Forgiveness 

~~MTS-4535
Forgiveness
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”          Col. 3:13

    As far as self-forgiveness is concerned, there is really no other option available to us. We have no choice but to forgive ourselves.
    Have we ever done anything so offensive to ourselves that we often find it rather difficult to forgive and to forget? There are simply too many occasions to count, for we all have set lofty expectations for ourselves, and we can hardly measure up to our own standard of perfection.
    Yet we continue to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and keep on forgiving ourselves for all the offenses we have inflicted. We may have lost patience with ourselves and with our lack of making improvement in all our pursuits, both physically and spiritually.
    What else can we do?
    The essence of my repentance is actually a deep sense of remorse and sadness that I have failed in certain aspects, yet it rarely means a strong determination to act to correct the mistake or misstep I have made. Therefore, the act of repentance does nothing but produce in my heart a feeling of self-loathing and damage my self-image and self-respect.
    By continuing to do this it may get to the point where we quit fighting against our weaknesses and consider we are what we are, giving up all hope that a meaningful change can ever be made.
    Can we forgive others the same way we forgive ourselves? This is good question to ask, isn’t it? It appears to me that self-forgiveness is unconditional because of our self-love, and forgiveness of others is always conditional, based on the good performance of the forgiven.
    We are doomed if God’s forgiveness of all our sins is merit or performance based, for no matter how monumental our effort is, we can never meet what God requires of us. What we need from the Lord isn’t justice at all; our only hope of being forgiven is grounded on God’s mercy.
    Our self-forgiveness has no end, for our self-love doesn’t cease until it ends at our passing, yet God’s love for his children is endless and so is his forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness for us last eternally.
    Our forgiveness of others must be based on love, for apart from love true forgiveness will not take place. We are fully aware that unless we are united with Christ and draw strength from him daily, to truly love for our neighbors is extremely difficult. Therefore, what makes forgiveness possible is our union with Christ, which does take daily practice and seasoning on our part.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 18, 2018 7:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gentleness and Patience 

~~
MTS-4534

Gentleness and Patience

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”         Col. 3:12

    In order to become gentle, one must try to be patient, for gentleness demands patience and thoughtfulness.

    We lose patience rather easily dealing with disagreeable people, don’t we? When we become restless and annoyed, it’s difficult to maintain our composure and remain gentle. We turn cold and lower our voice, our expressions change ever so slightly, while we try to figure out a way out of whatever predicament we happen to encounter.

    We should be gentle and patient as Christ was gentle. Indeed, Christ seemed to remain calm and collected in whatever situation and adversity in which he found himself. He was never surprised or overwhelmed by horrific circumstances.

    Obviously, he knew what Judas was going to do in the end, yet he continued to treat him with patience and gentleness. There didn’t seem to be any bitterness, harshness, or impatience that surfaced in his dealings with the ultimate betrayer.

    The first thing to lose is our tongue when we are short of patience, and we tend to utter something we may regret later. Gentleness is a rare commodity when things get tough and adverse situations only get worse if we follow our instincts and do whatever comes natural.

    “You don’t seem to have a lot of patience with your grandchildren,” my son said to me. It’s quite noticeable that I often walk outside and stay out for a while when the boys get a little out of control. When patience is gone, so goes the gentle attitude.

    Walking away from a difficult situation isn’t always a good solution, for problems may still remain. We tend to become more gentle and sympathetic toward the unlikeable if we don’t give up on them by merely walking away. Perhaps I need to spend time cultivating more understanding and patience toward all my grandchildren so that I may become gentler to them. They are mere children and I should not expect them to behave like adults.

    Being grandparents who are almost foreign to all our grandchildren, I suppose affection and respect from them doesn’t happen all that naturally; it must be earned through love and patience and most importantly, gentleness. This is the vital lesson I have yet to learn in dealing with my children’s children.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 17, 2018 7:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Humility 

~~MTS-4533
Humility
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”         Col. 3:12
    We are not humble by nature, for humility is to not be so concerned about one’s self and to pay more attention to others. Most of us are rather self-occupied and self-absorbed. At least I am. I may claim to be humble, but I am really not.
    I desire to be the center of attention and prefer to do the talking than the listening. I tend to become restless when I listen to others and often try to take over whenever possible.
    Humble people are good listeners, and people who listen well are often the most welcomed and beloved by their friends.
    It was the first time that I had to sit in a pew and listen to a sermon delivered by a guest speaker. I was putting great effort into listening and paying attention, yet I found more than once that my mind wandered and I gradually became impatient as time went on, yet the speaker didn’t seem to intend to quit any time soon.
    This is a clear indication that I am not a good learner, for I wasn’t listening to the speaker to learn, but I was listening to find fault, and often felt ill at ease when the preacher was doing a good job. I was entirely self-centered, even during a time when I should have been the humblest. Worshipping the Lord is the ultimate act of humility, yet I often find myself self-absorbed on such occasions.
    This is not my usual self-analysis or self-degradation in my composing process, by the way; I am merely exploring what true humility is by taking a hard look at myself. Humility is the ultimate godly characteristic; I need to be aware of it if I am deficient in that aspect.  
    Why do we consider ourselves with such grave seriousness, as if we are the most precious thing in the entire universe? I suppose our self-perception determines whether we are humble or proud, and the way we perceive the Lord decides how we see ourselves. If we deem the Lord over all, we have no choice but to humble ourselves before him. People who express true lowliness before God will also show genuine humility before men. This fact is hard to refute, I believe.
    The sermon was fine and what the speaker uttered didn’t stray away from the Scriptures, and there wasn’t any reason for me to not listen to him except my lack of humility. It simply doesn’t make any sense if I claim to be humble before God yet do the opposite before men. Christians who do not possess Christ-like humility are hypocrites.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 15, 2018 7:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Kindness 

~~MTS-4532
Kindness
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”       Col. 3:12

    The apostle pointed out the all-important truth that we are “God’s chosen people,” which is our identity as Christians. Furthermore, he described who we are and how we are defined. We are “holy and dearly loved.” Consequently, Paul tells us that we should act in such a way as to be entirely consistent with who we are. As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, we must clothe ourselves with the following virtues: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
    Compassion and kindness are closely related, for to be kind to people is to be compassionate toward them, yet apart from compassion there is no kindness. Children and infants by nature demand our compassion, for they are utterly helpless and they will not survive long unless adults are kind to them.
    We may not be kind by nature; therefore it becomes necessary to think twice before we act. I became annoyed when one of my grandchildren yelled at me “Stop!” when I touched him just slightly. I intended to show affection, yet my motive was entirely misconstrued. I had to think twice before I did anything on impulse to show my displeasure, for to be compassionate is to realize that he is merely a child, and he needs to be treated with kindness.
    The kindness we show toward others who need our help may be tainted with a condescending attitude and an air of superiority if there is no true compassion present in the interaction. Therefore, the ones whom we assist may detect our true colors and become bitter toward us.
    How did the Lord Jesus treat the woman at the well or the one who was caught in the act of committing adultery? He related to them with genuine kindness because he had such profound compassion for them.
    The way I dealt with the homeless people who used to frequent our house might reflect more on who I am than who they are. Indeed, they often tried to evoke my compassion toward them by lying, yet they were in fact transparent, for their purpose was rather straightforward. I might have been the one who was put on the spot to be judged, for I was acting like a hypocrite, pretending to be someone that I wasn’t, and my compassion and kindness were mostly make-believe.
    To be compassionate toward the poor and the needy is to essentially consider them equal, realizing that apart from the grace God has lavished on you, the roles between the two could easily be reversed.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 12, 2018 7:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Compassion 

~~MTS-4531
Compassion
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”   Col. 3:12

    The doorbell rang and as I peeked out the window there he was, a homeless person who has frequented our house over the years. I suppose the reason why he keeps coming back is because he has never left empty-handed when he paid us a visit. The content of all the stories he told has varied, yet the conclusion remained basically the same - he needed some money.
    I decided not to open the door this time, for my compassion for this man was running out. I don’t usually mind giving money to the needy, but being lied to bothers me.
    There was a man standing on the corner of 19th Street holding a small piece of paper, saying that he desperately needed help. I stopped at the red light not too far away from him, thinking that I ought to do something to show my compassion for him, yet the light turned green in an instant and I drove away. Doing nothing seemed to be a lot easier than doing something at the moment. Besides, what I could have done to help the man was rather minuscule, considering how great his need was.
    What I didn’t want was to do a little something to sooth my guilty conscience, as if I had fulfilled my obligation toward the poor and needy. What I do most of the time under such a circumstance is to make the problem go away by giving a few dollars. The issue of poverty and homelessness in the world is too enormous for me to resolve, and I just don’t want to be constantly reminded of its existence by the presence of hoboes in our midst.
    I waited for a few minutes and looked out the window. The homeless person had left and taken his problem to another house and to someone else who might be willing to open his or her door and be patient enough to listen to his sob story. I decided I had had enough of it.
    Yet I still had a profound sense of helplessness after the man vanished. I could have done something to make a slight difference in his life, yet I had decided to do otherwise for fear of putting more weight to my heart and soul, causing me to stagger and to slow down on life’s journey. Surely, avoiding doing something to show compassion for others when an opportunity presents itself is an expression of selfishness.
    As far as showing compassion to others is concerned, doing something is always better than doing nothing. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 11, 2018 8:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Christ in All 

~~MTS-4530
Christ in All
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”     Col. 3:11
True Christians are easily recognized, for we see Christ in them. It doesn’t usually take much time or effort for me to spot a genuine believer and, by the same token, it’s not that difficult to tell a nominal one.
 All sorts of people have frequented our church over the years. There have been some who have claimed to be Christians, yet their true colors often surfaced after I spoke to them a little bit. They were there either to sell insurance or houses, or to make some kind of publicity for their business. They might have deemed themselves Christians, yet it became obvious that Christ wasn’t really in them. Of course I am not the one to judge, yet I have usually been proven right after a period of time, for they simply vanished from our church, or any church, after they realized there wasn’t any benefit to be gained at all by visiting the church.
    I even became uneasy when I first arrived at the church when I spoke to a person who had been worshipping and serving in the church for some time, for his doctrine and belief was leaning pretty far to the left. The man has since left our church, and whether he was in the faith or not is yet to be determined. Of course, the Lord will be the one who makes the ultimate call.
    We tend to look at people’s outward appearance and to recognize them accordingly, but the Lord looks at us rather differently. Indeed, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”   
    Yet most of us seem to have great difficulty looking beyond the mere surface and seeing clearly the essence of people and things. The issue I have with myself is I have always been inclined to jump to conclusions concerning people’s status before the Lord on the basis of my observation according to my biblical knowledge. No matter how objective I have considered myself to be, my judgment will always be tainted by my lack of knowledge and compassion.
    Other people’s faith in Christ or lack thereof may not be our concern, yet we can at least look into our hearts to see whether Christ is in truly residing there or not. If Christ does dwell within us, we should be able to detect the reality of “Christ is in all” in our thoughts and actions.
    This saying might have turned into a cliché, yet it still rings true when we hear it mentioned: “If He is not the Lord of all; He is not the Lord at all.”  This is quite a simple test, isn’t it?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 10, 2018 8:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

But Now 

~~MTS-4527
But Now
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander…”           Col. 3:8

    What kind of person was I yesterday, last month, or even last year? Am I merely repeating what I was and what I will be as a person?
    Don’t we all get a little discouraged when we look at ourselves and how few changes we have made over the years? I do.
    I was determined to do things differently at the latter stage of my church ministry, for I was rather dissatisfied with what I had been doing as a pastor. I was hoping that I would get an opportunity to redeem myself before I ultimately retired. Yet things basically remained the same even after I made a decision to step down from church ministry. I didn’t make a meaningful change about the way I was doing things at the church, and I don’t think I will get another chance to make a difference.
    What I should have done at the time when I was pondering about making a change was to formulate what concrete steps should be taken for the transformation to take place. If nothing is being done to make things happen, we will always fall back to the old pattern of conducting our business and things will remain status quo.
    I have always had difficulty doing the pastoral care part of my church, such as visiting the sick and comforting the distraught, for I don’t seem to possess the spiritual gift to do the work consistently. Yet over the years I have done nothing to make a change. Therefore what should have been done with the church has remained undone, and I will leave the twenty-five-year ministry with a guilty conscience. I simply have not done my best.
    Indeed, a great transformation did take place when I made a decision to follow the Lord, yet that was over forty years ago. What has happened during the years in my Christian walk? The Christian life isn’t a thing of the past; it takes place at the present time. The apostle wrote: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…”
    I doubt seriously anyone of us is perfectly happy with our spirituality. There are always things in our lives to be gotten rid of or to be implemented, and the time to do it is always now. Procrastination is one of the worst spiritual vices we all suffer one way or another.
    It’s human tendency to either turn to the right or to the left in our thoughts or actions, and the appropriate thing to do is to take a small step moving to the middle. Meaningful changes in life, be they physical or emotional, always happen on a small scale and in moderation; they may never take place if we try to do them in big chunks. Isn’t this the time to make a bite-sized change to grow our spirituality?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Used to 

~~MTS-4526
Used to
“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”        Col 3:7

    My life was transformed such a long time ago that I can hardly remember what it was like to lead a pagan lifestyle, and I have never dreamt of going back to what I used to be. It’s not all that pleasant to entertain such an idea, let alone to actually do it.
    I have become a new man, yet this question still remains and haunts me every day: Is my life being renewed daily? Am I still the person I was some forty years ago when I was regenerated? This is the question I must face and the answer may not be all that pretty.
    Have I become complacent in my Christian walk?
    I found myself regurgitating the same old stories that took place years ago when I was giving my personal testimony, and I had to apologize to the ones in the congregation who might have heard them before. There surely won’t be any new testimony to share if my inner life isn’t being renewed and rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit every day; I will just continue to rehash the old tales that happened to me forty years ago.
    Can these dry bones come back to life? I ask myself.
    What am I going to write? I pondered. It was a little past four a.m. and my mind was yet to wake up. I spoke a few words to the shiny computer screen yet it didn’t come to life and I dropped my Apple pencil with a sigh. I am so frightened that a day may come when I have absolutely nothing to say and the writer will cease to exist. As far as I am concerned, to live is to utter something and to create reality with words, and my life ends when I cease to speak.
    My oldest son was still in high school when I started to write, and he has since become a father of three, and it has always been my intention to keep on writing until I breathe my last. Yet it seems to be getting more and more difficult for me to utter meaningful words, and everything I write appears to be a mere repetition of what I have spoken before.
    I know the solution to this dilemma I am encountering, and what needs to be done is to put it into concrete action. My inner self must be renewed through abiding with the Lord, and I will have nothing to compose unless I do so continuously.
    Surely, you are not interested in listening to an old man rehashing his stale old tales, are you? Certainly I am not, and I will henceforth shut my month if I do nothing to renew myself to gain a fresh voice.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 19, 2018 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Wrath 

~~MTS-4525
God’s Wrath
“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”         Col 3:6

    Isn’t the wrath of God always in the future tense, something that will take place at a distant time and space far, far away? If this is really so, why even bother at all? Since by nature the future is vague, to be so concerned about its uncertainty is rather foolish and far-fetched.
   It’s like the people from the land of Chi, who, according to a Chinese legend, were very frightened that the sky was falling, not realizing that the sky wasn’t the roof of the earth, and therefore it could never fall.
    “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Because of what? we ask. Simply put: it’s because we indulge in the pleasure of sin.
    O we know all this full well. The pleasure of sin is sharp, acute, instant, and always leaves a lasting impression on our minds, causing us to seek the same sensation repeatedly. What will this longing to experience the same euphoria end up with? It’s something called addiction.
    Indeed, the wrath of God doesn’t lie in the distant future; it’s getting closer and closer to us. In fact, it follows hard after us, and when the fleeting pleasure of sin vanishes, the wrath of God immediately begins.
    For sure, we all have experienced God’s wrath demonstrated on a smaller scale in our lives. I was a heavy drinker in the service, and occasionally became drunk. One time I passed out and had to be carried to bed by my comrades. The worst thing about being drunk was the moment I woke up the next day. Besides a headache and physical discomfort, the most unbearable was the sense of emptiness and regret, and the ill-at-ease feeling of having done something wrong. Wasn’t that the wrath of God exhibited and illustrated?
    The wrath of God is cumulative by nature, and it increases and accumulates as we continue to sin. The anger of God can only be appeased and decreased through our repentance, for the death of Jesus on the cross has taken away the wrath of God. Therefore, the only remedy for our sin is true repentance to Christ Jesus and our plea for divine forgiveness.
    Sin does pay, doesn’t it? It repays us with physical pleasure that lasts but a few moments, yet the debt of unredeemed sin accumulates, and it charges lofty interest. If we feel the wrath of God demonstrated in our lives on a small scale, can we even imagine how severe it will be when it falls on us in its full strength and force?
    Isn’t it a warning sign that things are not well when we are accused by our conscience, whispering to us that God isn’t pleased with us, and his anger against us is accumulating more and more by the day?

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 18, 2018 7:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Greed 

~~MTS-4524
Greed
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”   Col. 3:5

    Isn’t our worship a kind of exchange? We pay homage to the deity who in turn gives us something back, the thing which we earnestly desire to have, be it fame or wealth.
    Isn’t this the essence of the so-called prosperity gospel, which is being propagated all over and embraced by so many. It really doesn’t matter whom we worship as long as the object of our adoration is an omnipotent benefactor who is able to grant whatever is asked of him liberally and unconditionally.
    There is always a piece of red cloth hanging at the entrance of every little shrine on the island of Taiwan that says: “Pray, and it will be granted to you accordingly.”
    Of course, the things that people pray for the most are wealth, health, or other material things. I suppose greed for things is the primary force that causes people to kneel down before their gods. In essence, greed for earthly things is idolatrous.
    Why do we worship the Lord?
    The worship of the Lord can never be idolatrous since he is the true and only God of the universe. Yet, what motivates us to bow down before him can be idolatrous.
    We worship the sovereign Lord because he is true, not because he can bestow upon us all the blessings we are craving. This is hardly an original idea and it wasn’t originated by C.S. Lewis, even though he once made a similar remark. This should be universally recognized common sense, yet so many of us seem to choose to ignore it. We are very reluctant to examine the reasons behind our worship for fear we might find out our motivation isn’t as lily white as we have imagined.
    We worship the Lord merely because of who we are and who he is, and anything beyond this is a bonus, something superfluous even. We are children of our Heavenly Father and the main goal of our worship is to restore an intimate relationship with him. What inheritance we will be receiving from him should always be an afterthought. What we desire the most is the intimate and harmonious relationship that was broken by our original and actual sins.
    What else can be more fundamental than this and can this basic need be granted to us by bowing down to idols, be they human or “divine”? Yet our greed for fame and fortune is what drives us to them. It’s rather unfortunate, really, for the line separating true worship and idolatry has become increasingly ambiguous.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 17, 2018 8:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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