An Invasion 

~~MTS-4424
An Invasion
“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.”      2 Ch. 32:1
    What more could King Hezekiah have done to win God’s mercy and protection so that no evil would occur to his nation and to himself? Evidently, he didn’t do quite enough, for we read: “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.”
    In Hezekiah’s case, faithfulness to the Lord didn’t really pay, did it?
    We should not sell the king short, however, for he might not have done all the right things in order to win God’s favor. He could have done all he had done for the sake of honoring the Lord, without thinking about the reward he could possibly have earned.
    Doing good itself is its own best reward.
    Had the king done evil in the sight of the Lord, Sennacherib might have been employed as an instrument to exact judgment on him; since that wasn’t the case, we read no comment along that line. All we know was the invasion didn’t end badly and, in the midst of such calamity, the Lord did extend his arms to rescue his people from utter destruction.
    There is absolutely no such guarantee in life that if we do A, B will automatically take place. There is a probability that a desirable outcome will happen, but the likelihood of it not occurring is equally great. God’s mystery simply cannot be figured out by human logic, which is exactly the reason why faith in God is completely necessary.
    Did the unfortunate event cause the king to have doubts about God’s faithfulness? For sure it did, for such reaction is quite natural for God’s people to have when reality does not actually gel with one’s beliefs.
    What could the king have done in time of personal and national crisis? Did he start to moan and groan about how the Lord failed to come to his aid in time of trouble? He simply did what should or could have been done to prepare for what was going to happen, trusting that all things would out to be fine at the end.
    I just don’t see any other alterative except to keep on trusting the Lord when things are dire. Hezekiah certainly didn’t lose hope even though all things seemed to be pointing just the opposite.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 5, 2017 7:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Service of God 

~~MTS-4423
Service of God
“…in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”  2 Ch. 31:21
    Life can easily become so routine that we become accustomed to doing things without thinking. Very few of us are leading a thoughtful life and our actions are often void of serious meditation.
    “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken.” Do we keep our eyes always on the Lord and make him the center of all our thoughts and actions?
    We may not be conscious of the fact, but we are either serving the Lord or working solely for ourselves. We may go through the motions daily and hardly ever entertain a thought of the Lord, which is rather unfortunate, since we have been created to fulfill his purpose on earth.
    Making a living is merely a means to an end, which isn’t the purpose of life itself; we manage to stay alive by earning a living so that we can better serve the Lord. As a matter of fact, working and serving should not be dichotomized, for both are one and the same. We serve the Lord in whatever we do if we work unto him and do all things with a single and undivided purpose, which is to bring God honor and glory.
    We live in time, yet we need to constantly keep eternity in our minds and be aware of the eternal significance that we generate by engaging in all the temporal affairs. This concept isn’t new or earthshattering, but it does take conscious effort on our part to put it into daily practices.
    Take the activity that I am engaged in at the moment for an example. Even though my writing is second rate at best and my ideas are not very thought-provoking by any stretch of the imagination, yet I keep on doing this day after day without ceasing, for I have always considered this is the spiritual service I am rendering to the Lord; therefore, I can do it continuously without considering the result, financial or otherwise, it may generate.
    Even though I seem to be working on my writing, this is “stand and wait,” as Milton rendered it in his poem. So I suggest that we take a brief pause every now and then when we are busy doing our jobs and ponder on the meaning of our work, and dedicate whatever we do daily unto the Lord. It’s indeed an honorable thing to provide for our loved ones by working hard at our jobs, but ultimately we are created for God’s own glory and we ought to labor toward that end.
    We may just be merely making a living by doing whatever job we have, yet even so, it’s still a divine calling if we keep the Lord always before our eyes, intending to cause his name to be glorified.
  
  
    
  
  
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 4, 2017 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Provision 

~~MTS-4422
Provision
“They included all the little ones, the wives, and the sons and daughters of the whole community listed in these genealogical records.”     2 Ch. 31:18
    We can probably say that those people were born into privilege and, consequently, their daily needs were provided for, out of God’s grace and the king’s generosity. Hezekiah was a godly man whose intention was to make sure that the chosen tribe of God, the Levites, the ones who were selected to serve the Lord full time, weren’t in want of anything.
    It was indeed a great honor and privilege to be born into a household of the priesthood, for not only did they get to enjoy the spiritual benefits, there was absolutely no need for them to become concerned about their daily provision. How wonderful it was to be included among the chosen tribe of God!
    Those people’s estate was indeed rather enviable, and it wasn’t by their own doing or merit that they got to enjoy all the advantages in life. Their rights were inherited and were God-given, and there was no room for boasting. Had I been born into such honor and privilege, all I could have done for being in such a position would have been nothing but give the Lord praises and gratitude.
    Even though I did not have the honor to be placed in a godly family, the least I could do was to provide one for my children. But before I could start doing so, I myself had to be converted into God’s family. That was exactly what transpired, and for this reason alone do I have ample cause to give the Lord honor and praises.
    It could have been a lot worse, come to think of it, for if my grandmother had had her will, I would have given up for adoption at birth. Or I could have been born severely handicapped or with other physical or mental infirmities which might have prevented me from coming to the Lord. Surely a lot of bad things could have happened to me at birth, yet out of God’s mercy they didn’t occur, and since the day I was born, all things that have happened seemed to point to one end - which was for me to know the Lord and to serve him only.
    When was the last time, the only time even, that I was thankful for my idolatrous family, and my grandparents who were responsible for providing for me, and my parents who raised me the best they knew how?
    So instead of becoming envious of the children and wives of the Levites who seemed to have inherited all the rights without lifting even a finger, I should become more thankful for my blessed estate, since what I have become was entirely through God’s grace, as the apostle Paul stated: “But by the grace of God I am who I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”
  
  
  
 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 3, 2017 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Left Over 

~~MTS-4421
Left Over
“…we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.”          2 Ch. 31:10
    People seem to be so amazed to witness Ma Yun, the Chinese tycoon who is one of the richest people in China, eating a bowl of instant noodles, thinking that such a diet is beyond a man of his financial status. What must the man of great worth eat? I wonder.
    What should I eat? I ask myself this probing question. Compared to Ma, I am merely a peanut financially, yet as far as eating is concerned, I do have many options. But I have often found myself eating a bowl of instant noodles exactly like what Ma often does. Indeed, what’s the most enjoyable doesn’t have to be the costliest, does it? If that were the case, the poor would be deprived of any pleasure in life and we might bring a charge against the Lord for being unfair toward his children.
    Of course, the Lord does always make sure that his children have enough to eat, but the question remains: does he do anything beyond that? It appears to me, as I speculate, that if providing for our basic needs is a divine obligation, then giving us a little extra is God’s generosity.
    Being an earthly father, if I can afford to be generous, I will certainly be rather extravagant to all my loved ones, particularly my children. Come to think of it, my dad was a poor farmer, yet he managed to buy me a new car when I returned to Taiwan after three years of study in the States. I don’t think he could afford to be so generous to his son, yet he did it anyway. Why? I guess he wanted to make sure that I would have something left over.
    Don’t we all desire to be spoiled by the ones who love us?
    There were twelve baskets full of bread left over after the Lord Jesus fed thousands of people. There was no need for that, really, yet he did it anyway. There was no explanation other than to show that the Lord’s generosity has no limits. Indeed, life is not merely to be lived, but to be celebrated. Therefore, there are six days, and there is the Sabbath, which, it appears to me, is the “left over” of the cycle of seven days.
  The Sabbath is the time to rest; it’s also meant to be celebrated, and to remember divine abundance by thanksgiving is the best kind of celebration.
    Had I been able to, I would have made my children, when they were under my roof, feel that we always had money to spare and there was some left over if we ever needed it. I guess if we have sufficient faith in our Heavenly Father, having an abundance leftover must be the way we feel at all times, since our Father does own “cattle on a thousand hills.”
    It’s simply amazing! As a person with such merger financial resources, I was able to open a savings account, and leave it untouched for several years.   
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 29, 2017 5:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Tithe 

~~MTS-4420
A Tithe
“They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.”         2 Ch. 31:6
    Tithing isn’t just giving one tenth of our income; it’s rather the important indication of our overall mindset, our attitude toward our wealth. By willingly parting from ten percent of our worth, we simply reveal to the Lord and the world who the true owner of our wealth is.
    We are in reality mere tenants of what we supposedly own, yet we often act as if we possess them permanently, not realizing that the owner of all we ever own can claim it whenever he deems fit. Giving one tenth of our money to the Owner of our wealth seems to be a much better deal than turning to him all we have in one fell swoop, doesn’t it?
    Giving our tithe to the Lord is to offer to the Lord what rightly belongs to him incrementally, which I believe is a lot easier than handing to him all we own in a lump sum. Besides, we learn how to give by giving, which will make it easy when we are required to give up all things. Tithing is, in essence, a spiritual exercise, teaching and reminding us who we truly are, and what genuine wealth is in this world.
    There are so many factors contributing to our ability to make a decent living or to amass sizable wealth, and the purpose isn’t solely for our own pleasure of enjoyment. We ought to address the crucial question as to what is the true end of our prosperity and fulfill it accordingly. Indeed, with wealth comes responsibility.
    “I am happy that I am not wealthy,” my wife often says to me.
    “Why? Isn’t that a sour grapes mentality,” I question.
    “Well, I don’t like the responsibility of being rich, for their obligation of giving is far greater than most people.” This does make sense, doesn’t it? Cutting a heavy check may demand a heavy hand, and I am not so sure it can be done light-heartedly. Wealth does not automatically make one generous; monetary giving requires spiritual discipline and constant exercise and, most importantly, a transformation of mindset.
    “After we retire, our tithes and offerings will be greatly reduced,” my wife said to me.
    “Well, we may have to stop giving to some of the missionaries we have been supporting,” I replied, feeling a little sad. For years I have been taking tithing and giving toward missions and charity for granted, and to give it up for lack of a steady income creates a deep sense of sadness. We may not be aware of, or think about it consciously, but what a great privilege it is to be able to give our tithes and offerings until the day we lose our ability either by old age or by disability. 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 28, 2017 5:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Provision 

~~
MTS-4419

Provision

“He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord.”  2 Ch. 31:4

    “Our daily provision shouldn’t be an issue when you consider retiring from church ministry,” Kathy said to me yesterday. It was indeed a declaration of faith, since she has always been the one between us who is more concerned about our financial state, which is understandable, for she’s been the one who pays all the bills. For years I have been rather oblivious about our household’s money matters.

    I suppose, after years of experiencing God’s abundant provision, my wife’s faith in the Lord concerning our daily provision must have been greatly strengthened. Surely the Lord has been merciful to us and he has never failed to provide for our needs.

    How did the Lord accomplish the task? Unless God’s people in the congregation had continued to give their tithes and offerings to the church, my source of income would have dried up. My annual stipend might be meager from a human point of view, yet the Lord has always come through when we had any need. Indeed, it was the Lord who has been providing for us, and the means by which he achieved the goal was through his people’s generosity.

    When we first arrived, there were only a handful of families in the church and the rest of them were students. The financial situation of the church was rather shaky to say the least. Yet it was the Lord who made sure that we had all the essentials and a little bit more. Twenty-four years later, not only do we own our own church building, we are able to contribute toward missions and charity work. Never was there a single time in the past years that the church had any difficulty paying my salary.

    All things considered, this is nothing short of miraculous, and it all came about by church people’s faithfulness in their giving. I am often amazed over the fact that a church such as this has remained viable and has thrived year after year. Up to this day, the church is merely composed of several families and the rest are students and visiting researchers from overseas, yet we are not in want in any way. Surely the Lord has been gracious.

    “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” sad the Lord. This is mathematics of the divine and can only be apprehended through constant practice. In fact, the Lord may bless us in sundry forms and different ways, of which we may not be fully aware, yet one of the blessings is financial prosperity. I am somewhat reluctant to make this pronouncement, but for the fact that it has been proven true through my personal experiences over the years. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 27, 2017 4:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

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
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