To Burn Incense 

~~MTS-4398
To Burn Incense
“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.”       2 Ch. 29:11
     They were born to serve the Lord in the holy temple since they were born Levies, the tribe that was chosen by God for his very own. Their lives were defined by how they stood before the Lord and burned incense. It was a privilege of the highest degree, yet there might have been some who would have preferred their lives to be otherwise.
    How exciting it would have been had they possessed a plot of land so that they could till their own land and be completely self-sufficient. Leading a life entirely relying on others for daily provision was awfully humbling and, oftentimes, humiliating.
    At my age and considering how long I have been ministering in the church, the thought of folding it up is ever-present. Yet what deters me from making a definite decision has always been financial one. “How can we afford it?” This has always been a nagging question, causing me to become rather reluctant as far as retirement is concerned. To state it bluntly, my faith isn’t strong enough to tackle the possible financial difficulty lying ahead in the unseen. At my advanced age, it’s frightening to be ambushed by unforeseen adversities, such as money issues and otherwise. Therefore, I must continue on, not necessarily out of my volition, but out of daily necessity.
    I was looking at the suit I had on during the Sunday morning prayer, and I remember thinking it has remained my favorite for a number of years. Then I was reminded it was purchased at a second hand boutique for the amount of $20 and my children fondly labeled it a “dead man’s suit.” Yet the suit has always been a comfort to me, for I have often considered it tailor-made for me by my Heavenly Father. The suit fits me perfectly and, as if that wasn’t enough, there was another suit, which was slightly more expensive than the one for the warm weather, which demanded the hefty price of $25. With these two suits, my entire year is covered and there is no more worry for me what to wear to preach on Sundays. What was the suit trying to tell me? I wonder.
    Perhaps I have become greedy after being spoiled for a year or two by having slightly more than enough to cover all my needs, and even having some extra to splurge on things other than necessities. Isn’t this the time, I confront myself, to again sharpen the sword of my faith and to rely on the Lord for my daily provision the rest of for my life?
    “My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.” I wasn’t born a Levi, yet I have been chosen to stand before the Lord to burn incense nonetheless, and to be so concerned about my daily provision is an affront to the Lord of hosts, who alone provides for my every need, whether I retire instantly, or remain in the ministry for the time being. 
 
    
 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 27, 2017 8:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

This is Why 

~~MTS-4397
This is Why
“This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity.”            2 Ch. 29:9
    If the dots were so easily connected, all things would be well, for we would become so cautious in all we do so that we wouldn’t take the risk of endangering all our loved ones by acting recklessly. Yet this was exactly the case and it was spelled out so matter-of-factly: “This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity.” This does bring to my heart fear and trembling, for what I have done may have a direct relationship to whatever suffering my loved one are going through or have experienced.
    On the other hand, didn’t our Lord Jesus make it so clear by stating “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” and then he clarified: “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
    What may happen is the words of our Lord may be evoked as an apology for our misdeeds, implying that what we have done has nothing to do with the ills that occur to us or to our loved ones. Looking from a broader spectrum, the two surely are related, albeit we have no idea how closely they are connected.
    “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin … ,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Thousands of years ago before I came into being, I participated in Adam’s sin and, consequently, I perished. Indeed, I was dead before I was born and would have been destined to die eternally unless the Lord out of his mercy determined that I should live.
    It’s rather obvious that the act of sin brings about dire consequences - one eternal and the other temporal.
    The fact that I am concerned that my sin may adversely affect my wife and children only goes to indicate the possibility of it happening. This was what motivated Job to offer sacrifices on behalf of his children, wasn’t it? If for no other reason, shouldn’t we remain upright and pure just for our children’s sake, in case we actually put them in harm’s way by our sin and filth?
    Grace is what we badly need, come to think of it. No matter how much I desire to remain holy and attempt to do right at all times, the fact that I still slip may still bring the possibility of punishment, and the fear and terror may rob me of the joy of living. We are indeed suffering greatly from Adam’s sin, yet are nonetheless harvesting the eternal benefits of Christ’s death on the cross. This is rather comforting, isn’t it?
    Knowing that what I do as a husband and a father may bring forth positive or negative effects on my loved ones will surely cause me to walk on the straight and narrow. If this doesn’t, I don’t know what will.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 26, 2017 6:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Burning 

~~MTS-4396
Burning
“They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel.”                2 Ch. 29:7
    There was so much for them to do just to meet their daily needs and there wasn’t a whole lot of time left to spare. Life needs to be maintained, which takes quite an effort.
    Burning incense to the Lord or giving offerings to him seemed to be rather superfluous, didn’t it? What wasn’t necessary could easily be discarded, so that they could focus their attention on truly essential things, such as making a living by doing whatever was necessary.
    We burn the midnight oil merely to maintain what we already possess and dream of possessing, which is the only burning we seem to be doing nowadays.
    Indeed, we are all making a “living sacrifice” to whomever we are trying to please or to whatever goal we are attempting to achieve. Whatever we are living for is on the receiving end of our burnt offerings.
    To live is to present ourselves to be burned to whomever we serve, and if our ashes could breathe a word, they would whisper the vanity of all our efforts. Are the positions we have earned or the wealth we have accumulated really worth all the sacrifices we have made?
    “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” wrote the Apostle Paul. If we live for Christ alone our daily mortification is a sacrifice, and we need to be reminded of this reality our every waking hour.
    I am burning incense and I must know to whom I am making my daily prayer; I am being scorched and I should be aware to whom I am presenting my daily sacrifice. This is the key to true spirituality and by doing so we can turn our spiritual imagination into reality. 
    Why am I writing day and night? To make a name for myself or to exhibit to the world my ability? Is it merely a form of self-expression or a gimmick of narcissistic display? If it is so, all I have ever done and will do is a mere mockery and eventually will turn into evidence for my indictment, and I will be found guilty of robbing God of his honor and glory.
    It’s not so much what we do but who we are, really. If we live for Christ’s sake, all that we do daily will become living sacrifices; otherwise, our burnt offerings will be directed to someone else. This is indeed rather simple logic of which every saint must be reminded.
    This is exactly the way we endow our daily activity with meaning and seemingly mundane work with richness and significance of eternity.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 25, 2017 7:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Door 

~~MTS-4395
The Door
“They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps.”  2 Ch. 29:7
    “A school principal is also the one who rings the bell for class.” This is a Taiwanese saying, implying that some schools on the island are so small and understaffed that the head of the school must do everything in order to keep it running.
    Certainly I am not the head of the church and have never considered myself to be a head of anything, yet over the period of twenty-four years as the pastor of a single staff church, I have been serving as a “doorman” who opens up the church on Sunday morning and locks up the gate on Sunday afternoon when all church activities are over. Most of the time, I am usually the first one to arrive at the church and the last one to leave.
    Surely this should not be taken as a complaint; it’s rather quite a compliment. What an honor it has been for me, more ordinary than ordinary, to open the door to God’s church so the saints of the Lord can congregate to worship the almighty God Sunday after Sunday and year after year. What a miraculous thing the Lord has performed among us that he has kept the church door open for the last thirty years and, if my memory serves me right, our Sunday worship service was only cancelled once due to snow during this lengthy period.
    Something such as this should not be taken for granted, for things can easily happen and the privilege of meeting the Lord every Sunday may be stripped away from us. Even if the door of the church remains open and we are free to visit, something may occur to us, such as illness or other external or internal issues, that may keep us from attending church activities.
    I have never considered not going to church to worship the Lord on Sunday, yet rarely did I deem it an honor and privilege either. When something becomes such a routine, we can’t help taking it lightly as if it will remain the same forever. Indeed, we only become nostalgic about something when it no longer exists, don’t we? When the Israelites were in Babylonian exile, what they missed the most on foreign soil was temple worship, something they might have taken for granted while they were at home.
    “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked,” we read in the book of Psalms.
    It’s no ordinary affair for me to rise early in the morning and be the one who opens up the door of God’s church, and to grumble about it is an act of ingratitude. The Lord has been so gracious to me that he appointed me to be the doorkeeper of his church and, moreover, he gave me the tremendous opportunity to preach the Word. Obviously, being a servant of the Lord and proclaimer of the gospel is one and the same thing.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 21, 2017 8:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Lamp 

~~MTS-4394
The Lamp
“They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps.” 2 Ch. 29:7
    This is an ironclad fact that can never be denied: we remain the light of the world as long as we have received the “light of life” into our lives. The light may occasionally become dim, but it cannot be put out.
    We are not “doing the light,” we are the light. Being the light is the essence of our being, and being something is essentially unchangeable and indestructible. I am my father’s son, and the fact will never change no matter how much I offend him, and his home will always be my home regardless of how far I have wandered away from it.
    I can keep my light hidden, however. Indeed, we can light up a lamp and keep it under the table. It’s rather strange, isn’t it? Such an idea is irrational and out of the ordinary, yet it’s often done. There is no lack of lamps in this world, except a lot of them are kept hidden.
   I am the only Christian in my extended family; therefore if my light is kept under the desk, my loved ones won’t get the opportunity to see the light, which is the truth of Christ Jesus. Yet for years I have been hiding my light, for fear of ridicule and persecution. Never a single time did I witness to my grandparents and only did so in passing to my parents. I did not have a sense of urgency to let my light shine before them while they were alive and what remains after their passing is nothing but regret and remorse.
    I sometimes question that I am truly a light in the world, for the beam of my being seems to be rather obscure and often absent. “They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps.” Have I also done the same thing as the Israelites did to the lamps in the holy temple?
    It goes without saying that unless there is oil in the lamp, it will cease to shine. Traditionally, we believe the oil is the Holy Spirit that enables us to give out bright beams in the dark world. Yet I have found out what keeps my lamp from gleaming has always been lack of faith and my nagging doubt about the truth of the gospel, and the eternal damnation of the unbelievers. I would have had a strong sense of urgency to witness to my family members and friends had I truly believed that they are heading to hell. Isn’t this quite obvious?
    This isn’t an act of self-condemnation; it’s rather a self-evaluation, which tells where I have fallen and how to get back on my feet and continue to follow Jesus and to walk in the light. My lamp might have grown dim, but the light nonetheless remains still, and my determination is to let it shine.
    May the Lord strengthen my faith so that I may truly be convinced and convicted that unless I start to shine, my little cubicle or my classroom will remain pitch dark and people will continue to stumble. For us Christians, letting our light shine in the world is the least and the most that we can do. 
  
 
  
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 20, 2017 7:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Facing Him 

~~MTS-4393
Facing  Him
“They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him.”          2 Ch. 29:6
    We will look increasingly like the image of the Lord if we develop a habit of facing him daily. If we look at his face every day our countenance will naturally reflect the glorious likeness of the Almighty.
    This is something akin to the Chinese idea that couples will look more and more like each other in appearance after they have lived together for a number of years. This is what’s ordinarily called “couple’s appearance.” I suppose this does make some sense, for if we tend to become like whom we spend our time with, their likeness will “rub off” on us. Well, this is quite impossible for couples from different races, I guess. Of course I would very much like to look more like my wife.
    What matters the most is that we become more and more like Christ by facing him every day.
    How do we cultivate a habit of facing the Lord? I believe it starts every morning when we get out of bed and every night before we go to sleep. What we face daily is what occupies our thoughts and these very things never depart from our minds. This might be more of an unconscious thing, yet we are able to bring it up to the surface through conscious effort. We can always make our unconscious thoughts concrete by “embodying” them with our thought and meditation.
    The fact that we are facing the Lord every moment of the day needs constant reminding on our part. We often do things without thinking since most of what we do is in our daily routine. Yet there is nothing really routine about anything at all, since all things have been preordained by God, and to face him is to see all things in their inner essence, not merely their outward appearance.
    To face the Lord is to see his hand in all things with which we have come in contact, and there is a loving will that wills all things to happen and to come into being.
    Of course, to be more like Christ is to think and to act more like him, and this can only be achieved by beholding his glorious countenance daily and by imitating him in our thoughts and actions. In short, we will be more like him if we spend more time with him.
    Kathy and I may not look alike after spending thirty-seven years together as a couple, yet there is something seriously wrong if we don’t think and act alike. Indeed, we have been facing each other all these years and becoming more alike each other is nothing but a natural outcome of such a union.
    May we face the Lord everyday so that we will become more like him and what we are will become more like who he is.
      
    
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, July 19, 2017 8:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Defilement 

~~
MTS-4392

Defilement

“Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.”          2 Ch. 29:5

    This was what Hezekiah told the Levites as they were getting themselves ready to serve the Lord in the holy temple. First they must consecrate themselves and then do the same to the temple by removing “all the defilement from the sanctuary.” Evidently, there were defilements of all kinds still remaining on holy ground and, unless they were removed, the Lord would not find it suitable to again place his holy name there. Holiness, both in the exterior and interior part of the sanctuary, was something the Lord was looking for and, more importantly, he was seeking for holiness among his people as well. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we read in the book of Hebrews.

    The sanctuary was defiled by the previous generation and there were still physical vestiges of it remaining on the site, reminding of what it had been in the past. Unless these were utterly destroyed, they would forever remain articles of temptation for the ones who frequented the holy ground. They must be completely uprooted to avoid becoming roots of other evils.

    Indeed, the ones who have a drinking issue may have to avoid the sight of liquor within their house and, by the same token, it may be wise for the addicts to pornography to block all the seductive websites.

    There was no guarantee for anything, really, and even if they did all they possibly could to clean up the holy temple, defilement would continue to happen and things would naturally deteriorate until they were properly and consistently maintained. The king was merely attempting to give the worship of the Lord a new start, which was absolutely essential at the time.

    Revival of all sorts, either at a group or individual level, is never a onetime thing; it must be continual, and it cannot be sustained unless it’s diligently maintained. Removal of all defilements in our life gives new life a good start, but they must be constantly removed to give our budding spiritual life a fighting chance to survive.

    Therefore, let’s make the removal of filthy elements that seek to defile our spiritual life a daily occurrence. Confucius might have been a staunch humanist and self-proclaimed agnostic, yet he still made it a daily habit to examine himself three times. “I examine myself three times a day,” he said. Shouldn’t we do the same thing daily so that we will be free from being defiled by the filth that we seem to accumulate by coming in contact with the ungodly world and pagans who clutch their gods, wallowing in the filthy pond of their sins?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, July 18, 2017 7:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The First Thing 

~~MTS-4391
The First Thing
“In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them.”             2 Ch. 29:3
    King Hezekiah might have been waiting for a long time for the day when he finally got to assume the kingship, and when the day finally arrived, it still didn’t seem all that real to him. The young man was finally placed in a position where he could fulfill his aspirations and dreams for himself and his country. It might have taken a while for him to determine what to do first when he took over the throne, yet it became a no-brainer after the decision was made: he decided to put the Lord first by restoring the temple worship which had been long neglected and discarded.
    Indeed, King Solomon had built the holy temple after he assumed the kingship, yet he also started an even bigger and grander construction project, which was to erect a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter, which was for him as well. Even though he was taking care of God’s business, David son’s was nonetheless conducting his own affairs at the same time. Being a king offered him a privilege and it was all too natural for him to harvest the benefits of the position at the earliest possible time, such as gathering beautiful women for himself, starting a war of two, or launching a big building project.
    As far as we can tell, Hezekiah didn’t any of those things. He was rather single-minded in what he planned on doing, which was to bring the hearts of the Israelites back to the Lord.
    So, no sooner did he have the royal crown placed on his head, than he started to do what he considered the uttermost important on his to-do list as a king. “In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them.”  Thus started Hezekiah’s splendid reign over the nation of Judah. The king indeed had his priorities straight and was determined to bring true spirituality back to the life of the entire Southern Kingdom.
    Hezekiah was a breath of fresh air among many of the kings, both from the North and the South, who had been self-centered and concerned only about their personal interests. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t end well. Surely, no matter what people do in life, this principle seems to be proven true both in time past and time present: “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”
    May we always keep this in our minds.       

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 10, 2017 8:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Father 

~~MTS-4390
The Father
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.”  2 Ch. 29:2
    I am my father’s son and, even though for the most part he was a decent man who loved his children, he didn’t leave a godly legacy behind for his children to emulate. He wasn’t particularly interested in practicing idolatry, he nonetheless followed the family tradition as far as his worship was concerned and did what was required of him to do as the head of the family. Even if I try to trace our family history back many generations, I seriously doubt I would locate a godly Christian in the lengthy line of our family’s genealogy. Surely there is no “father David” in our family.
    Obviously Hezekiah didn’t find in his father any godly character to follow at all, for King Ahaz was a wicked man who did all he possibly could to remove the pure worship of the Lord from the nation of Judah and replace it with perverted foreign religion. The son had to go elsewhere to search for a role model to imitate if he desired to have one. King David was only several generations removed from his time, and his godly example was probably still lucid in his children’s memory. Where else could Hezekiah turn to find devout ancestors but his forefather David?
    Hezekiah became David’s true son by emulating his ways of relating to the Lord. Ahaz was the instrument which the Lord employed to bring his son Hezekiah into the world, yet there were essentially no similarities between them spiritually. It wasn’t an absolute necessity for him to grow up like his father; Hezekiah had in fact a choice to make - whether to follow his father’s ways or to seek examples elsewhere.
    Do I desire my children to grow up like their father? Not exactly so. I doubt that I have done all I possibly could to show them the path of righteousness while they were under my roof, and the time has long gone and the precious opportunity forever missed. They must carve their own way and make the God of their father their own and “personalize” their relationship with the Lord.
   Who was my father David on my spiritual journey if there was one at all? Had there been a David figure in my life, my spiritual life would have been vastly different than what it is today. I pray it will turn out differently for my children and my children’s children.
    Come to think of it, my late father-in-law might have been such a person for me and my children. I pray my wife’s father will someday become the David of our family to whom my children will turn when they search for a godly example to emulate on their spiritual journey.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 7, 2017 8:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Years 

~~MTS-4389
Years
“Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.”           2 Ch. 29:1
    I found myself calculating how many years king Hezekiah had in total when I came across this simple statement. It was as if it was merely mentioned in passing and no further comment was made. There was no need to add anything to it, I suppose. Fifty-four years surely was long enough for someone to make a career out of it and, furthermore, the time was more than sufficient for someone to establish a firm and harmonious relationship with his or her Maker.
    The essence of our life should be cemented and defined by how we relate to the Lord, not the length of it.
    I could have squandered my entire life had the Lord not found and saved me at the age of twenty-three. It was as if I was yet to start to live before the monumental event took place. How could I truly live if I was dead in my trespasses and sin? Had I lived entirely for my own sake, whatever I had done with my life would have perished with me, leaving absolutely no trace in this world.
    What makes time meaningful is eternality and, apart from it, time is nothing but mere vanity. Whatever is done for the sake of self, gratifying the desire of the self, will surely vanish with the demise of the self. Doesn’t this sound logical to you?
    Alexander the Great indeed had a rather impressive career, for he built a great empire across three continents, unparalleled in the then-known world, yet after he passed away at age thirty-three, his vast kingdom was divided by his generals and what was left behind was a tragic chronicle of conquest and blood-shed. Did the man truly live at all during his short life-span of thirty-three years? The man couldn’t have lived, for the sole purpose of his life was to take life away. Death and life are a contraction in terms, and we are either in the process of living or dying, and there is no somewhere in-between.
    “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” the Lord Jesus declared.
    The way the Lord Jesus perceived time was quite different from how we view it and he appeared to measure it by quality, not by quantity. Compared to many others of his generation, his earthly days were very short, yet the life that the Lord Jesus generated during his age and the ages to come has multiplied. Even in the present age, his life-creation force is still in operation, and will continue until the end of the age.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, July 6, 2017 7:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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