Sunday, May 20, 2018

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People? Because God Truly Loves Us!


Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

King Hezikiah was the most faithful king before God ever.  God blessed him, and he pleased God.   In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.  The Assyrian army was so huge and strong that he could not fight against them.  


King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” (2 Kings 18:14a)  The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.   It was really enormous amount of silver and gold.   He accepted the huge demand – eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold, which he did not have.  

To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury.   However, he could not collect enough silver and gold to meet the demand.  Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold.   King Hezekiah’s heart was really saddened.   A really serious hardship found King Hezekiah, the most faithful king ever.   Unfortunately, he took the matter into own hands rather than asking God first.  The most faithful king failed.

God did not leave King Hezekiah alone.  God made the Assyrian king not satisfied even with the eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.  The Assyrian king sent his chief of staff, and delivered a humiliating message.   King Hezekiah’s officials asked, “Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don’t speak in Hebrew, for the people on the wall will hear.”   

Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria!  This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power.  Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’


 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The LORD will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?  What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power?  What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

                                                                                                                                                  
King Hezekiah was really in trouble.  He gave everything that he had.   He even stripped off the gold in God’s temple that he really loved and where he met God.   Even so, the Assyrian came back and threatened for him to surrender.   Most of all, they mocked God, and his faith to God, the most precious to him.  (Once we leave our faith.  Our enemies do not leave us alone.  They threaten us, even mock our God, and sadly look down on our faith too. )  

When King Hezekiah heard what was happing at the Jerusalem wall, he concluded that nothing could stop the enemy.   He had been searching for a way out the trouble, but there was none.   Finally, he remembered his God, who could rescue him and his people.   He started seeing what went wrong, when the mighty Assyrians initially invaded.  He did not rely on God.   He was bitter in his heart while reminding he used to be really faithful to God.   He also enjoyed God’s blessings.  Everything went well.   Even Bible records King Hezekiah was the most faithful king.    However, King Hezekiah was a mere human, who was not perfect.  He was slowly and steadily drifting away from God, and more and more relying on himself even without noticing this.   Hezekiah used to do first was to come before God to talk about anything about his life: small, big, good or bad like a child, but for this time, he took the matter in his own hand.


Taking a life challenge to our own hand is our nature built in us -- wanting to be our own master.   We know and confess that God is our king and master, but if everything goes well (due to God’s blessings), we slowly forget the source of the blessing and indulge in our own live.   Gradually and steadily, we replace our God’s kingship in our heart with our own self and ego.   Then when we meet a life challenge, our own kingship surfaces up:  we take all matters into our hands.   We don’t go to God first.  Even the most faithful king ever could not escape this subtle trap, and failed.  After taking lots of beating, King Hezekiah realized who the true king was in his life.   He, then, ran into God.

He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the Temple of the LORD  And he sent his officials, all dressed in sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah.   They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. But perhaps the LORD your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”


King Hezekiah humbled, and received God’s answer through the mouth of Prophet Isaiah, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’” (2 Kings 19:6b)


What a comforting message of God!   Soon King Sennacherib, the Assyrian King received word that King Tirhakah of Ethiopiac was leading an army to fight against him.    Yes, God started moving His mighty hand.    King Hezekiah saw the mighty hand of God.  The Assyrian king suddenly left.   King Hezekiah and his people really relieved.  They thought that the end of the siege was near.   

However, the Assyrian king sent even more threatening message to Hezekiah in Jerusalem.  (Please note that the northern Israel, the sister country which was bigger than the Hezekiah’s kingdom, fell before the Assyrian king.)   The initial relief was short lived.  


“This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all!  What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?”  (2 Kings 19:10-13)

The message was a direct attack on God, the very source of his hope and faith of being saved from the mighty Assyrian king’s army.   Initially the prayer of Isaiah, the most powerful prophet of the time, actually made some change, but the root of the problem did not go away.    The treat was even harsher than before while attacking his last hope: his belief that God would save him and his people.   Hezekiah tried all options including asking prayers to the most powerful prophet at that time.   None really worked.  He was left alone, and felt even more venerable than before.  All of his officials, priests and even Isaiah could not do anything.  Hezekiah was in a real misery.


Have we experienced the situation that Hezekiah experienced?    All of our strength and wisdoms did not work.  In fact, all that we did make the problem even worse.   Then realizing that our sinfulness before God, and making us humble, and even asking prayers of others, such as pastors and prayer warriors.   Then we saw briefly some changes, but the real root of the real problem did persist, which made helpless and hopeless, while putting in misery and pains.   We did not know where to go.  However, later we realized the past pains and miseries were after all, a true manifestation of God love!   God knew our inability to learn this by our own efforts.   Let’s what Hezekiah did.

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he ran up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD.  Yes, Hezekiah now ran into God.  Then he humbly knelt down before God alone.   Then like a child, he spread out all of his concerns, worries, pains, miseries, and most of all, fears before God.   He authentically poured out his real heart to his true father, the Ever Lasting, Ever Loving, Almighty God.  

                                                                                   
Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19)

Let’s see how Hezekiah prayed:
        1.       Praised God, the King of kings in heavens and on the earth.  He returned his kingship to God,
        2.       Told his heartbreak against the blaspheming enemy, 
        3.       Shared his real fear with God because he saw what the enemy did to other, and
        4.       Confessed his deepest faith in God, who would rescue him with His mighty hand.


God patiently waited this moment until King Hezekiah completely let down everything and absolutely surrendered before God.   
God moved His mighty hand.  That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere.  Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

                               
One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.  This was the end of the Assyrian king who invaded and blasphemed Our God.


Yes, God brought the bad thing into the life of Hezekiah, the most faithful king.  Why?  God dearly loved Hezekiah.  Then God patiently waited until Hezekiah made himself completely emptied and absolutely surrendered before God, and returned His kingship to God.    As we have experienced many times, we all want to be the king in our lives.  This is a deeply rooted desire in our hearts.   However, it is the very source of our spiritual disease spreading out silently till completely taking over ourselves.  As a result, this disease is also the most difficult one to cure.   We need a real strong medicine, which is God’s strong hand gloved with His unfailing love.   Hezekiah then experienced this love of God.   And surely we will too, because God dearly loves us also.    This is our confidence and faith.   Praise the Lord, who is Our Ever-Loving Father, the All Mighty God!
                                                               
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People? And God's Love!


Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Who can fathom the Spiritd of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13)

Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.  He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles.  King Hezekiah eliminated foreign false gods and idols.    He even broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, through which the Israelites were saved.   Following God’s instruction, Moses made the bronze serpent, and whoever looked at the bronze serpent was healed from a bite by a fiery serpent.   The bronze serpent was a just instrument of God, but the people of Israel, after the event, worshipped and offered sacrifices to it.   No king made clear that worshiping anything, even the bronze serpent that was used as God’s instrument, was an idolatry before God.    King Hezekiah made an issue, and destroyed it.  He was truly upright before God, and he led his people through the paths of righteousness.   



King Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time (2 Kings 5:18).   He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.  So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.  He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.  He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city.

     
As we usually expect: if we are upright before God, then God will make everything go well, for King Hezekiah, everything went well.   His kingdom was growing and strengthened.  His people were in peace and prosperity.   However, this prosperity did not continue forever.    God had a greater plan for Hezekiah and his people.  

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.   King Hezekiah found there is no other way except accepting his defeat.  The Assyrian army was so huge and strong that he could not fight against them.  


King Hezekiah, although he was truly faithful to God, could not see God before the eminent threat of the huge Assyrian army because his eyes were fixated to his enemy.   Then he used all of his own wisdoms.   His conclusion was to negotiate with the invading Assyrian army. 

King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” (2 Kings 18:14a)  The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.   It was really enormous amount of silver and gold.   Even so, King Hezekiah did not have a choice.   He accepted the huge demand – eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.    Of course, King Hezekiah did not have such a huge amount of silver and gold.   


King Hezekiah was faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.  However, when he actually met a real challenge, he could not stand firm and strong in God.  He gave in and feared what was seen by his own eyes – the mighty Assyrian army.  

To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury.   However, he could not collect enough silver and gold to meet the demand.  Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold.   King Hezekiah’s heart was really saddened.   He remembered what he did – destroying the foreign idols and shrines in the name of God.    Now, he was destroying God’s temple by his own hand.   For him, God was the one.  Except God, there was none.   He lived for God, which was his entire life.    What a disgrace to King Hezekiah – the king, who was known to be the best king.   “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.” (2 Kings 18:5b)

King Hezekiah, then, gave it all to the Assyrian king.   He thought that the Assyrian king would let him and his people alone.    No, it was not the case!   After receiving the huge amount of gold and silver, the heart of the king of Assyria was not soften toward Hezekiah and his people.   Instead his heart became even more hardened.   The king of Assyria sent his commander in chief, his field commander, and his chief of staff from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem.   This response was a huge surprise to Hezekiah.  All of his hope of regaining peace by doing whatever it took -- being humiliated, begging, and even stripping off the gold from the God’s temple, which was the most hateful thing that he had ever done in his life.  


For this time, the Assyrians even came to Jerusalem.    They took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed.  The entire people in Jerusalem knew what’s going on.    The commander of the Assyrian army summoned King Hezekiah,  but he had no strength even to stand up.    He called his officials to respond this disastrous situation.   Then he sent his officials to the commander of Assyrian army.

Then the Assyrian king’s chief of staff told them to give this message to Hezekiah: 

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?  Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?  On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!


“But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the LORD our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?

“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”


The message from the Assyrian king was
          1.       “There is none on earth that would be able to save Hezekiah from the Assyrian king.”
          2.       “Even your God could not save from me.” 
          3.       “Hezekiah, you are nothing and you can do nothing even I give you 2,000 horse.”
          4.       “Finally, my invasion is not my own will, but God told me to attack and destroy you.”


Why had the most faithful king ever gone to this miserable state?   He and his people were humiliated, and even God was mocked.   The Assyrian army even justified what they did by telling ”God himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”
                                                                                                               
Perhaps some of us might have experienced the same pain and humiliation of Hezekiah even though doing always right things before God, and keeping all things that God commands.   Despite of our faithfulness, suddenly a disaster stoke us.   Then how did we respond?    Like Hezekiah, have we focused on the disaster, and made every effort to make a solution?    What was the result?   Have our clever solution worked out?   Many of us already know the answer by experience.  Like the case of Hezekiah, the clever solution of ours made the situation even worse.   


Why?   Please step back and see carefully what Hezekiah did.    He made up the cleverest solution by himself, and to follow his solution, he even compromised the most precious one – the God’s temple.  Before the disaster, Hezekiah lived for God, and he did everything right before God.   However, when a real disaster came to his own life, he did not rely on himself.   Then who was the real god for Hezekiah – himself or God?   

How come Hezekiah, the most faithful king ever, did not directly go to God when the insurmountable challenge came into his life?   This clearly explains about his true relationship with God.   How about us?    Are we faithful to God?  Also known to be a person of faith?  Then it is time to examine our faith, whether we truly trust in Him or not.    


God truly loved Hezekiah because he was faithful.   God gave him an opportunity test and prove his faith before God.   He completely failed.  God did not let him alone, of course.  The disaster with which Hezekiah confronted, and his skew up before God were God’s way to make him spiritually grow in Him so that he could possess a fully mature faith in Him.    In the next week, we will see how God made him mature in faith.   Yes, God is love.   Sometimes God exposes our weakness through a life challenge.   Then God guides us in the paths of righteousness -- mature and strong in Him.  This is our faith growing in His love.   





He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Victory In Prayer: Never Give Up!


Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1)

There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zupha in the hill country of Ephraim.  Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.


Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to God of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of God at that time was Eli.  On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because God had given her no children.  So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because God had kept her from having children.  Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. 

Sometimes, we do everything right before God and toward people, but things do not happen as we expect, which is a real pain in our hearts.  Enduring such a pain is a real burden to our hearts, because there is nobody truly understanding the pain.  However, the world does not stop there.   There is always someone who add our pain by rubbing slat into the deep wound in our heart.  Hannah had to go through this pain year after year.   She prayed to God, but nothing was changed.  For the year, she could to bear the pain any longer.   She was in tears, and could not eat because the pain in her heart was unbearably great.

 “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah, her husband, would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”



Her husband loved Hannah, and comforted her by telling his love to Hannah.  For many past years, she was comforted by this loving and kind word of her husband, but that year was different.  Her husband’s comforting voice did not register her ears at all, because her anguish was so deep, which had been accumulating many years in her heart.    There was no room anymore in her heart.   Her extreme anguish completely occupied her heart.   In fact, no one, even her husband, could not comfort her heart.  Her heart was completely out of touch, even to her husband.    Have we gone to such a deep pain and anguish like Hannah?  Surely some had.



Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray to God.   She ran into the Tabernacle.   Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.   Hannah had no heart to recognize Eli the priest.   Coming in to the Tabernacle, he immediately bowed down before God as if she were collapsing because she was in deep anguish.  She could not stop crying, and her cry was so bitter.   She pour out her anguish heart as she prayed to God.  The anguish that even her husband could not tame had she had poured out her before God.   Initially, she could not tell whether she was actually praying or not.   What she did was just emptying her heart.  God, who was always merciful, heard her without missing even one single word from her mouth.  God carefully paid attention to her prayer.  She spread out her anguish one by one before God.   God patiently heard her, and mercifully touched her heart, as she continued her prayer.  

As she was praying, God continuously ministered her heart as she was empting her heart in anguish in tears.   (Yes, Our God is really patient and full of mercy.   God truly listens to our prayer whenever we pour our heart to Him.  Why?  He is our One and Only, Ever-Loving Father.)   Hannah was venting her pain and anger in her heart to God.   The merciful God was right next her, and patiently took out her pain and anguish in her heart.  The tender and merciful hand of God touched her.  She was completely in God’s hand as she pouring out her heart.   God mended her broken heart to whole again.  


And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.”   She realized who God was, and she secretly made her vow to God with all of her heart and mind.

  
While praying deeply with God, She completely forgot Eli the priest, who was sitting in the Tabernacle.   As she was praying to God, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking.  “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”  


She suddenly realized she was in the middle of the Tabernacle.   Till the very moment, there was nothing between her and God.   Except God and herself, nothing existed because her prayer was so sweet and comforting.   God’s mercy touched her, and she was comforted.   Her experience of God’s mercy was a secret between her and God, hidden to others even including Eli, the priest.   Without knowing this, Eli thought that she was drunk because her lips moving without her voice.   In fact, she was talking to God with all her heart and mind.   She was talking to God, not a person on earth.   Hannah’s prayer was silent to the ears of Eli, but it was loudly heard by God.  Bible tells People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)   Amen to God, who sees the center of our heart, and answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart.

Quickly  posturing herself, “Oh no, sir!” Hannah replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD.  Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”    Hannah response was brief and factual.   Why?  There was no word matching her precious experience with God in her prayer.  Her heart’s pain and anguish were gradually melt away like an ice-covered lake exposed its fresh water as a warm spring sun rose.  Then her heart was filled with God’s warm mercy and love.  Her heart uttered a vow secretly to God with all her heart and mind.  


“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”  (1 Samuel 1:17)   Eli quickly dropped his suspicion.  Instead, he gave God’s blessing.  This voice was not from Eli, but from God.   “Go in peace!”   God knew her heart, and God grant His peace to her.   The peace was for Hannah, and for those who faithfully believed Him.  In her faith, Hannah looked up God as if a female slave look to the hand of her mistress.   God answered her prayer.  

Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.   (1 Samuel 1:18)   Upon hearing Eli’s answer, she responded with thanks to Eli in joy because she truly believed.   She knew she was barren, but she believed that she would have a son.   She no longer revisited again and again the pain and the anguish in her heart.   Instead, she fixed her eyes on God, and believed having her own baby.   She was freed from her past bondage of the heart pain and anguish.   Now she was in joy with God.   Then she went back to her life and ate again.    She was no long sad because she truly believed God and His mighty and merciful hand would give her baby.




I lift up my eyes to you,
     to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
     as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
     so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
     till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
     for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
     of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud.   (Psalm 123)


Praise God!  His mercy endures forever.   Sing praise the name of God, who hears our prayers when we are in pain and anguish in our hearts.   Our God is merciful.    He helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.   Our eyes of all look to God in hope.   God answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart with His mercy and love.  Praise Him, the One and Only One Our Ever-Loving God! 





Sunday, April 29, 2018

Stand Firm and Tall; Our God Above Is Mightier Than These!


Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!'  (Deuteronomy 20:4)

God is compassionate and full of mercy.  He saw the suffering of the Israelites under the harsh treatments of Mediante.   God picked Gideon, because God foresaw what Gideon could do for Him when he was filled with God’s spirit.    As the God’s time came, the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon.  Gideon blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him.  He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.   Gideon and the people of Israel were ready to fight against the oppressing Midianites and their allies.  


Gideon and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.  Gideon was about to attack the armies of Midian.    Then God said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” (Judges 7:2-3)  God warned Gideon and the people against their proud egos.  They heard God, and 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000.   Less than one third of people remained.    Gideon looked around the 10,000 people.  They were brave enough to defeat the entire armies of Midian.    Gideon, although he was driven by the Spirit of God, he still possessed the remnant of human nature – his own eyes.  To him, it looked still good enough to defeat the enemies.


God could not leave him alone, who still counted on his judgement.  God told again, “There are still too many!”  Then God reduced his army down to mere 300 men.  God completely stripped off his earthly confidence.   Again, Gideon had to send 9,700 warriors home.  Then Gideon looked around, and recalled he had enough warriors filling the entire valley.  But now he had only handful of 300 men.   The enemies were filled with the entire land.  They were the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel.   Gideon asked himself, “How to fight against the huge number of allied enemies with only 300 men?”   The answer was clear.  He couldn’t.   (It was God’s plan.)  Gideon, then, realized that there was no one except God who could lead him a victory.  Gideon quickly saw this.  He came to God and hold Him tight in faith.   Rather than being in fear, he chose to stand firm and tall in faith with his 300 men in God.  This truly pleased God.   God told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites.”(Judges 7:7a)   Yes, Gideon bowed down to God, and believed.  

That night God said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”    God, who dearly loved Gideon, came to Gideon, and told what to do to encourage him.  

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp.  The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts as they expected.  Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count!  Both Gideon and Purah saw the formidability impossible reality.  

How many times have we experienced what Gideon just encountered?   Despite of all kinds of odds and difficulties, we believed in God.   Then in faith, we moved forward.   However, when the reality hit, it was not just big, but beyond imagination - so huge that we could not describe.   Simply it was impossible.   Then did the reality make us doubt and question – was this really God’s will?  

Gideon felt the same fear, but he was not dwelling in the fear being hostaged by the fear.   Rather he held tighter in the faith in God.  Then in faith Gideon crept up to the camp.   It was so close that he could hear a man telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” 

His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”


What a comforting God was He to Gideon!   God knew exactly Gideon’s heart.   God touched his heart and take away the last drop of his doubt.   God needed a person who was absolutely obedient even before an impossibility, and exactly did what God wanted. 

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the LORD.  God assured Gideon that the victory was in God’s hand, and God had already provided the victory.   Then he returned to his camp with God in praise and joy.


As he arrived at his camp, shouted, “Get up! For the LORD has given you victory over the Midianite!” (Judges 7:15b). The three hundred men got up quickly, and focused on Gideon.   Gideon slowly and clearly explained what he heard at the edge of the enemy’s camp, and shared his faith by telling:
          1.       “God surely fight for us,
          2.          Our victory is sure, and
          3.         We are just a conduit for God’s plan, His victory and glory.”

Gideon divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it.    Gideon asked them not to carry swords, not even one single sword, nor a shield.   How craze Gideon’s command was!   They were about to fight against the formidable and countless many enemies.   Before them, a couple of swords (even 300 swords) would do nothing.   Gideon knew this, and in faith, he decided completely to lean on God and to receive the victory prepared by God.  Essentially, Gideon completely emptied himself by reducing him down to nothing.    No sword and no shield except faith.   Gideon and his 300 men were completely bare before the enemies.   The 300 men also truly believed.   Nobody complained, even one single word.   They looked each other, and in faith, quietly they followed Gideon’s direction.   They were one in one faith in God for God’s power, victory and glory.

Then Gideon said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do.  As soon as I and those with me blow the rams’ horns, blow your horns, too, all around the entire camp, and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon!’”   Gideon’s instruction was clear.   God the first and Gideon the second. 

It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars.  Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:20)

Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape.  When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the LORD caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled.

It was a huge victory.   Nobody drew sword, not even one single sword, but God’s sword was greater.   Nobody fought against the enemies, but God fought for them.   Before God, the enemies were confused, they killed each other.    Gideon and the 300 men saw the enemies were being reduced by themselves by killing each other.   The enemies were utterly destroyed by God’s raised hand.   They stood before God while watching the awesome scene.   They praised God, and praised God’s name with the highest voice for His glory.     

Do we confront with an impossibility that is absolutely beyond us?   Then we lift up our eyes, and look up Our God, who is ever-loving Father, and then remember what God did to Gideon and his 300 men.   They did not draw even one single sword, but God utterly destroyed the enemies before their very eyes. Gideon and his 300 men believed, and God answered.  God’s power and His glory were magnified.   The same God, who was with Gideon and the 300 men, is with us even at this very moment.   Do we believe?   






The floods have risen up, O LORD.
The floods have roared like thunder;
the floods have lifted their pounding waves.
But mightier than the violent raging of the seas,
mightier than the breakers on the shore—
the LORD above is mightier than these!   (Psalm 93:3-4)
 
               
   



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Victory Over Impossibility In Him!


Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. (Exodus 23:20)

God has always prepared for His people.  When the people of Israel did evil before the sigh of God, God put them under the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.   They stayed until the land was stripped bare.  So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites.  It was truly painful, but it was God’s purification process for the people of Israel.   The purification time was up, and the people of Israel were ready.   God picked one person, whose name was Gideon.   He was not a proud man because he had nothing to show to others.   God came to him, and told him to rescue Israel.   “But God,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”    God used the least and weakest one because He saw Gideon’s heart, which couldn’t be seen by people’s eyes.

Then God gave Gideon the weighty mission of rescuing His people, the Israelites.   Yes, God picked Gideon not because Gideon was brave and mighty enough to rescue the Israelites from the dominating Midianites.   God foresaw what Gideon could do for Him when he was filled with God’s spirit.   God also exactly knew that at the moment, Gideon, as he was, was not ready for the God’s mighty task -- rescuing the entire Israelites.  God had to transform the coward Gideon to the truly faithful and mighty one who could lead the people of Israel in the name of God without any fears and doubts.   Yes, this was the God’s plan prepared for Gideon and the people of Israel.   God called him, and through His angel said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” (Judges 6:12).   

Per God’s direction, that night, Gideon took ten of his servants.   He went up to the alter of Baal, demolished the alter of Baal, cut down the Asherah pole besides the alter, instead built an alter for God on the hilltop, and gave sacrifice to God using as fuel the wood of the Asherah.   Gideon passed the test, and he proved his faith before God.   Gideon was ready to take the mighty task from God – saving the Israelites.

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.  Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him.  He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.   Gideon and the people of Israel were ready to fight against the oppressing Midianites and their allies.  

In fact, God had an even bigger and grander plan for the Israelites.   The people of Israel under the Gideon’s leadership could defeat the Midianites and their allies because they were all filled of courage.   However, God worried about the hearts of the Israelites after the victory.   They would give all credits to themselves, while slowly and completely forgetting God.   How many times have we experienced this in us?    A huge success in our earthly life often becomes the most deadly poison for our spiritual life before God.    Our ego is the most formidable foe, especially when it allies with our unshakable desire of crowing ourselves as our own master.  Soon we don’t even remember how God rescues us from our suffering and misery.   

Without knowing God’s true plan, Gideon and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.  Gideon really ready to attack the armies of Midian.    Then God said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” (Judges 7:2-3)  God warned Gideon and the people against their proud egos.  They heard God, and responded to Gideon’s call, 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.   Less than one third of people remained.    Gideon looked around the 10,000 people, who looked really brave enough to defeat the entire armies of Midian.  

But the LORD told Gideon, “There are still too many!”   Gideon could not believe what he was hearing.   God made his army reduced by two thirds.  He only had 10,000.   Despite of this fact, Gideon was about to fight for God for His victory.   However, God stopped Gideon to remind who God was.  

Gideon, who encountered God, prior two nights and mornings.   God made a wool fleece wet one night while the surrounding ground was dry, and the following night, He made the fleece dry while the ground was covered with dew.   Gideon was able to truly experience God.   Before Him, there was nothing impossible.    How about us?   Some of us might have experienced God like Gideon with a vivid memory.    On the other hand, many of us might not remember Him, the One who did a truly mighty act in our lives through His love.  Even so, we don’t have to search any further.  Our faith in Him is alone the evidence and proof.   Who can have faith without God’s mighty act in our lives in His love?     Having faith in God is the greatest miracle.   Even yesterday, I spend an hour with one really smart, well-educated, good-hearted friend.   He knew of God, but he could not believe Him, especially accepting Jesus as his savior.  All of his good character and smartness did add nothing to His eternal life.  Before departing from him, I said, “please accept Jesus as your savior.”    And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  (Mark 8:36)
 

Gideon quickly focused on his faith in God, and he carefully listened to Him.  God continued, “Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” (Judges 7:4b)   Yes, Gideon realized that it was another test.   Gideon already passed one test of God by demolishing the alter of Baal.   (Actually, God did not test him for a testing purpose, but provided a wonderful opportunity for Gideon to test himself and prove his faith in God.  It was God’s loving test carefully designed for Gideon and the people.)  

Then Gideon took his warriors down to the water.  God’s plan was continuously unfolding.   God told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.”  Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

Then God told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”(Judges 7:7)   So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him in his strong and unmovable faith in God.   He stood firm and tall in his faith before God, and with the people around Gideon.  The 300 men saw him, as well as the 9700 who were reluctantly sent home.    What a scene before men and God!    This was the faith – expecting God’s victory under an impossibility.   The courage and faith willing to fight against the numerous armies of Midianites and their allies with the minuscule number of his army of the 300 men was alone a true victory even before starting physically fighting.    God saw the faith of Gideon and the 300 warriors.   This pleased God, and the victory in God was sure. 
 

Are some of us confront with an impossibility?   Then let’s fully recognize that it is not a battle for our own might and strength, but for proving our faith in Him.    We might have completely forgotten His mighty hand and love as the distant past of our lives.  The impossibility with which we confront is an telltale signal specially designed for us by God to remind us who He is and what He has done in our lives, and again for us to strongly hold Him as our true and only master of our lives.  Therefore, when we meet an impossibility in our lives, we fix our eyes on Him, and return the impossibility to Him.  Anyway, it truly belongs to Him, not us.  Then we stand firm and fall in faith in Him.  This is our faith and our victory in Him who so loved us that He gave His one and only Son.  Give thanks to God, who has already prepared our victory from the impossibility before us as well as the eternal victory in Him.  Praise Him!

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. (1 John 5:4)