Contribution 

~~MTS-4418
Contribution
“The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths…”       2 Ch. 31:3
    Is it easier to give financially from one’s abundance or from one’s scarcity? This is a good question to ask, isn’t it? It may be contrary to what most people believe, which is the former. We seem to think that it’s much easier to give when one becomes prosperous; therefore, people tend to delay giving either to their church or to a charity until their financial resources grow to a certain point.
    “Well, I will wait until I am able to give.” This has become a common excuse that people employ for not giving faithfully.
    “My goal in life is to make more money so that I can donate money to the church,” a Christian brother told me about fifteen years ago, and I remember applauding him for making the bold statement. The man has since become rather wealthy yet, instead of giving more of his earnings to the church, he had since vanished from God’s house. He probably found that coming to the church with all the obligations attached to it rather inconvenient; therefore he chose not to attend. For some odd reason, I still remember the promise he made years ago quite vividly, but I have long quit waiting for his generous donation toward the church.
    The man might have been sincere when he made the pledge, thinking that giving would automatically become easier if he somehow became wealthy. Of course, we know full well that’s not the case, for the first thing the wealthy man we read of in the gospel intended to do was to build a bigger barn to store up his grain. People’s wealth decreases when they give, which is contrary to their natural tendency, so unless they discipline themselves by going against the grain of their natural affection by constantly giving toward the church or other worthy causes, the act of mercy will never take place.
    “The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths…” At the least, Hezekiah was striving to be consistent in his faith and practice, and contributed “from his own possessions,” thus setting an example for the people in the nation to emulate. God is entirely self-sufficient, therefore it matters very little to him the amount of our donation; what matters to him is our genuine desire to love him and our heartfelt gratitude toward his abundant provision.
    Giving our tithes and offerings to the church is an act of gratitude and thanksgiving, considering all we have earned belongs to God and, apart from his blessing, we would be completely deprived of everything. Therefore, giving is actually returning to God what rightly belongs to him, and not to do it is actually a form of robbing and stealing. 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 26, 2017 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith and Action 

~~
MTS-4417

Faith and Action

“When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”  2 Ch. 31:1

    The Passover celebration was finally over and there was probably quite a letdown after all the excitement subsided. It was time for people to pack up and return back to their flocks and farms. The holiday had come to an end and there was tedious daily work awaiting. Besides, there was a long journey home ahead of them, which was something they weren’t looking forward to undertaking.

    All manner of celebrations in life will eventually come to an end, and when they do, the drudgery of doing our daily routine will start. Why can’t life be an endless celebration? We may sometimes wonder.

    As a matter of fact, the celebration didn’t come to an end, even though all the Passover festivities were over, for the Israelites seemed to have found something important to do afterward. They decided to stretch the spirit of the revival that they had just experienced to a new level and put their faith to work.

     “When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”

    They determined to get rid of all the traces of idolatry in the land by going from town to town to smash the sacred stones and chop down the Asherah poles. Such is the decisive action people undertook, attempting to make sure the practice of idolatry would never surface in Israel again.

    I made a clean break from my past when I was converted, yet, unfortunately, the break might not have been drastic enough, and the remnants of my past life seem to have continued to haunt me over the years, which might have greatly hindered my spiritual progress.

    Action is what makes our faith complete, and without it faith will forever remain “head knowledge,” having very little to do with the formation and function of our heart.

    There was, come to think of it, a rather severe lack of strong determination to follow the Lord single-mindedly when I was saved, which is the reason why I pretty much have remained “half-baked” after years of attempting to follow the Lord.

    Unless drastic actions are taken to compensate our faith in God, it will remain rather incomplete.

       

 

 

  

      

 

  

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 22, 2017 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Great Joy 

~~
MTS-4416

Great Joy

“There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.”       2 Ch. 30:26

     The Holy City didn’t instantly become prosperous, and there was really nothing occurring at the time to generate so much joy among the residents in Jerusalem. There was only one thing that was causing such a resounding exultation, which was directly related to what the Lord did for them long ago and their subsequent remembrance of it.

    It’s absolutely a joyful thing to witness what the Lord has done on our behalf, which indicates that the Almighty does care for us.

    The people who resided in Jerusalem, together with all the ones who came from afar to celebrate the Passover, must have been laboring in their orchards or tending their flocks in the fields most of the time, doing what was required of them to do in order to make a living. Passover holiday came and went year after year, yet they hardly ever noticed, for they were entirely occupied by their immediate concerns and it seemed just too farfetched to bring to their memory what had taken place so long ago in history.

    If we intend to find reasons for celebration, they can easily be found, for even if there is no cause for us to rejoice in any way, we can always celebrate the love of God which is clearly manifested everywhere.

    “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” Why wasn’t there joy and celebration such as that in a span of hundreds of years?

    The answer to this is actually rather simple. There is really nothing to be joyful about if the Lord is taken out of the equation of our daily lives. This was exactly what had taken place in the city, for the name of the Lord was not evoked and people’s aspiration and affection was nesting elsewhere.

    Had people known what true joy was and the One who could impart it to them, they would have sought him with all their heart, yet they were beguiled by the evil one and turned to false gods, which became their root of sorrow.

    Indeed, all worldly things are dispensable and the only thing irreplaceable is the Lord. As the Psalmist clearly tells us: “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.”

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 21, 2017 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Good Understanding 

~~MTS-4415
Good Understanding
“Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites, who showed good understanding of the service of the Lord.”        2 Ch. 30:22
    Rituals are relatively easy to keep but the essence of rituals is not that easy to comprehend. I think a good understanding of the service of the Lord must involve both.
    “Being a monk for one day is to strike the bell for one day’s worth,” goes a Chinese saying. Why even sound the bell early in the morning and late at night? They are not necessarily required to know and their superiors probably don’t even care; yet people immediately find out if the bell fails to sound at a certain time.
    Being there and doing what was required of them was the primary thing for the Levites to do and, as far as the rest went, it probably didn’t matter all that much.
    Being there in person is the first thing in all things, without which hardly anything can be accomplished. This is, in essence, voting with our feet.
    As far as I can recall, this was the first time in all the years since I became naturalized that I failed to vote in the presidential election, for I thought my vote wasn’t going to make a difference. After all the votes were counted, I was proven right, yet by not casting my vote, I was deemed a non-participant of an important political process and an irresponsible citizen.
    Doing the right thing may not always produce instant results or even a desirable outcome, but failure to do it generates an undesirable consequence, which causes me to become a loser and a mere spectator of worldly affairs. The more I fail to do the right thing, the colder my heart will wax and I will gradually become a skeptical prig.
    I don’t necessarily always enjoy doing all the routine church work and don’t always perform them with joy and gladness, yet I go through the motions day after day, for not doing them isn’t really an option. Toward the end of my twenty-five years of church ministry, I am afraid “I have always been there” will become my only boast and claim of fame. I guess one can do much worse than that.
    Baseball people are notorious for attending to the details of the game and keeping meticulous records and statistics. One of the records is how many consecutive games players complete on the diamond. They may not be the best on the field, but they are the most durable and faithful. Indeed, being present does count for something.
    Isn’t this also an indication of showing a “good understanding of the service of the Lord?”

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 20, 2017 7:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Resounding Praise 

~~MTS-4414
Resounding Praise
“…while the Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with resounding instruments dedicated to the Lord.”       2 Ch. 30:21
    What’s the purpose in life? This is such a basic question that all of us must have thought about it and have come up with an answer.
    “The purpose of this life is to remain alive by making a living, and after we are able to sustain our lives, making a better living.” This is likely a response people will give when they are asked.
    To live cannot be a purpose itself, for to live is to live for something beyond merely staying alive. To live is merely a means by which we achieve an end. To live is a journey and the end is our destination. Indeed, life must have a purpose, just like a journey must have an end.
    Whatever we do daily must be reflected upon so that the essence of our daily chores will be revealed.
    Obviously, the goal and meaning of life is a self-created if life is indeed self-generated over a period of billions of years. The logic here is rather simple and self-explanatory. Yet the outcome is entirely different if we are indeed God’s creatures, and our Creator made us with a clear purpose in mind. Our life is completely futile if we fail to fulfill that particular purpose.
    So the essential question that we should ask ourselves every day is whether we have accomplished the goal for which we were created, which is to magnify the Lord by giving him praise.
    We are created to glorify the Lord and to enjoy his presence forever and unless we fulfill this purpose, our life will be a total failure.
    At this very moment you may be hard at work, doing something to make a living or to keep your household running, I suggest you pause for a brief moment and ask yourself a question: “Why am I doing all these things?”
    Why am I writing this piece anyway? I question. This can be a rather discouraging question for me to address to myself, for my composing is so elementary, my diction plain and rough, my thoughts primitive and basic and, looking at it purely from worldly point of view, it’s a complete disaster and failure. Yet what makes this a worthy venture and something worth doing is simply this: this is being done for no other purpose than to bring the Lord praise.
    Therefore, I have never failed to utter a prayer before my fingers touch the keyboard that may my composing purpose be a form of making a living sacrifice unto the Lord, a form of offering praise to the Lord.
    May it be so with you as well, and together we make a resounding shout of praise unto the Lord who has created us for this very purpose.
  
   
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 14, 2017 3:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Even If 

~~MTS-4413
Even If
“May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God…even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.”   2 Ch. 30:18
     They could have been kept away from the temple and the privilege of celebrating the Passover with the rest of the Israelites taken away from them, since they were ceremoniously unclean according to the law. Even so, they themselves were to blame, since they weren’t fully prepared for such a solemn occasion.
    Indeed, they had made great effort by travelling a long way to the Holy City for the event, and it would have been quite a letdown if they weren’t allowed to eat the Passover meal with all the others. Evidently, it was out of their ignorance of the law that they weren’t sufficiently prepared for the ritual, and King Hezekiah took the matter into his own hands by interceding for the people so that they could take part in the ceremony. What the king performed on these people’s behalf made a lot of sense, for he appeared to be well-versed not only in the letter but the in spirit of God’s law.
    What was essential, the king thought, was that people had set the hearts on seeking the Lord. If it wasn’t so, they wouldn’t have made such an effort by making the trip to Jerusalem. Their hearts were in the right place, albeit their knowledge concerning the law and the rules of the sanctuary was somewhat lacking.
    No matter how knowledgeable we are about the law of God, there will always be blind spots in our perspective that keep us from seeing the whole truth. In dealing with the sacred affairs of the Lord, grace and mercy are what we need. Surely no one can stand before him if the Lord demands perfection from all of us.
    Of course, we are all clothed with the blood-stained robe of Jesus, and are reckoned perfect because of the perfection of the Lamb of God. Even at the present moment, the Lord Jesus is still interceding for us before the heavenly throne; therefore we can approach God with boldness, fully assured that we are entirely accepted by the Almighty, even if we are still afflicted by our actual sins, and are laboring daily to become holy and unblemished in our thoughts and actions.
    We do need the covering of the Lord Jesus’ redemptive blood while we are still in the flesh, and we will never be liberated from our weaknesses until we are glorified someday.
    Our redemption from sin has been completed, yet we are still in need of being redeemed daily, both by our effort and God’s grace, for our striving in this life has always been and will always be perfection and holiness, and any less than that is unacceptable.
    We may never get there in this life and will constantly need the covering of God’s grace. Even if we fail in all our attempts to become perfect, we are still accepted by the Lord, for Jesus is our perfection.
      
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 11, 2017 5:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Regular Positions 

~~MTS-4412
Regular Positions
“Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God.”         2 Ch. 30:16
     After close to twenty-four years of doing the same thing at the same church, everything I do seems to have turned into some sort of rhythm, things that people do without even thinking about it. As I was buying another package of bread for communion service, I remember thinking that I might be retiring before the bread is used up. I was in fact counting down the mouths before I leave my “regular position” as a minister of a small church.
    “I am thinking about retiring from church ministry, but before I do, I need to discuss it with you boys,” I said to my youngest son over the phone.
    “Well, that’s a good idea, and you will be able to devote all your time to writing,” he replied.
     But after a brief pause, he added: “You may miss the preaching part after you leave the church. Isn’t it something you enjoy doing the most?”
    “Well, no one is entirely essential; anyone, it doesn’t matter who they are, they can always be replaced,” I answered. My voice cracked a little bit, feeling as if I was about to leave the battlefield while the war is still raging. Am I a deserter? I question.
    The truth did surface as I was contemplating about ending my church ministry. I believe the decision has been made, or will soon be made, not really on my own behalf; it’s rather for the church’s sake that I should step down, for I am quickly becoming a liability and a dead weight for the congregation to bear by not doing what I should do as a minister of the gospel. The church needs young blood to fulfill the duty and to inject fresh energy into God’s house.
    What I have done over the years? I started to reflect on the bygone years spent as a minster in a single staff church tucked away in a small corner on the High Plains of West Texas.
    “Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God.” Indeed, this verse pretty much sums up all I have done over the years, and if I have done anything worthy of praise at all, this is probably it. I have always taken my regular position and did what I was called to do both in preaching and teaching. Not until this year rarely did I miss a single Sunday service, and although my sermons might not have been first rate, I have been preaching two sermons in both English and Chinese without fail.
    In view of what I was contemplating, I suppose I could have done far worse than what I have been doing, yet by the same token, I could have performed a lot better than merely holding my regular position.
  
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 8, 2017 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Removal 

~~MTS-4411
Removal
“They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.”             2 Ch. 30:14
    At the edge of our little village there is a small shrine dedicated to the “earth god” which is the guardian of the seaside village where I grew up. The shrine is more or less a tiny house; within it there is a table with an incense holder on it. I believe there is one just like that in every village on the island of Taiwan without any exception.
    I presume the shrine will not be removed as long as there are still people in our village, unless the whole village is converted to Christianity, which is quite unlikely. People have been practicing idolatry for hundreds of years since the time they settled down on the west coast of Taiwan.
    This idolatrous ritual, as far as I could tell as a little boy, was the women’s job, for they were the ones who prepared food and fruit for the idols. I have often seen my mother walking to the shrine on the edge of the village with a wicker basket in her hand to make an offering to the earth god.
    I have always been rather reluctant to witness to my mother, for fear of being scorned by her and was unable to conjure up sufficient faith to believe that it was even remotely possible for her to forsake her religion and turn to the true God. A few years ago, my mother passed away an unbeliever.
    There is, however, a vibrant Christian church in the village not too far away from my house and evidently there was a revival that took place years ago and a church was planted. So it isn’t all that impossible for some people to turn to the Lord after all. I should have been a little more aggressive in reaching out to my loved ones with the gospel message, come to think of it. It was fear of persecution, really, that made me so unwilling to witness to the villagers.
    The key to the issue was, and still is, that I lack a can-do attitude powered by strong faith in God. It appears to me that I should learn to transfer my head knowledge of the Lord into heart knowledge by putting into practice what I claim to believe. It’s as simple as that.
    
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 7, 2017 3:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Nevertheless 

~~
MTS-4410

Nevertheless

“Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.”           2 Ch. 30:11

    For a long while it appeared nothing was happening and it didn’t look like anything was going to happen. We were merely doing the routine things every week, such as holding ESL classes and Bible studies for the seekers. It might have been irresponsible on my part not to look into what sort of results we were producing by doing these, yet the truth was that I was too afraid to look, for fear of finding all we had been laboring for was all for naught.

    For all the couriers sent to spread the message all over Israel, the journey was arduous and long, and they might have become rather disappointed and discouraged, for they weren’t received by the people warmly. In fact, they were even scorned and mocked in the process, causing them to question themselves and the validity of their mission. Indeed, there were times when they were tempted to give up and return home. Yet that wasn’t a choice, so they continued on, rather begrudgingly.

    “Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.” Things weren’t all bad after all, for there were people who heard the message and humbled themselves. Surely there are God’s people everywhere, and what must be done is to reach them with God’s message. The chosen will always respond to the Father’s call, and his sheep will never fail to heed the Shepherd’s voice.

    When this man came to me after the church service was over, I knew something had happened to him and the time might have arrived for the church to harvest what she had been sowing. Indeed, a renowned professor from China was about to receive the Lord into his heart. Thing such as this have been few and far between, nevertheless it has occurred from time to time in the church, and every time it happened, I was always amazed and surprised by it, reminding me that the Holy Spirit hasn’t quit calling people to himself and the Lord is still in the business of saving lost souls.

    “Amazing, this woman’s blog has generated two thousand comments,” Kathy said to me at breakfast. There was no denial that I was a bit jealous, for the most responses that I have received for my daily blog from the limited number of readers has been merely one or two, if anything at all. Sometimes I wonder what drives me to keep on blogging year after year, as if there are people out there who really care.

    There is, nevertheless, a reader out there whose opinion really counts, and as long as he is still reading, I will continue to click away on my keyboard.

    It’s not the content that I have managed to produce that counts for anything at all, for the Almighty will never be impressed by men’s ingenuity or creativity; it’s rather the love of the Lord within me that drives me to all these, and that’s all the Master is interested in witnessing, and is pleased.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 6, 2017 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Ignored 

~~MTS-4409
Being Ignored  
“The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them.”          2 Ch. 30:10
    It was business as usual for most people in Israel and they simply didn’t like to be disturbed. Their equilibrium had long been established and it was a balance act to maintain it. People’s greatest desire was for things to remain the same, and for them to be left alone and not to be bothered by either the government or the religious establishment.
    If people were indeed heading toward the wrong direction, not to be disturbed was actually an awful thing, for a drastic change had become necessary. In this case, the Israelites did need to pay great attention, for something had gone terribly wrong. They had been neglecting to observe the Passover feast and had quit going to holy city of Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.
    “The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them.” The couriers who were sent by Hezekiah had been crying out from one village to another, urging people to wake up from their stupor and to set the priority of their lives straight. They needed to put first things first and to remember the Passover.
    How did people react at the hearing of the calling from the king? They scorned and ridiculed the messenger instead.
    Something such as making a long journey to Jerusalem would have been so laborious and troublesome during the season when their orchards and figs needed to be tended and their livestock was in need of care and maintenance. How could they quit making a living and do something that seemed rather superfluous. Religion was for the rich and the idle, and was quite unnecessary, so they thought. 
    Things have not changed after thousands of years, for the response and reaction we have been receiving from people when we call them to turn to the Lord remains essentially the same as before. Worse off, we are oftentimes treated with mockery and disdain, as if we are mere plague in their midst. 
    It gets to the point that we merely go through the routine by calling people to come to the Lord, without expecting any positive response from them. We tend to expect failure to occur after we have failed so many times witnessing for the Lord, and we become accustomed to doing things out of mere duty. Zeal for the gospel is nowhere to be found. 
    Perhaps a Sabbath from labor is badly needed, for we may be fulfilling our obligation in calling people to the Lord, yet losing sight of our own spiritual apathy. Indeed, for those couriers, a spiritual revival might have been needed. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 5, 2017 5:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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