God of his father David.”
   The young king had a crucial choice to make in his youth and the decision he was going to make would impact his entire life, either for good or for ill. He could have followed his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh’s way and made all the foreign deities his gods, yet he decided to take an entirely different path, which turned out to be the best choice he could have made.
   Come to think of it, we do have a certain control over who and what we will be in our future when we grow up or grow old. To a large extent, our future will be determined by our present for the self-creation process takes great effort on our part for it to become a success.
    Of course, I am not speaking about the self-evolving and self-creating according to the principle of Darwinian evolution; it’s rather the labor and the struggle that we experience every day to be transformed into the holy and glorious image of Christ. This is an ongoing process both in time and in eternity, and the earlier we start the process the better.
    There was no need for the Lord to start the process of spiritual growth to conform to the image of God, yet we all know what he was doing at the holy temple at age twelve. The Lord Jesus grew spiritually even though he could have achieved spiritual perfection instantly. Hannah was wise to place Samuel in a place where he could grow spiritually and to become more seasoned in listening to God’s voice.
    We don’t become someone we desire to be instantly. Spiritual wealth, like material wealth, takes years of diligent accumulation. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, January 10, 2018 6:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Record 

~~MTS-4453
Record
“…all these are written in the records of the seers.”         2 Ch. 33:19
    King Manasseh might have intended to erase the record of all he had done in his life had he been able to do so, yet it was etched in stone and couldn’t be removed. What he had done, either good or bad, couldn’t be undone no matter how mighty and powerful he was.
   What the king should have done was to consider the possible consequences of all the things he was going to do. Had he done so, he might not have done a lot of things that he intended to do.
    “Will this reckless action I am about to do cause me any regrets later?” This is the question that we must ask ourselves before we take any action in question, and by doing so we may save ourselves from having any regret or sorrow after the deed is done.
    We may be able to suppress the memory of all our wrongdoings and not bring them to the surface of our consciousness, but that does mean they will be submersed forever. The hard drive of our mind will take down all we have ever done, down to the smallest details both of our actions and thoughts, and there is absolutely no way the memory can ever be deleted. What we have done will gradually become who we are, and our identity will never be annihilated. We are indeed our memory, and as long as we exist, it will also remain.
    By what evidence will we be judged before the judgment throne of the Lord? Isn’t it all the things that are etched in our memory, an imperishable tablet of stone?
    There isn’t a single moment in my entire life when I am completely pleased with myself, either inwardly or outwardly. Therefore, the self-condemnation and loathing have always been present in my heart. Indeed, “If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things,” wrote the apostle John. If so, we will surely be driven to the brink of despair and abandon all hope of ever reaching the destination where we can be accepted totally by the Almighty.
    Then we are reminded what Manasseh did when he became utterly desperate: he abandoned himself and turned to the Lord in utter repentance, which was the only thing he could have done at the moment, and it turned out that he did the wisest thing.
    There are only two things that we can possibly do under the circumstances actually. We ought to do our absolute best to keep our record on earth clean and holy, void of any filth or flaw, so that there will be no regret when we pay our memory a visit. Secondly, daily repentance is still an utter necessity, for our best efforts will always fall short and all our merits blemished. We are doomed but for God’s mercy.
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, January 8, 2018 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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