Sunday, December 27, 2015

Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts.

Good morning!

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

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  (Matthew 2:11)

Our Savior, Jesus Christ’s birth was the great gift that all of us can ever receive.   God gave His only begotten son, although we were not ready to receive Him.  On the birth day, there was no guest room available for Him.   The parents had to choose an animal’s place to give a birth to our the Savior, and placed on a manger.  Jews, who told many years we were eagerly waiting for the Savior, did not receive Him.

On the other hand, the Magi from the east made a long journey for the king of the Jews.   When they found Jesus laying on the manger, the Magi fell down and worshiped Him.  They opened their treasures, and offered Jesus Christ gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.   The angels a multitude of the heavenly host sang praises, and the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night heard the praise, and came to Jesus.   The shepherds could not stand still, and immediately went into town and told the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior.  All who heard it wondered.   Later Jesus told “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  (Luke 19:40)  upon the request of some of the Pharisees “Teach, rebuke your disciples”, who was praising, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)  Yes, nothing can stop the praise and the joy of birth of Jesus Christ, our Savoir.

We really received the most precious gift from God.  Then what’s our gift to God?   The Magi opened their treasures that they most valued, and offered gold, frankincense and myrrh.   What is the most precious gift that we can offer?   I’ve been pondering on this question.   The birth of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God’s love to us.   Can we give back this very gift of God’s love?     Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, miserably failed.  He betrayed Jesus three times right before the eyes of Jesus Christ.     Even so, Jesus came back to Peter, and talked to him with His love in order to forgive and restore Peter from his miserably guilty heart.   Jesus asked Him three times: “do you love me?”   He was not able to answer directly to this question.   Peter confused that he was not able to love Jesus as Jesus loved him.    God’s love is beyond any loves that we have known.   Although our heart really desires, we cannot give back the love of God.   What else we can give?   That has to be the most precious to us, and especially God really wants from us.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14)

The angels’ praise and the disciples’ praise gave a clue (at least to me).   God gave peace to those on whom his favor rests, i.e., us.    Through the birth of Jesus, God gave peace to us.   Adam and Eve could not have this peace with God.   After they sinned, they hid themselves from God’s face because they were afraid of God although God was calling them.  Their hearts were not in peace with God.  God, thus, showed His love and gave protection although they had not have peace with Him.   How about us?   Do we have peace with God?   

Recently, I had a chance to watch Forrest Gump again.   Lt. Dan lost both legs at a battle in Vietnam, and he always had an anger and resentment toward Forrest and God.   He badly wanted to die after being wounded, but he was rescued by Forrest.   Lt. Dan’s life without both legs was harsh and difficult.   Finally, he argued with and shouted at God during a stormy at the top of the mast, which was Lt. Dan’s pinnacle venting out all of his anger and frustration.    However, soon, the storm became the conduit of blessings, and most importantly, he found a true peace.   In the scene, Lt. Dan pulls himself out of his wheelchair and onto the rail of the boat. He spins and jumps into the water, causing a big splash. We then see a tranquil Lt. Dan doing a floating backstroke with only the sea, the sky, and some distant clouds in the horizon.   Later, Forrest told “He never actually said so, but I think he made his peace with God.”

Perhaps, the most precious gift that we can give is a true peace with God.   God has been always wanting for this true peace with us since the sinning of Adam and Eve.  

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  (1 Samuel 7:12)

2015 is rapidly concluding.  2015 will not come again.  Why not looking back what God has done to us in our lives?  Like Lt. Dan on top of the mast during a storm, some of us sailed through a stormy water being surrounded by troubles on every side, but were not crushed.   Some of us perplexed, but were not driven to complete despair.   Some of us knocked down, but were not totally destroyed.   Thus far God has led and helped us.   As Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizaph and Shen, it is time to put our own stone between 2015 and 2016, and call it Ebenezer – stone of help.    Presenting our peace with God is truly opening our treasure, and giving the best to God.   Praise God, who is always faithful and infinitely patient with us because He is love!   Give our true peace to God, the One who wants a personal relationship with us in peace. 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1)

Let’s continue praying before God to have peace with Him regardless situations around us.   Through this peace, His name will be magnified, and people may see the glory of God.   Thus,  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Good morning!

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

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14)

This is a season for jolly.  We all celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who was born on Christmas day about two thousand years ago.   While the parents were in Bethlehem from the long journey from Nazareth which is about 80 miles apart, the time came for the baby to be born.  The mother gave birth to a son, and wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger (where animals were), because there was no guest room available for them.

Shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.   Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”   (Luke 2:14)

The lowly shepherds who had to watch over sheep at night met the great company of angels, because God’s favor rests on the lowly shepherds.   They were terrified, but they were told  “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)  

The shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.   When they have seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told about this child.  (Luke 2:16-17)   All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  (Luke 2:18)   The good news was spoken to each other, and many people amazed because the Israelites waited the Savior a long time.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

From the east, three Magi (i.e., three wise men) came to see the king of the Jews, and to worship Jesus Christ.  They had a long journey following the star to see Him.   Upon the question of where the Messiah was to be born, all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law replied, “In Bethlehem in Judea.”  (Matthew 2:5)    They continued following the star, and saw the child with his month Mary.   They were overjoyed.  They bowed down and worshiped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (Matthews 2:10-11)  Yes.  God’s favor rested on the Magi.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  (Matthews 2:12)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  (Matthew 2:3)

King Herod, who was the king of the Judea at that time, was greatly disturbed when Magi were looking for king of the Jews.   He plotted to eliminate the new born baby, the Savior, but the Magi were warned in a dream, they did not go back to Herod, although Herod told to them, “Go and search carefully for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”  (Matthew 2: 8)   Herod’s plan was not materialized.   After he realized that he was fooled, he killed all boy babies in Bethlehem, but God sent away Jesus and his parents to be saved from Herod.

Jesus Christ, the Savior, was waited for more than 700 years by the Jews.   However, when Jesus was born, only came the shepherds and the Magi to worship Him, neither Herod, the people’s chief priests nor teachers of the law, although they knew exactly where the Savior would be born.   Instead, there were disturbed. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:3)

God’s favor rests on the poor in spirit.   Jesus says “ Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)    One who is poor in spirit will surely hear the voice of Jesus Christ, and opens the door.   Then Jesus will come in and eat with the person, and the person will be with Jesus.   This relationship is not temporary, but eternal.  One who accepts Jesus Christ owns the kingdom of heaven.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Praise God, who sent His begotten only son to us to save us from our sins!  He is full of love, mercy and grace.   Those how are humble and poor in heart will accept Jesus in their heart, and they will own the kingdom of heaven.  God’s favor rests on those who are humble.    Praise the Lord!   His name will be glorified forever and ever.  

Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

And why do you worry about clothes?

 Good morning!

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

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:28-29)

Recently I read an article about our worry.  It tells "Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misconceptions."  Statistically speaking, our worries are ungrounded. 

Then why do we worry?  In short, it is a work of our flesh. The Bible tells "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)"   We, Christians, should not worry, because we are no longer under the flesh that makes us desire things on earth, but we are of the Spirit sent by God, and live in accordance with the Spirit.  The Spirit desires the things of the above, which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8 )

Being worrying does not give any solution to what we worry about.   Jesus said "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  (Matthew 6:27)"   No, absolutely not.   Instead, our worry adds to our anxiousness.  It lives inside of us, and undermines us from inside out.  It continuously drains our mental, physical and spiritual strength.   In deed, our worry is a clear sign of our self-reliance, and our effort to solve the problem with our own way.  However, the deepest part of our heart says that it is beyond our ability.   If not, we have already done something about it. 

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  (Matthew 6:25)

Even so, we want a control.   We love to be the master of our own self, although we are absolutely helpless before the problem that we confront. How foolish we are!  This is the time that we yield our own control to the real master, our God, who is really capable.   Also giving a control to God means giving out our worries to God.   It is uneasy to give up our control and our worries.   Our flesh screams not to lose the control by bringing all logical reasons why we need to be in charge and worry. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21)

Then why do we tenaciously stick to our own worry?   Because we really care for the object of our worry.  If we don’t care for the thing/person/event, we will not worry about it at all because we don’t care.   We worry because we really care for and love our money, job, status, reputation, child, and even self.   “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”   That is, where our heart is becomes the source of our worry.   Among sports fans,  I have never seen a single person who worries about the opponent team, because the person’s heart is already with the the person's team.  

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  ... (Matthew 6:24)

Our life is more important than a sport game.   However, we are foolish enough to implicitly think that things on earth will reach to the entirety.   What we see is transient, and  what we cannot see is eternal. (2 Corinthian 4:18).   Putting our heart, cares and concerns to a thing on this transient world is the very source that makes us worry.   The original word in Greek, which is often translated to worry in English Bible, is “mrimnao”, which means “to be anxious” and “to care for.”   The Bible gives a clear teaching in a single word – we worry because we love.  

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

I am sure each of you have at least one that you dearly love.   It could be your own child, spouse, job, money, fame, popularity, and even self etc.    However, Jesus told that “you shall love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and then you shall love your neighbor as yourself.   Jesus tells us that our concerns and associated worries should be directed to God and our neighbors.     Jesus continue telling us “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  (Matthew 6:31-32)    Instead,  He says “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)   

What a blessed word from Jesus!   All that we worry about will be taken care of by Jesus.  (In fact, all that we worry about are beyond our capability anyway.)    We just love God with all of our heart, and love neighbors as ourselves.   (It is a simple command, but we know it is also impossible for us to keep if we try with our own might.)   This is the mystery of our faith.   Although we cannot do by our own strength, the power of the Holy Spirit in our heart enables us to truly love God and love our neighbors (even including our enemies).   Praise God, who reveals this secret to us!  He continues watching over us to grow in Him to have a deeper understanding and relationship with Him, to do God’s wills and desires rather than fulfilling our flesh’s desires.   Therefore, continue following the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and fix our eyes on Jesus on cross.  Then we run our race given to us.  Soon we will be turned out more than conquers of all our worries in Jesus Christ.  This is our faith.   The highest glory, honor, and praise to Jesus, the savior and finisher of our faith.    Praise the Lord, whose mercy endures forever!  

Let’s continue praying before God to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in us.  He will continue guiding us and protecting us from all our worries, concerns, and dangers.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 4:4-7)


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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Two Kings: An Earthly King and The King

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

This is the response of Israelites to Prophet Samuel’s warning about a king.  “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.  ... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. ... he will take for his own use.”  (1 Samuel 8:11, 14, 16)   The Israelites looked around and saw surrounding countries ruled by kings.   For their eyes, people in those countries were living in peace and comfort because of their king.   If there was a conflict with another country, their king took its army, fought against incoming enemies, and protected them.   In reality, as Samuel patiently explained, a king would reign over you people and would claim as his rights.   He would take the best for his own use.   Yes, an earthly king takes from his people while putting his safety and prosperity first before those of his people.  Have you seen an earthly king who stands at the frontline of a battle while risking his life?    No, he stands behind by keeping a safe distance.  Then he sends his own people to the frontline to fight for and protect him.  If his army wins, he takes all credits and glories.  If his army loses, he often becomes the first person fleeing from the battle.   Even so, the Israelites badly wanted, tenaciously demanded a king.   Samuel patiently persuaded the people, but they were deaf because their heart were already sold to the earthly king.

Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

There is another king, whose name is Jesus.   Although he was the real King, he did not physically reign over people and claim as his rights.   He did not take the best from people.  Rather He came to this world to serve, not to be served.   He did not stand behind the frontline, but was far ahead of the frontline by leaving his people behind to protect them.    He knew the outcome of the battle, and the severity of pain and agony afflicted by the war between Him and evil power.   He endured the pains and agony to serve us.  

He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  (Isaiah 42:2-3)

He did not shout nor cry out.  He silently endured all sufferings before Him.    He was gentle and compassionate to those who were weak and suffering.   He comforted them and gave hope.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written. 
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”  (John 12:13-15)

Those who were hurt and oppressed flocked around Him, took palm branches, and shouted, “Hosanna!”   “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Blessed is the king of Israel!”   They declared Him the king of Israel.   He was a humble king.   He was on a donkey, and entered Jerusalem for us.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  (Isaiah 53:7)

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus, the humble king, became obedient to death – even death on a cross.  Why? He came to this world to give his life as a ransom for many.   Then He bled and died on cross to fulfill God’s will and complete our salvation. 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2: 9-11)

Therefore God exalted Him, and gave him all the glory  of God the Father.   Every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Chris is the Lord.   The humble and loving king will come again.   When he comes again, we will all be changed, and our salvation will be completed.  

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.   (Lamentations 3:24-26)

Praise the king, who is humble and full of love!    Give the highest glory to the one, who will complete our salvation.    Shout for joy because our salvation is closer by one more day.    Sing praises!   We will be with Him forever.    Let’s continue eagerly waiting for the King of kings, the Lord of lords.   He will surely come.   Humbly bow down before Him, and give the highest praises and honor to Him.   Hallelujah!  His name will be praised on earth as well as in Heaven.
Let’s pray to our true king who gave his own life to forgive our sins and transgression.   All our sins are completely forgiven, and they are gone like a morning fog.   We are free and become a new person who can  call God, “Abba Father.”   There is no more fear in our life.   We become His people having a citizenship in Heaven and will live with Him forever in Heaven.  Praise the Lord!  His mercy and grace endures forever.   He is our one and only King.  Amen!