Self-perception 

~~MTS-3826
Self-perception
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”
         Phil 1:1

“Why do Christians call themselves servants of God?” a Chinese non-believer once asked me. I guess he was puzzled by this, since servanthood has always been considered lowly and undesirable. Certainly labeling Christians thusly isn’t a good way to draw people to Christ.
“Well, we are both children and servants of God, depending how you look at it,” I replied, trying to take the edge off the denigrating title a little bit. I guess he will never truly appreciate the preciousness of the title until he himself becomes a believer some day.
No Christian can remain a master after he has welcomed the Master into his life. “No one can serve two masters,” says the Lord. Unless we remove ourselves from the throne, we will always be in the way, keeping the Lord from becoming the Lord over our lives.
Was Paul just saying that, or did he truly perceive himself to be the servant of Christ Jesus? We may become a little skeptical over the statement, since people can name themselves whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean they true believe it or act like it. Aren’t we all getting tired of hearing elected government officials call themselves “public servants,” even though they act like anything but. They indeed act like ones when they are running for office, but they instantly become masters of the populace after they assume a lofty position.
Being a servant of God is an inside-out sort of thing and, unless our inner selves are truly transformed, we will continue to think we are the masters of our fate and captains of our own souls. Some people have never been transformed when they were converted; therefore Christ becomes their servant, rather than master, when they invite Jesus into their hearts. They will be more than ready to jump ship, or have him “fired” when Jesus happens to fail to do something for them.
Our self-perception must go through a 180-degree change when we are transformed. Our conversion is an experience of complete transformation that includes all aspects of our lives and our self-perception is an important part of this. After we become Christians, we turn over the authority over our lives to Christ once and for all and assume the role of children and servants. Indeed we have restored the sonship we lost through Adam’s sin but, more importantly, we also have regained the privilege of serving the Master after the first man was created. We call “Abba Father” as beloved children of God; yet we call ourselves servants since we have been created to serve the Lord.
So what do we perceive ourselves to be? Children or servants of God? Do we grumble when we are required to do some lowly jobs in the church more suited for servants than masters? How do we react when people treat us with disrespect or disdain? Are we easily offended? What do we perceive ourselves to be? We may be surprised by the answers to these questions if we are truly honest.        

   

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 9, 2014 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 

~~MTS-3825
The End
“He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem.”            2 Kings 25:9

The inevitable finally took place, Nebuzaradan, the commander of king Nebuchadnezzar, broke down the wall of Jerusalem and set fire to the temple of God and all the houses of the city, marking the end of a glorious era and the taking of God’s chosen people into exile. The less fortunate ones who survived the onslaught of the Babylonians now had to face another daunting challenge, which was to take a long journey to a foreign land where they would definitely experience years of suffering. Most of them must have lost some of their loved ones and to live was more of a horrible thing than to die.
Gone were the festivals and temple worship, vanished was the joy that they shared, and there were no song of praises to be heard except the song they would sing by the river of Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”
O how could the exile forget Zion with all her beauty and glory? They kept on looking back at the green hills as they were driven like a herd of cattle farther and farther away from their fold, as if trying to etch each olive tree and every blade of grass into their memory. 
How did it come to this? Did the Lord forsake his people? They must have asked these questions in their minds repeatedly as they were journeying toward the unknown.
Even though they felt so deserted and utterly forsaken, the Lord was still in their midst, and would someday take some of them home to rebuild the walls of the holy city and the holy temple. Not many among the exiles could have envisioned that happening except a select few whose faith in God wasn’t shattered by the disentangled situation when all things fell apart and the center could not hold. Surely it must have felt like the end of the world.
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.”
Nebuchadnezzar with all his military strength might have triumphed over God’s people for a season, yet he himself was a mere instrument which the Lord employed to exact his justice. When God’s anger subsided and his justice was satisfied, he would start to shower his people with mercy. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” The mighty tyrant would soon die and leave no trace behind; God’s people would continue to survive and thrive under an extremely difficult situation until the purpose of the Lord was completely fulfilled through them. Despite all the rebellion and idolatry that took place among God’s people, God’s eternal design would ultimately prevail. By the same token, we may appear to be utterly defeated and all hope of restoration gone, but the Lord is still at work and will accomplish his eternal purpose through us. May we always be reminded by Paul’s declaration of triumph when he quoted what the Lord said to him in a time of distress: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."   
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 8, 2014 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Siege 

~~MTS-3824
The Siege
“He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it.”
           2 Kings 25:1

The end for Judah was drawing nearer and nearer and all hope appeared to be gone. There was no place to turn for the people who lived in the city and all they could do was to wait for the ax to drop. The verdict had been announced, and only the day of execution was yet to be determined.
Some people might have occasionally climbed up to the city wall to take a peek at the enemies in the distance, hoping to see an inkling of hope, a sign of the Babylonians breaking their camp and pulling out. Hoping against hope was all they could have hoped, for the wall of Jerusalem was crumbling, and the enemies were moving closer and closer to their homes and hearths. During the day they had to endure the agony of hunger and nightmares would keep them from sleeping at night. Time seemed to slow down considerably and most people were doing nothing but sitting on their porches and staring at the scorching sun and listening to the chanting of the Babylonians. Some might have tried to pray with their parched lips and quavering voice, yet only a mere whisper came out from their months: “Lord, please save us!”
Rumors about the Babylonians and how ruthless they were had been flying all over the city and what they heard was horrifying. They realized that death was imminent, yet the course of that happening still brought a chill and horror to their bones and their bodies were numbed by a dull pain.
Indeed, days of infamy and great terror were approaching and the Israelites couldn’t do anything to make any difference. They only huddled in their homes during the restless quiet before the storm and clutched their loved ones so closely to their hearts as if there was no tomorrow.
All hope of salvation was gone unless the Lord intervened, and it didn’t seem likely that that would take place. The Lord had come through for them many times before, but they seemed to run out of chances this time. Perhaps our chances will run out as well, and someday we may encounter a siege from which we won’t be able to escape.
The siege we may encounter in life may arrive in many forms, really. The marriage that once was so promising may turn into a siege, haunting us day and night; the career that used to provide for us so handsomely may crumble; or the bodies that were once vibrant and healthy may fail us and become a deadly siege, trapping us in the prison of discomfort and pain. Siege, siege, everywhere, how shall we than escape?
After a couple of years of laying siege, the Babylonians finally broke through the wall of Jerusalem and the burning and slaughtering ensued. After all the blood was shed and the sounds of screaming had died down and the scorching fire had burned itself out, the city of God turned into a ghost town, standing forlorn upon a hill, bearing witness to God’s justice and men’s atrocity.
 
 
 
   

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 7, 2014 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Not Willing to Forgive 

~~MTS-3823
Not Willing to Forgive
“For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”        2 Kings 24:4

King Manasseh was the one who shed innocent blood and he was also the culprit who initiated many pagan religious practices in Judah. It wouldn’t have been just if the entire nation had to suffer the outcome of one evil man’s sin. It’s understandable that the Lord had great difficulty forgiving the sins committed by Manasseh, but surely he could find a way to pardon the entire population of Judah, who in many ways couldn’t help but to follow the king’s lead.
When a nation is judged, it is usually being judged as a whole; and when a culture was evaluated, it’s always being looked at as an entity. The Middle Ages as an epoch is often perceived as a dark age, even though there were spots of light gleaming throughout its one thousand years and there were tons of people who were strong witnesses of their faith. It was a dark period of human history in some ways, not in all ways.
“For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”  Why didn’t the Lord bring the evil king to justice, and spare the innocent populace who couldn’t have done anything to alter the course of history or to influence the culture of the times.
When the sword fell, all Israelites suffered, the king as well as the subjects, the aristocrats as well as the commoners. People sinned individually, yet they were punished collectedly.
On the other hand, was there a single person in Judah who was entirely innocent? Were it so, the Lord would have relented. That was why Abraham’s voice was silenced when he was interceding for the city of Sodom, for the Lord couldn’t find any righteous person who deserved to be saved. In that sense, the people in the city was judged individually.
Why was the merciful God unwilling to forgive? Well, I don’t see a way out for the Almighty when his main attributes of mercy and justice clashed, for he would have violated one had he attempted to satisfy the other. There wasn’t a perfect balance between the two until the Word became flesh and died on the cross. The Lord found complete harmony between the two contrasting forces on the cross where the Son of God was crucified, which made it possible for him to forgive.
The Lord is perfectly willing to pardon our sins in Christ Jesus, and there is no forgiveness of sin apart from him. Therefore there is individual redemption in the midst of collective judgment. When an entire village was wiped out by evil people in the Middle East, there were individuals who were redeemed eternally. The collateral damage of sin doesn’t do away in any sense with individual salvation through the merit of Jesus.   


       

   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 6, 2014 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sin adn Forgiveness 

~~MTS-3822
Sin and Forgiveness
“Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence…”        2 Kings 24:3

All things happen for a reason, and the cause of Israel’s demise was that they had rebelled against the Lord by turning to idols. The Lord stated this clearly by his words.
Had the Israelites known the outcome of their sins, they would have avoided committing them. Yet they were just like all humans, and were prone to take chances. “A loving God wouldn’t do such cruelty against his own people,” they argued. “All will be well.” They assured themselves and kept on doing what they had been doing.
We have been spoiled by our earthly parents, and we believe our Heavenly Father will spoil us in exactly the same way. Surely he is all loving and all forgiving and incapable of doing anything to inflict harm on his children. God is love and all is well with the world!
As you and I can see clearly, God isn’t always that forgiving and all isn’t not well in the world. Famine and wars do occur, and people do get sick and die. The world is far from ideal, yet we seem to be fooled by the façade some people have put forth.
 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command…”  The all-seeing eyes in heaven are watching and the Almighty is going to take account of all we have ever done. The Israelites might not have deemed it such a big deal to bow down to Baal or burn incense to pagan gods, yet the holy God was watching and was keeping a detailed record, on which basis he would exact his judgment.
“So what if we curse a little, cheat a little, be slothful a little, get drunk a little, flirt a little, and sleep around a little. A little bit of these doesn’t really amount to anything. Besides, I am no worse than the other guys.” We seem to have all the excuses for all the sins we have ever committed and our apologies appear to be air-tight. Besides, in Christ Jesus all our sins have been atoned for, therefore there is nothing to worry.
Christ’s merit on the cross has often been used as a license to sin and the unconditional forgiveness of our sin through Jesus’ death seems to embolden many of us to sin even more. No wonder the precious attribute of holiness is so hard to find within our churches. The more our congregations grow, the less holiness we find in them.
This is not the time to point fingers, really. The prophet Isaiah cried out “Woe is me!” as he beheld the blinding holiness of the Lord, and then he asked the Almighty what could he do. What must I do at this point since I have witnessed God’s holiness and am brought face to face with my sin and iniquities? Am I going to continue to fool myself by believing that all things will be well, or do I make them well by doing all things in accordance with God’s will?     
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 3, 2014 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Josiah's Death 

~~MTS-3821
Josiah’s Death
“King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Necho faced him and killed him at Megiddo.”        2 Kings 23:29

Considering what he had done during his reign. King Josiah’s death didn’t seem to be worth mentioning. He marched out to war against Necho II, Pharaoh of Egypt, who was leading his vast army to the Euphrates River to assist the Assyrians in their military campaign. Necho wasn’t targeting the Israelites and there was no need for Josiah to go to war with the Egyptians. In fact, Pharaoh discouraged him from doing so, implying that his mission was from God and Josiah should stay out of it. Josiah, however, might have considered it was a good opportunity to score a great victory for his country, for both Egypt and the Assyrians were considerably weakened at this time and the Babylonians were yet to become a military force. Therefore the godly king decided to do something that might not have been that godly- he marched out to war in disguise and a deadly arrow found his chest.
Was it a good death for the godly king? If it wasn’t, what difference did it make?
The manner of people’s death does not mean a whole lot after it’s all over. We mourn for their loss more than for the way they are taken away. Death is death no matter how people die. Yet how Josiah died does make us wonder: If anyone deserved a good death, Josiah should have been the one, for he had done so much to advance God’s kingdom; yet that wasn’t the case at all. The man didn’t pass away peacefully in his sleep; he died a violent death fighting in a battle.
A godly life does not guarantee a good death at all. Consider how the apostles died and many saints in the following generations. How did the Apostle Paul die? After a brief incarceration in a dungeon, his head was severed during the time of Nero.
How we live determines what will transpire after we die, but surely not the manner of our death. Therefore how Josiah’s earthly life ended wasn’t an indication of how he had conducted his life, or how great was God’s love, or the lack thereof, for the man. It might have indicated that the godly king was merely human who still had a passion for military glory in his old age, which brought his life to an end.
The king had done enough with his life to merit admiration and respect from the following generations, and the manner of his death should not take away all the good things he had wrought with his life. The man did all he could to get rid of pagan worship in Israel and to restore the true worship of the Lord in Israel, and he wasn’t rewarded at his death, but after. Surely a good death is desirable, but nothing is more horrible than a good death without the Lord.   

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 2, 2014 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Nevertheless 

~~MTS-3820
Nevertheless
“Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger…”
              2 Kings 23:26

All the sins the Israelites committed as a nation would run their course, despite the effort King Josiah put into bringing the country back to the Lord. Judah, just like Israel before her, would soon be removed from the presence of the Lord and delivered into the hands of the ruthless Babylonians. Most of the people in Jerusalem would become exiles in a foreign land.
Why didn’t the Lord relent after all the cleansing Josiah had done? Was it a little too late since the Lord had determined to do what he intended to do and nothing could have changed his mind?
Does it ever get the point that, no matter what we do, the Lord simply isn’t going to change the course of his action and all we can do is wait for the consequences which we have put into motion?
I can pray until my hair turns gray, but I will still have to walk into the dentist’s office and go through whatever procedure he is going to do. Years of neglecting taking care of my teeth has come back to haunt me and I will just have to live with the consequences the best I can. Does the Lord even care about the trouble I will have to experience throughout the process? Indeed he does, and he is able make the whole thing go away if he so desires, but that doesn’t seem to be the way he usually operates. Forgiveness of sin through the merit of Christ Jesus does do away with the eternal consequences we may have incurred; it however does not get rid of the temporal outcome we may suffer, whatever it is.
If we set the wheel of sin in motion, it will always roll to a bitter end when we suffer some sort of bad outcome, either physically or emotionally. Our repentance does take away our eternal damnation for sure, but the temporal punishment within our bodies may still remain; either through the law of cause and effect or something else. We will always get burned if we play with fire and all we can do at that point is to plead for God’s mercy, not justice. David tasted the bitter fruit of his sins of adultery and murder, and to some extent, we all have experienced similar effects on a smaller scale.
Why even bother praying or confessing our sin if the Lord will just let all things run their course and whatever we do will not make a smidge of difference? May we not be discouraged by human logic and quit doing what divine logic tells us to do. With God all things are possible and he has proved on thousands of occasions throughout our lives that he did show mercy by removing what seemed to be the inevitable from our path and giving us a peace which we are not worthy to receive. I guess that was the reason why David insisted on staying on his knees while his infant son was still holding on to life; and that was also why King Josiah kept on doing what he considered the right thing on his country’s behalf, believing what he did would make a difference. 
     

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 1, 2014 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Turning 

~~MTS-3819
Turning
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did…”         2 Kings 23:25

Not even the man after God’s own heart? David did turn to the Lord with all his heart and strength, and there was no king in Israel who came after him who could rival his love and devotion to God.
David was the pioneer in following the Lord and he did set a godly example for the following generation to imitate. He never did forsake the Lord; therefore there was no need for him to turn back to him. The sins of murder and adultery that he committed were done out of spiritual sloth and carelessness; more by accident than by design. His predecessor wasn’t a great example of godliness, but Saul didn’t really lead his people astray by turning to pagan gods. So what David was encountering as a king was not as daunting as what Josiah had to deal with. Religious corruption had become a way of life in Israel, and to turn back the tide was extremely difficult.
Josiah did all he could to bring back his people to the Lord, yet it was a little too late. The Lord’s anger against his covenant people had been rekindled and this time it proved fatal. God’s judgment against the Israelites had become irreversible, despite Josiah’s efforts to bring God’s people back to the faith.
Yet the Lord’s praise for King Josiah’s effort is unparalleled. The great degree of difficulty didn’t deter the king from doing the right thing with all his might. Against all odds, he did all he could as a king by demolishing all the idols and introducing the Book of the Law to God’s people through public reading.
Caving in under such intense pressure is just so much easier than continuing to hold back the dark tide of evil. Idolatry had taken root in people’s hearts since it had been promoted officially and the black wave was swallowing everything up on its way. What could one godly king have done to make a difference?
Even though the situation wasn’t reversed through Josiah’s efforts, he was lauded for what he had done and was deemed unrivalled among the kings before or after him.
What can we do as a Christian to stem the tide of secularism in our age? It’s so easy for us to succumb to the seduction of the dark force, go with the flow of the gigantic wave of secular movement, and become part of the problem, not the solution. If we quit trying to make a difference in the world, we will gradually become no different from the world and lose our identity as God’s people by identifying with the masses.
Josiah was in a position to do something to bring his people to God. He tried with all his heart, soul, and strength, and he was praised for his efforts. We can do the same thing as he did, albeit on a much smaller scale, which is what the Lord calls us to do.
  

   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 30, 2014 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Furthermore 

~~MTS-3818
Furthermore
“Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things…”       2 Kings 23:24

It might have been easy for Josiah to ban idolatrous rituals practiced in public by his people, but it would have been rather difficult to root out what people did in the privacy of their own homes or their interactions with mediums and spiritists. The state may be able to legalize certain religions, yet there is a very slim chance that it can legalize morality.
Out of his zeal for the Lord and hatred of idolatry, Josiah made an attempt to do it anyway. He took into his own hands what should have been done by each individual, and deemed it his duty to dispose of the last vestige of idolatry in Judah and Jerusalem. We have no idea how successful he was, but at least he made an attempt.
A revival was needed for the populace to follow suit by throwing away the vile things that they treasured and worshipped privately, and their hearts had to be transformed in order for them not to seek mediums and spiritists for guidance in time of need and grief.
The king was in fact trying to do the impossible, but the impossibility didn’t seem to keep him from doing what he considered absolutely necessary. Doing something is better that doing nothing, isn’t it?
If similar things were done in this time and age, Josiah would have been ousted from his position. What we fear the most these days is the unholy union of church and state. People, particularly atheists, combined with ACLU, are trying their best to keep this from happening. Indeed religion is a private matter and we should keep it that way for the most part, yet that doesn’t mean that we ought to stop bearing witness for Christ publically. We don’t enter people’s houses and take their household idols away; we nonetheless have a God-given responsibility to share with people the truth revealed by God.
Do we keep quiet when our friends turn to mediums and spiritists for help and guidance in time of need? Do we respect their personal choice and preference to the extent that we are afraid to say anything that may sound a little offensive?
“They know where we stand on these issues.” We often choose to remain silent by stating this. “Let’s respect their privacy.”
The privacy of the Israelites wasn’t the king’s main concern, for he was convinced what needed to be done at the time was of the greatest importance. People were hurting themselves by doing what they were doing, and the king was merely trying to help them. Although it might not have produced the desirable result, the king at least tried.
We should always “speak the truth in love” to the ones who seem to be going astray in their worship and practice, but it does take great wisdom on our part to know when and how to utter it to achieve a desirable outcome.        

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 29, 2014 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Celebration 

~~MTS-3817
Celebration
“Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”         2 Kings 23:21

To cease celebrating a certain date or event is to stop remembering. When we cease celebrating, we cease remembering.
The monumental event took place hundreds of years ago, and the Israelites seemed to have forgotten what had occurred. They must have heard something about the parting of the Red Sea, yet it sounded to them more like myth than an historical event. Most of them failed to make a connection between their past to their present, and by not making the link, the past had lost its meaning.
What King Josiah was attempting to do was to cause the Israelites to remember again by asking them to perform certain rituals during the Passover, so that they would remember the significance of an historical event that had taken place years before.
If the Passover hadn’t taken place, the Israelites as a race would have been wiped from the face of the earth. Pharaoh was in the process of conducting genocide against the Jews at the time. So when they celebrated the Passover, they not only remembered how their ancestors were spared from utter destruction; they also offered praises to the One who saved their fathers from the hands of their oppressors.
Have we ceased celebrating?
It’s not possible for me to pinpoint the exact date I became born again, for it seemed to happen over a period of time; therefore I don’t celebrate the day when the Lord saved me from damnation. I nonetheless can select a day out of the month or the year when I became a new creation and make it a day of remembrance and thanksgiving.
We all know the serious consequences of forgetting our wedding anniversary or our wife’s birthday, don’t we? We may not consider it such a great offense, yet our wives may easily interpret it as we no longer care for them anymore. Is there truth to their assumption? I think women’s intuition is indisputable in most cases. 
So what was there for the Israelites to remember anyway? It was a matter of life and death, existence and nonexistence, really. If there was nothing to be celebrated, they could at least celebrate their mere existence. It was because of the Lord’s grace that they could still walk about and had their being.
What’s there for me to remember and to celebrate?
It was also a matter of life and death for me, for I was heading straight to hell the way I was conducting my life as a pagan in my youth before the Lord snatched me out of the pit of my filth. Isn’t this enough for me to celebrate every day?

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 26, 2014 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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