Celebration 

~~MTS-4404
Celebration
“They had not been able to celebrate it at the regular time because not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem.”        2 Ch. 30:3
     “I hope that I will be able to finish preaching the Gospel John before all is said and done,” I didn’t mean to say this in my sermon, for I was still pondering whether to retire or not.
    Even so, I can’t help counting down the months, the days even, before I quit the church ministry for good. Twenty-four plus years should be long enough ministering in the same church. There will be no regrets when I fold this up, really. The church deserves to have a fresh voice and a new vision. I am running out of ideas and have found myself dragging at my work.
    A new bag of communion bread will be sufficient for a coming months, I remember thinking after I picked up the last piece for the Lord’s Supper. I have always considered it a great privilege to conduct monthly communion service and the thought of not doing it did bring a tinge of sadness in my heart.
    Of course, no one is indispensable in God’s kingdom and the Lord himself will consecrate another person to take over what I have been doing in this small congregation over the years. God’s workers may cease to exist, yet his work will continue until the day Christ returns.
    Is retiring from church ministry even biblical, I caught myself thinking. I once thought it would be such a beautiful thing if I passed away behind the pulpit. I suppose the hardest thing to leave behind when I finally retire will be the preaching ministry, which is something I enjoy doing the most. Being relative unknown in church circles, I doubt I will ever be in demand to fill the pulpit elsewhere.
    The Lord has called me to preach. Will the calling suddenly cease?
    My father-in-law retired at age seventy, yet his ministry was ongoing, since he continued to do what had always been doing as a minister of God, except he did so without a monthly stipend. I have been consecrated to perform the sacred task and the calling and consecration will never cease as long as I still breathe and walk about.
    I may lose an audience, but will never lose the message, and even though there isn’t anyone listening, I will continue to speak, both with my mouth and my hands. I have gotten rather accustomed to speak to a very small audience over the years; I believe I can continue to preach to a congregation of one or two. If the desire is there, we can always find a listening ear on the street corner or on a busy street.
    Indeed, this has always been one of my favorite verses: “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness…” If we have ears to hear, we can even hear a small voice uttered by the lips on a platter.  
     
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Reestablishment 

~~MTS-4403
Reestablishment
“So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished.”    2 Ch. 29:35
    There was a sense of uneasiness in the beginning, yet it vanished after a few weeks, and it gradually became normal, as if that were the way it should have always been. It was indeed far better to sleep in on Sundays and not have to worry about going anywhere. Wasn’t it what the Lord had intended to happen at the beginning - that we should just rest from doing any work on the Sabbath day? Indeed, going to church to worship the Lord is something we can easily do without, isn’t it?
    After we get rid of the habit of observing the Lord’s Day, it will become exceedingly difficult to reestablish the routine. Why? Worshipping the Lord simply isn’t a natural thing for us to do, and whatever isn’t natural requires effort on our part. Whether to go or not to go is always a choice. So it has always been and so it will always be. It’s just not a normal or pleasurable thing that carnal men enjoy doing regularly.
    Every time we go to church to worship the Lord it is a reestablishment of a good habit and a fortification of our mind against the onslaught of negativism and weakness of the flesh.
    Why is it even necessary for us to make a weekly effort to attend corporate worship? Why can’t I worship in the comfort of my own home by listening to a sermon billowing out from the tube, which has much better quality? Of course, may we never be blinded to the fact that worshipping the Lord and listening to a message preached is by no means the same thing. This cannot be farther from the truth, yet most of us are grossly misled. In fact, Taiwanese Christians used to be labelled as “sermon listeners,” for it seemed to the outsiders such was the primary thing they did when they attended church services.
    Nothing that we do regularly touches the core of our being as much as worship, because it is for such a purpose we have been created. Worshipping the Lord is in essence a “homecoming” that should bring us contentment and joy and not to do it is always a form of escape akin to what the first couple did in the garden, for they indeed had something to hide.
    “So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished.” Just a simple statement, yet it speaks so loudly to our hearts, so much like a bugle call, stirring up a deep of feeling of homesickness within us, urging us to go home and pay our Abba Father a visit.
    Worship is the most primordial form of homecoming.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 15, 2017 7:13:00 AM

Willingness 

~~MTS-4402
Willingness
“So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings.”        2 Ch. 29:31
    The essence of offering is a deep awareness of who we are and who God is, and apart from this knowledge, we will always be rather reluctant when the time comes for us to part with what we have always considered ourselves.
    What things we consider belong to us aren’t really so, for we will either lose them by unnatural calamities that often occur in life or by natural death, which is a sure thing, in the end.
    Material things in and of themselves are never our purpose; they are always the means by which we accomplish certain purposes in life, and their value is determined by how they are utilized. Wealth is value-neutral and its worth is multiplies by how it’s used; its value can increase and decrease by the way it’s spent. The single coin that was given to the Lord in the temple was obviously far more valuable than the large amount of money donated to the Lord by the rich man.
    Indeed, we can increase the worth of our money if it’s given to the Lord or spent for the kingdom’s sake.
    Who am I, then? Am I this money-making machine whose sole purpose in life is to make a better living for me and my loved ones? Or I have been created for a specific purpose and whatever I do is aimed toward glorifying the Lord and fulfilling his intention for me? If I consider the latter to be true, the way I use my material resources is part of the greater scheme of honoring the Lord, and offering to him my wealth in merely a natural extension of who I am. If not, I would be living a lie and a contradiction void of consistency between my action and belief, my faith and practice.
    “So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings.”
    What caused these people to make sacrifices and to offer thank offerings so willingly? They must have been convinced that all they possessed had been given to them by the Almighty, and the act of giving was actually returning to the Lord what they owed to him. Besides, it was also a deed of faith, for they must have believed the more they gave to the Lord, the more financial resources they would be entrusted with. To put it more bluntly, the more they offered to the Lord, the more they would be blessed with wealth.
    If we truly believe the Lord owns everything we possess and we are actually stewards who are entrusted to manage God’s abundant wealth, not to give to the Lord his due simply doesn’t make any sense at all.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, August 14, 2017 7:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gladness 

~~MTS-4401
Gladness
“So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.”    2 Ch. 29:30
    It didn’t just happen that way; there seemed to be reasons behind the whole thing. For a period of three years after I claimed to believe in Christ, never a single time did I step inside God’s church to worship and, as far as I can recall, I never missed it.
    That was the way it was. Attending worship service was something out of the ordinary, and there was simply no reason to do it. Indeed, there was a ton of other things to do on Sundays besides going to church to worship God. I would have been overcome by boredom had I gone at all.
    “So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.” How foreign this feeling was to me at the time! Singing praises to the Lord with gladness. How peculiar it was. Worship the Lord with gladness. This was something that had no rhyme or reason at all.
    I was actually looking forward to going to the church to teach children’s Sunday school and later attend the worship service. By the time I went home to rest it was long pass lunch time. A few months later, I found a job in a museum that required me to work on Sundays, yet I still managed to teach Sunday school before I went to work. I was so glad to do it and it wasn’t at all burdensome.
    What brought the dramatic transformation? It was nothing short of miraculous, yet it seemed to take place so very naturally, as natural as morning dew appearing on the meadow and as the wind starting to blow. I was transforming into something, yet wasn’t even curious to examine the reason behind it. Such was the way things should have always been and would remain the same the rest of my life, and doing otherwise would cause me to feel so awkward and unnatural.
    Wasn’t it so natural and enjoyable to take a walk with the Lord in the garden when he paid the first couple a daily visits in the cool of the day? Why did they even have to hide themselves among the figs unless they had done something that caused them to become so frightened and afraid?
    To worship the Lord is the main reason why we have been created and not to do so is a form of escape. Corporate worship is one of the main components of worship that we do, and it signifies that something is awfully wrong with our religion if we miss it regularly and worse off, we don’t even feel anything is missing by missing the gathering with the saints.
    This is such common phenomena I have observed over the years being a minister that’s proven true almost every time when it happens: the dwindling of attending worship services always signifies that someone is about to lose his or her faith. Well, to put it more bluntly, they might not have had faith to start with at all.
    Attending Sundays or the lack thereof does tell more about our faith than we care to realize.
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Offering 

~~MTS-4400
Offering
“As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel.”           2 Ch. 29:27
     It was a joyful occasion when people gathered together to worship the Lord by offering their sacrifices of bulls, lambs, and goats and, in the meantime, they also presented to the Lord the sacrifices of their lips, which was their singing and praising.
    What a privilege it is to be able to offer our sacrifice to the Lord and what an honor it is that God is gracious enough to receive our meager offerings, which amounts to nothing but trifles in his sight, thinner than air and lighter than dust. The Lord is absolutely self-sufficient and has no need to be met by those who he has created.
    I have often found myself standing before the church offering box, heart overcome with deep gratitude, and uttering a prayer of thanksgiving before humbly placed my monthly tithe in the box. It has always been a solemn occasion whenever I do it, and I dare not deem what I am doing common or ordinary. In fact, the Lord has to stoop down to accept my humble offering, and that fact alone should always drive me down to my knees, realizing how I am so very unworthy and undeserving. 
    The temple worship had ceased for quite some time now and all the sacrifices made were devoted to pagan gods. How thrilling it must have been for godly people when the sacrifices devoted to the Lord were finally resumed! When the trumpets sounded and people started to sing praises to God, the celebration was anything but ordinary. It was by God’s mercy and grace that the Israelites were again able to offer their burnt offerings in the holy temple.
    It’s no small matter that we are willing and able to regularly give our tithes and offerings to the Lord, acknowledging that not only is he the Lord of all, he is also the One who makes all things possible, including our inner and outer resources, along with our mental and physical capability to perform our daily work. We are entirely wrong if we deem our act of offering as giving God something; it’s rather a humble acknowledgement that all we possess is the result of divine grace, and apart from his sustaining power, we could lose everything in a twinkling of an eye, and nothing would be left in our safekeeping.
    We don’t do God any favor by our monetary offering; we do ourselves the greatest favor by doing so. We are rather ignorant and spiritually immature if we don’t know this is really so. King Hezekiah knew far too well what the crucial things were when he assumed the kingship. He did what was the most essential, knowing the rest would fall in line, for who and what he was as a man was defined by his worship and his offering.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, July 31, 2017 7:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Unclean 

~~MTS-4399
The Unclean
“They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord’s temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the Lord.”         2 Ch. 29:16
    After they consecrated themselves, the Levites did what they were instructed to do by King Hezekiah, which was to purify the temple by cleaning up the filth that was left within. “They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord’s temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the Lord.” The house of God was contaminated by pagan worship introduced by Ahaz and all the articles used for such a purpose had to be removed and destroyed. The unclean and impure must be removed before the pure and the holy could be situated in the place of worship. The sacred and the secular should never be equally-yoked.
    “Can we worship Buddha and Christ at the same time?” This question was raised by someone from Taiwan who was desperate for help, either human or divine. The man’s wife was seriously ill.
    “I wish you could,” I replied. “Yet such an option was never given. How can truth and falsehood be united as one?”
    This is what we have always wanted, isn’t it? Our logic is rather clear concerning this. Since we have no idea which deity among the many gods is more creditable or powerful, the genuine ones will not be excluded if our worship is non-discriminatory and all-inclusive. Concerning our worship, what we often try to do is cover all the bases.
    There are obviously things that we have been trying to keep within our inner temple even though we have enthroned the Holy Spirit in our hearts, as if Christ and Baal can co-inhabit under the same roof and be unified. The precious things we are so hesitant to let go may well be the gods that we are still worshipping and are afraid to acknowledge. O how we wish that all the gods can get along and work together on our behalf.
    Realizing that there are still unclean things remaining in our hearts, our daily cleansing through repentance is badly needed. Unless we do so, we will continue to accumulate filth and, like hoarders, we will become accustomed to who and what we are and deem it normal.
    Are there strongholds in our lives that we have great difficulty taking down? Are there nagging habits that we have come to accept as if they were a part of us? How many “necessary evils” have we been flirting with that, as time goes by, seem to become less and less evil, and more and more necessary?   
    I am starting to have a sense of urgency since my time is getting short and, unless drastic measures are taken, I may take all the baggage with me to meet the Lord. I am afraid the encounter may be rather frightening.  
  
    
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, July 28, 2017 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

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
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