Clarity 

~~MTS-4549
Clarity
“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”         Col. 4:3
 
    So much like a double-edged sword, the Word of God clarifies as well as mystifies things, and whatever effect it has is primarily determined by listeners and readers.
    “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself,” wrote Paul in his first letter to Timothy. By the same token, the Word of God is valid in and of itself, and it can never be discredited by people’s disbelief. Yet this does not give us an excuse to not present God’s word to unbelievers in a clear and down-to-earth fashion so that people can understand.
    “To the Greek I will be a Greek,” the apostle wrote. Paul was self-assured and secure enough as a person and there was no need for him to promote himself by embellishing his gospel message with flowery language or worldly wisdom to impress people. His message and presentation were always clear and to the point, yet clarity doesn’t mean simplicity. He had an unusual gift of being able to present the profoundest message in simple language, which is something we should emulate.
    Quite often I seemed to be preaching merely to myself when I was in the pulpit, for my main concern was to make a good impression on my audience and feel good about myself at the same time. For this reason, being superficial has always been something I have tried to avoid.
    My poetry reads like riddles, and it’s wise that I have started to write prose. “Composing poetry is akin to speaking in tongues,” I said to someone. No wonder among writers, poets are understood and appreciated the least.
    “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
    I may speak to the point of exhaustion, yet it all will be moot unless I keep my listeners in mind. It puzzles me to no end that some speakers or preachers continue to press on in their speeches even they seem to have lost the majority of their audience. It appears to me a lot of speakers have never acquired the all-important skill of reading their audiences’ body language and knowing when to quit speaking when it’s time to quit.
    It’s quite a humbling experience to act as God’s prophet and to proclaim his holy Word; therefore I should not be insulted when people turn a deaf ear to my message. A sower has no right to decide on which ground to scatter his seeds, and it’s the business of the Lord to cause the seed to grow. So why does it even matter that people sitting in the pews fall fast asleep? I may lose a little bit of self-esteem, yet what they may lose by not listening is far greater than my injured self-respect.
    Even so, I should repent when people become bored listening to my preaching, for I could always have spent more time preparing so that I could proclaim it more clearly and more interestingly.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 19, 2018 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Watchful and Thankful 

~~MTS-4548
Watchful and Thankful
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”         Col. 4:2

    Being prayerful, watchful, and thankful. This is the way that we should be as we lead our lives.
    We are so anxious to take action, as if by taking quick action all issues in life will be resolved. This is not really the case, however, for action without prayer often muddles up things and it makes reality more complicated. Quick action mystifies, but prayer clarifies. Prayer enables us to see realities as they are, and causes us to make wise decisions.
    Prayer is something Christians all desire to do more of, yet often end doing a lot less, for the evil one realizes how effective prayer is and tries all he can to keep us from doing it consistently. Unfortunately, he has succeeded in making Christians’ prayer a mere formality and a sort of lip service, mere appearance void of inner essence.
    Unless we lead our lives prayerfully there is very little possibility that we can become watchful in our thoughts and conduct. Prayer is an act of centering our attention on God and godly things, and causes us to know the difference between the holy and the profane, the clean and unclean, and it also empowers us to abstain from doing what displeases the Lord.
    Being watchful is to constantly self-examine and self-correct and to bring ourselves back on the right track when we are headed in the wrong direction and to always repent when repentance is needed. Only by being prayerful and watchful can Christians abide in the Lord at all times.
    A thankful heart is primarily produced by being prayerful and watchful. We fail to thank the Lord in all things merely because we have no knowledge that he is involved in the minutest details of our lives and that we are what and who we are because of him. We can only be thankful if this truth truly becomes internalized within our hearts. Giving thanks is to give credit to whomever credit is due, and if we owe God all things we must thank him in all things. This is quite simple logic, isn’t it?
    So let’s start our days on our knees so that we can walk straight during the day, for prayer causes us to be ever watchful and to always choose the right path, so at the end of the day we can be thankful to the Lord, knowing that we have done our best to lead a holy and unblemished life.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 15, 2018 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Liberation 

~~MTS-4547
Liberation
“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”      Col. 4:1
 
    I was rather pleased that the Lord provided me with an opportunity to help a lady who appeared to be in need of some financial assistance. She had to take some groceries from her cart because she was short a mere three dollars.
    For some reason the lady paused a little bit when she was walking out; therefore I had an opportunity to approach her and to empty out what I had in my wallet and give it to her. She was puzzled at first, but nonetheless accepted my offer.
    “The poor you shall have with you always,” says the Lord.
    I made a drastic turn in my voting at the mid-term election and what made the difference was the issue of immigration. The demonization of the undocumented was just too much for me to endure.
    Surely the earth is the Lord’s and not a single human being, no matter how empowered certain people are, should act as if they are more entitled than others and treat aliens on the land as if they were slaves.
    “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”    
    Of course, owning slaves is neither right nor fair, but this is a topic for another day. What we learn from this verse is we must treat our fellow human beings “right and fair.” Why? The reason is rather clear and simple: “because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” 
    “Let the masters of this earth have their days, but I am so glad that the Lord is still sitting on his throne, and there will be judgment for the powerful and the weak, and all people will be held accountable for what they do on earth,” I said to my wife the other day, feeling quite dejected for what I have witnessed in the political realm, and the injustice dealt to the underprivileged and the disenfranchised.
    I am not a slave owner by any stretch of the imagination, yet this verse is addressed to me, exhorting me that I must do my part to “set the prisoner free” and be a part of liberating the downtrodden and the marginalized and not participating in the insidious movement of modern enslavement.  
    Our church’s English worship is composed of less than ten members, yet I was amazed that the Lord brought a Mexican family into our midst to fellowship with us. They have since returned to Mexico, yet our fellowship continues through prayers and financial assistance. A few weeks ago the Lord brought another Latino to our worship and the story about this man is yet to be unveiled.
    Be it great or small, may we all do our part in this liberation process.  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 13, 2018 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Serving 

~~MTS-4546
Serving
“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”               Col. 3:24
 
    How can anyone be so arrogant to make the claim that they have served the Lord completely, entirely void of any ulterior motive?
    Such is the claim I have never made and will never make as long as I live. How can I tell a lie as blatant as this? This is a statement even the Apostle Paul was very reluctant to make. He once stated: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
    I have been trying to keep my desire of self-expression at bay when I write, yet this doesn’t mean that I have been successful at doing it. Certainly there is still a crack in the depth of my heart that easily and sinisterly eludes my detection. I know full well that the act of composing is a form of self-expression and deep inside of me I truly desire to be seen and to be lauded for what I have done. Surely this is nothing but a kind of self-serving.
   “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” This is something I am very afraid to say both to others and to myself. Surely Paul was sincere when he uttered this, but it sounds so much like an ideal rather than a concrete reality.
   I have occasionally found myself absorbed and intoxicated by my own preaching during a worship service, as if I had actually stepped outside myself and become my own admirer. In the name of serving the Lord, I am in essence attempting to serve myself and my own interest.
    This is indeed rather a depressing thought. What can I do to save me from myself? I ask.
    Trying to serve the Lord with the purest of hearts and entirely uncontaminated motives is a clear manifestation of one’s arrogance, for something such as this is impossible to achieve. The only thing we can do is to avoid paying too much attention to ourselves when we serve the Lord in all things we do, either within or without the church. Too much self-examination and evaluation is never a good thing, for the act of self-judging isn’t God’s mandate.  Rather, it’s from the evil one, if it’s anything, for any thinking that results in self-condemnation is mostly from Satan himself. We ought to realize repentance and self-condemnation are completely different things: the former is from above and the latter from below. Indeed, we all have fallen short as far as maintaining pure motivation is concerned when we serve the Lord, yet it’s far better to center our attention on the Lord and not to constantly focus our interest on who we are and what we do. The essence of our spiritual service should always be defined by the Lord, not by how we are motivated to render it. 
    What I need to repent of more than anything else has always been too much self-examination and self-explanation and, to a lesser degree, too much self-condemnation
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 12, 2018 8:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Reward 

~~MTS-4545
A reward
“…since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”                            Col. 3:24

    That’s a concept that I have seldom entertained. The service I have rendered unto the Lord hasn’t been motivated by any sort of gain, spiritually or otherwise. I have been merely doing what I was called to do.
    A monthly stipend is the tangible reward that I have been getting, by which I was able to support a family of five, albeit rather meagerly. It was nonetheless enough to feed and shelter us, for which I am extremely grateful to the Lord.
    As far as the “inheritance from the Lord” is concerned, I have no earthly idea what it is or what it is going to be. Such things are mysterious and subject to speculation.
    What I must be concerned about isn’t what kind of reward I will be entitled to receive; it’s rather whether I am worthy of it, since I don’t always serve the Lord with all my heart and soul. If it’s up to me to determine, I will probably conclude that I don’t deserve to receive any of it, whatever it may be.
    It’s by God’s grace that I was placed in a position to serve, and it’s also by God’s mercy that I was able to accomplish some things for the Lord, however meager they have been. I am indeed rather unworthy.
    Whatever was designed by the Lord for me to do I seemed to have done by accident. If I haven’t done them intentionally, realizing that I was doing them for the Lord, how in the world would I get any reward? In fact, I even answered God’s call to the ministry merely for lack of a better option. Had all things been going well with my work at the time, I would have chosen to stay where I was. It’s hypocritical for me to even mention obtaining any reward from the Lord for all I have ever done.
    Do I dare to breathe a word about obtaining a reward of any sort from the Lord? Is it rather presumptuous to even assume that we may be getting some inheritance from the Lord by merely doing what we are obligated to do with the talents and gifts we have been endowed with from above?
    There is nothing we can do or say to express our indebtedness toward the Lord except to bow down before the throne of grace in profound gratitude, thanking and praising him for the opportunities he has given us to serve in his kingdom. Besides this, I have no idea what else we can or could have done to articulate our worthlessness as God’s children and to reflect upon the fact of how merciful and generous the Lord has chosen to deal with us. 
    Lord, I am unworthy. Forgive my sin if I ever entertain the idea that I deserve to receive any reward from the Almighty for my service.
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 9, 2018 7:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

With all your heart 

~~MTS-4544
With all your heart
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”           Col. 3:23

    “Being monk for one day, one must ring a day’s worth of bell,” so goes a Chinese saying. I might have been a “foreign monk” for a number of years, and it’s been quite a relief that I finally retired from church ministry.
    If felt so much like ringing a bell in a Buddhist temple when I went to work at my church office every morning during the past years. After twenty some years of doing the same thing, I found myself losing the passion and enthusiasm of conducting my daily business and was merely going through the motions every day.
    “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” I realized it was time for me to leave the church ministry when I failed to work at my earthly calling with all my heart.
    How can the fire for the Lord within my heart be rekindled? I often wonder. My mind is still sharp and my body is yet to fail at this point, so doing nothing all day isn’t really an option. Retirement isn’t even a Biblical concept and it’s more of a “cope out” than anything else.
    I have always found it interesting that when I was in the service we were taught not to call retreat from a given battle by it’s proper name; it was called moving forward in another direction. I guess I will consider my retirement a kind of marching forward toward a different direction. The question remains, though. I still have to choose a specific direction and destination so that I can move with a clear goal and a new found determination. I still desire to serve the Lord with all of my heart.
    I may have quit preaching in a traditional sense, but I can continue to speak with my pen, can’t I? I have never retired looking at it from this perspective, since I have been writing for such a long time that I cannot recall when I started.
    Perhaps this is the exact place of ministry into which I can still pour my heart and my soul. By doing so daily, I will be speaking to an invisible audience and the only reward I will be receiving will all be from the Lord and from nowhere else. This has always been the kind of “heart service” that I longed to do, and retirement appears to be a good time to fulfill this divine calling. I will forever remain God’s servant, even though I have lost a monthly stipend and some listening ears. It’s rather liberating though, for I will be serving the Lord only, and not having to be so concerned about church attendance and budget balancing.
    I will continue to speak as long as there are still two audiences listening: besides the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, there is another one who has been listening to me for the past twenty-five years. These two are almost my world, and by the grace of the former and the encouragement of the latter, I will continue to serve the Lord with my best.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 7, 2018 7:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fathers 

~~
MTS-4543

Fathers

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”          Col 3:21

    We all have limitations and all we can do is to raise our children according to what we do have, not what we don’t have.

    Had I ever been taught how to parent before my first son was born? Not a bit. All I knew then was the way I was raised by my dad and what he did in parenting was the bare minimum. This is by no means a complaint against my father; he merely did what everyone in the village was doing. Children grow up on their own like grass in the field, so they said.

    So besides having an amazing feeling of euphoria and a heavy sense of responsibility, I really had no earthly idea how to proceed to be a good father. I was merely going with the flow and primarily did what came natural to me.

    I could have taken the calling of being a father more seriously and done what my wife did months before Rob arrived, which was doing extensive research concerning the subject of parenting. Becoming a dad didn’t really change my temperament at all. I remained a romantic who lived in my little cocoon, and basically raised my children spontaneously.

    Thanks to God’s grace and to their devout mother’s nurture throughout their childhood, they all turned out to be fine young men and I take no credit for what my children have become.

    My greatest regret isn’t anything I have done to “embitter” my children; what I feel sorry about are the things that I have failed to do for them. I should have been more assertive and determined in leading them in their walk with the Lord by inserting family worship and implementing various Bible reading in our household. I might have intended to do it, yet I was again hampered by my natural anti-authority tendency and was rather reluctant to issue commands of any kind.

    Indeed, it’s by God’s grace that we have become who we are, and I should not take any credit or blame for what my boys have become. One thing I am sure of though, our heavenly Father simple stepped in to fill the gaps this earthly father failed to do for his children.

    “Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” This nonetheless serves as a warning for me, for only my children can tell whether I have ever committed an offense against them in the near or distant past, and there is no guarantee that I will always be able to avoid making this serious mistake.

    Of course, repentance is something I should always do when I ponder about the topic of parenting.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 6, 2018 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Children 

~~MTS-4542
Children
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”    Col. 3:20
    Children aren’t extensions of their parents; they are rather the inventions of their Creator. We parents are caretakers of God’s creations, not the manipulators or controllers of God’s children.
    We are to bring up children as the Lord desires and as he has designed them to be, and to help mold them into the image of Christ. They have been created in God’s own image, and it’s superfluous for us to recreate them in our own image.
    I read somewhere that there was young man in Georgia who received a plate from his father with “You have been a great disappointment to me” on it, merely for the reason the boy failed to get into Harvard, which had been the father’s dream and aspiration for his son. What the father did to his son was severe cruelty, pure and simple. There is no other way to put this.
    From what I have read, the child had done everything he could to please his father, yet his best simply didn’t measure up to his demanding father’s expectations. Does it ever get to the point when the son can say enough is enough, and venture out into the world on his own?
    “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
    Obviously, this verse doesn’t imply unconditional obedience on a child’s part, for no human being has the right to demand such submission from another. I suppose this verse is only applicable to children who are under their parents’ roof and who are yet to become financially and emotionally independent.
    When it came time for my children to choose their future mates, they might have come to us for advice, but never for permission. We were merely informed of their final decision concerning their spouses, and we in turn gave them our blessing. I suppose this is the way things are, and to demand that your children do otherwise by quoting this verse is way out of line. We lose such authority when the children are grown, for they are held responsible by the Lord for all their decisions. For better or worse, they are the ones who receive the consequences of their choices, either concerning their career or marriage.
    It has been a learning curve for me in dealing with my grown sons, for I have always been tempted to play a greater role in their lives than I am supposed to or have been charged to do. I am sure I have made my share of mistakes by intruding myself into their lives, which brought no benefit to either party, but only tension and ill-feeling. I hope I have learned my lesson and keep an arm’s length as far as my children’s personal affairs are concerned.
    Even so, my deep love for my sons and my daily intercessions for them will never cease, albeit I have withdrawn from participating in the daily operation of their lives.
    Of course, to love is to strike a balance between doing too much and too little for the beloved, and I am not so sure that I can always maintain the delicate balance between the two.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 1, 2018 5:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Husbands 

~~MTS-4541
Husbands
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”    Col. 3:19
 
    To love is a lifelong lesson and no one can master the art of love in this life or the life to come. If God is love, and he is infinite, therefore, the essence of love is also infinite. How can we, being finite, possibly love others to the full extent as the Lord loves us?
    To be married to someone is to learn what love is. Getting married is merely the beginning of learning how to love, not the end of it. A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper, granting us the privilege to enter into the school of love, and we will never graduate from the institution as long as we live. In fact, to love is an eternal enterprise that we will be engaged in eternally.
    What we have learned about love is minuscule compared to what we need to know about the all-important subject. No sooner do we consider that we have acquired the knowledge of love than new information pops up and we have to learn all over again. Love does not end, either here on earth or beyond.
    Love abides forever, so the lessons of love last forever also. What makes this life so thrilling is we have ample opportunities to acquire the knowledge of love through daily exercise; and what gives us such excitement when anticipating what is going to happen beyond the Jordan is that we get to continue what we have left behind, which is learning how to love.
    “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
    This is indeed rather challenging, for there is no end to this and, starting from the day we tie the knot to the day we die, difficult situations will continue to surface demanding our full attention, and a mere slip may do great damage to the relationship. One cannot be too cautious in guarding the marriage relationship from getting injured by our carelessness.
    Of course, to love isn’t merely theoretic, and the essence of it lies in the practice. “Love your wives” is an ironclad principle that we must abide by, and the expression and exercise of this love is “do not be harsh with them.” The main difficulty of the love lesson, according to Confucius, is to always have a “good facial expression,” no matter how challenging the situation is or how unreasonable one is being treated.
    I can always tell instantly what the relationship of a couple is like by the way they look at each other. Our facial expression is the first encounter we make with others, and it becomes irredeemable when a harsh image is created. Being loving to the beloved is to present one’s best expression to her at all times; and being harsh involves one’s expression and speech, which is something we must avoid at all cost.
    This lesson appears to be so rudimentary and fundamental, yet very few of us can claim that we have mastered it, let alone other more important issues.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 31, 2018 8:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Wives 

~~MTS-4540
Wives
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”    Col. 3:18
     Submission isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s rather an expression of strength. Only the strong have the inner fortitude to submit to whomever they need to surrender.
    What brought the evil one down from the highest to the lowest was his unwillingness and inability to submit to the Most High, and the difference it made was heaven and hell.
    The easiest way to achieve peace and harmony between a wife and a husband when conflicts occur is a mere word of apology. To submit is to place yourself in a lowly position and consider others better than yourself. It matters not whether it’s the reality or not, humility should always prevail. Being humble is far better than being superior.
    “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
    This is indeed a more practical thing to do than anything else, for between the two, men do have a stronger tendency to assume a superior position within the family and their desire to lead is in general stronger than that of women. As a matter of fact, the ones who lead are not necessarily superior to the one being led; it’s merely an arrangement of necessity and convenience. This may be subject to debate and feminists certainly will protest, yet men and women are created differently, both physically and emotionally.
    This iron-clad truth, however, can also be utilized differently in different families according to the chemistry between couples. Men and women may have been created differently, yet people’s temperament varies greatly and some men may prefer not to lead within a family and are more than willing to share the responsibility with their spouse. Some may disagree with this notion, but I don’t have any issue with this. I am by no means questioning the validity of this command, I am merely looking at the pragmatic aspect of this teaching and we should always take the spirit of any given command of the Lord into consideration, lest we misapprehend what the Lord intends for us to learn.
    Of course, ideally there shouldn’t even be any occasion when a wife’s submission to the husband is coerced or demanded. The presence of intimacy and communication between couples surely will render submission from either party entirely unnecessary.
    If the Lord Jesus, being the incarnate son of God, still found it essential to submit to the heavenly Father, surely there will come a time when it becomes necessary for wives to submit to their husbands.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 26, 2018 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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