Sunday, July 31, 2016

Miracle in life through faith

Good morning!

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

And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (1 King 17:24)


One day, Elijah, God’s prophet, was sent to King Ahab.  He told, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”  

King Ahab, who was the king of Israel, did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.    He married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.  

Right after Elijah told to King Ahab God’s plan as the above, God told to him: “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, east of the Jordon.  Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” (1 Kings 17:3)  Elijah went to Kerith Brook as commanded, and hid himself.   As God told, no more rain fell from sky, the land was getting drier.  Even so, he was able to sustain his life by drinking from Kerith Brook, and eating what the ravens brought him.   For Elijah, it was the period of experiencing God in the intimacy with him and enjoying His supernatural power and provision.  He did not have to go out to find food, which was dangerous and risky because King Abab was seeking Elijah’s life.   In God’s hand, he was secure.  However, this period did not last forever.  Sometime later, the brook also dried up, because the draught was so severe.   He flew and hid from the danger of King Ahab to preserve his life.  Now, he confronted with another serious problem – Kerith Brook that he used to drink from was dried up too.  He could not stay the same place any longer.  

Not like Jonah, who complained about a vine that gave a shade from the hot sun, but soon was dried up, which he did not planted, but God made grow, Elijah did not complain.  He was a man of God.  He prayed and believed God’s infinitely goodness and His good will toward His people although everything around him was going against what he wanted or desired.  Soon the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” (1 Kings 17:9)    He went to Sidon as God commanded.   Sidon was located at the northern end of the western part of Israel situated on Mediterranean Sea.  He was at the east side of the Jordan. He had to make a journey that was not difficult and dangerous because he had to cross the large portion of the land of Israel, from the east to the west, while King Ahab was seeking his life.   He was in this much trouble only because he delivered God’s message to King Ahab, who was a wicked king.  Bible recorded King Ahab did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.

After the difficult and dangerous journey, Elijah safely arrived in the region of Sidon, and searched for Zarephath, a widow.  He found the widow, who was gathering sticks.   In the sever draught and famine, Elijah saw the hardship that the widow suffered.  It was not easy for him to tell what was told by God.   In faith, he opened his mouth and asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?”  She was kindly about to share the precious water.  Out of his hunger, he also told her, “Would you bring me a bite of bread, too.”    Then she immediately stopped and answered, I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”(1 Kings 17:12)   She was kind and shared water with Elijah, a stranger to her, but she had to tell her plan: she gathered a few sticks and cooked the last meal for her and her son.   When she was asked by Elijah, her generosity was not diminished even under her extreme situation.  

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the LORD sends rain and the crops grow again!”  (1 Kings 17:13-14)  If we were her, what would be your or my response to this request? 

Bible continues.  And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and her son and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:15)   She did not hesitate nor struggle.  She just did what Elijah said in her faith of God.  What a faith she had!   To Elijah, it was not easy to convey what was told by God to the widow.  He saw her difficult situation, and he heard the desperate story -- picking sticks to cook the final meal with her son and then to die together.   The two in faith followed what was told by God, whether what God told them made sense or not.   Through faith, the widow got the precious miracle – her flour jar and oil jug had never been emptied throughout the draught, and the faith could save herself, her son, her and all her household as well as Elijah. 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)   

God, please, give us the faith of the widow, who had a faith of transcending all understanding.  We want to be like the widow who, through faith, could save her household and Elijah.  Grant us a rock of faith of Jesus Christ.   We want not to be swayed by what we see and what we hear, but stand firm on the rock of faith.   Make us getting into a deeper understanding about you, and experiencing your presence and love in Christ Jesus in every part of our life.   It is our earnest desire in you, who is our ever-loving Father, the Almighty God.   Amen.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Do I Really See?

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) 
 
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, some women took spices they had prepared and went to the tomb where the Lord Jesus was laid.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.   The Lord Jesus rose from the dead.  He conquered the death, which was the eternal curse and condemnation to all humanity.
 
That same day, two followers of Jesus were walking down to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.   As they walked along, they were talking about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus, the risen Lord, himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 
 
Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”   
 
Upon hearing this non-sense question, they suddenly stopped short, and showed their faces full of sadness.   While suppressing their emotions, Cleopas, one of the two, slowly opened his mouth and explained, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”  
   
What things?” Jesus asked.
 
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.  But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”
 
Their answer was a rational and precise description summarizing the story circulating among the people in Jerusalem at that time, and their personal hope in Jesus as Messiah.   They believed Jesus would rescue Israel.   However, it turned out to be false because Jesus was simply killed.   What a disappointment!  Their hearts were sinking.  They lost the hope being liberated from the oppression of the Roman empire.    All that Jesus did well matched with what was told generation after generation about Messiah.   Jesus did miracles, healed the sick, and expelled demons.   Even his teaching was not like other teachers or priests.  They were always impressed by His wisdom and comforted by His teaching with compassion and love.   Unfortunately, this caused a conflict between Jesus and the leading priests and their religious leaders.  
 
They thought that it was a just minor issue, but the conflict was aggravating.  Then the religious leaders started pressing on Israelites not to follow Jesus nor to listen to His teaching.   However, more and more people were drawn into Jesus because the people were comforted by His message.  Additionally, His teaching had an authority that was lacking in teachings of their religious leaders, priests, and teachers.   Thus, they followed Jesus, and  whenever Jesus taught, people flocked to listen to His powerful but comforting teaching because it touched their hearts.  They never had such experience before.  Jesus’ message was always full of compassion, love and hope.   Although they did not initially noticed, they were slowly and steadily growing inwardly.   One night, something unthinkable happened.   Their religious leaders with a help from Judas Iscariot, one of the hand-picked twelve disciples, arrested Jesus while He was with His twelve disciples in the garden of Gethsemane.
 
The twelve disciples faithfully followed Jesus for the last three years, and they were known to be the best among all followers of Jesus.  They did miracles of casting out demons as Jesus did, which separated them from other followers including the two.  Among the Twelve, Peter was a really action-oriented disciple.  He was the one who always wanted to be the first, and actually did.   His zeal and energy for Jesus were unmatched.      The two also heard about what Peter openly stated: he would follow Jesus even though he had to die. Peter actually carried swords to protect Jesus.   They were told others were determined like Peter to protect Jesus.
 
However, to their surprise, when Jesus was actually arrested by the religious leaders, there was little resistance from the disciples except one: what Peter did.   Peter drew his sword that he prepared, and cut off one ear of High Priest’s servant, who came along with others to capture Jesus.   However, what really happened next was confusing, which did not make sense at all.  Jesus did not approve the Peter’s action.  Instead Jesus asked not to use violence by telling “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”  (Matt 26:52)  Then Jesus healed the servant’s ear by putting it back, which was yet another miracle.
 
Soon all of the disciples including Peter fled from Jesus.  The Eleven (less Judas Iscariot, who sold Jesus) who saw what happened to Jesus, must have thought the same would happen to them also.  An enormous fear must have fallen on the Eleven.  Especially, Peter, who openly claimed to follow Jesus till death, denied Jesus before a small servant girl and others multiple times.  If their memory was correct, Peter denied Jesus three times.   In fear, another disciple left his garment, and ran away naked.   The Eleven in great fear hid themselves.  Of their great confusion, disappointment, and even sadness, the two decided to leave Jerusalem, and go down to Emmaus.   They thought they could forget about all these things and especially their sadness of losing the hope of being liberated from the Roman’s occupation.   It was not easy to live under the Roman conquerors.  They had to constantly please their conquerors.  The Roman conquerors dictated everything, and they had to follow what was dictated by the Romans.  Together with Jesus’ death their hope was evaporated.  The Jesus, whom they believed as their liberator, was miserably crucified on cross.   This all happened three days ago.
 
They were also told about a really strange story.   Some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!  Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” (Luke 24:22-24)   This story was even more confusing.   It was wildly circulating in Jerusalem.  Thus, they were asking to themselves.  Did Jesus actually live again from the death?  Was it really possible?   They knew nobody could live again after being killed.   Thus, they had to completely discount the story, but they were really sad.  Their hearts were completely overwhelmed by the confusion and the disappointment of losing the hope. 
 
Jesus, the risen Lord, who came and joined the two, explained:  Messiah should suffer all these things before entering His glory.  It took a long discourse with Jesus.  Jesus patiently explained one by one because their mind and eyes were closed.   Finally, Jesus sit down with them, took the bread and blessed it.  He broke it and gave it to them.  Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, the risen Lord.
 
Are we really different from the two followers of Jesus, who were going down to Emmaus in a great disappointment and sadness?    How about our hearts and our eyes?  Do we see the truth -- Jesus is always with us?   “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe.”  Is this an exact description about us?    Our Father, please open our eyes to see you, and empty our hearts so that we are filled with your love and compassion to others.  This is our earnest prayer before you, Our Ever-Loving God.
 
Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6)
 

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

What am I really looking for?

Good morning!

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

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27)

Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, He asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (John 6:5)
Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” (John 6:7) (One Denarius is one day’s wage at that time.  Thus, it could be more than ½ year of wage.)  Philip had already precomputed what would take to feed the huge crowd, which was about five thousand without including women and children.  (The total could be tallied easily ten to fifteen thousand or even more.)  Even if there were enough money, it was a daunting task to bring in a large amount of food and feed such a large crowd.   To Philip, thus, feeding the huge crowd was practically impossible; no plan was in place, and no pre-arrangement was made with the nearby town to buy and to bring in a huge amount of food.   How many times do we answer like Philip when God asks a seemingly impossible question? 

Bible tells “Jesus was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.” (John 6:6)   It was a test on Philip’s faith, not Philip’s ability whether he could think through all steps involved including the financial aspect.   However, Philip totally missed the point of Jesus’ question.  For Philip, the clock was ticking, and the huge crowd was getting hungrier including himself in the middle of nowhere on the hill.   He had been thinking about this since Jesus was starting to climb up the hill with the His disciples.   It was so obvious to him to purchase the huge amount of lunch was really financially draining, and the logistics of feeding the huge crowd was complex and really demanding.   He counted carefully the people to come up with a pretty accurate estimation how much would cost to buy food.  But nobody seemed care.  He was increasingly frustrated about all these things, and he looked around while closely examining the fellow disciples’ faces.  He could not see a slightest hint that even a single disciple was thinking and worrying about the same issue like him.  They were like a child just being excited about Jesus and following Him.

Jesus had been watching Philip who was increasingly frustrated.   Jesus, full of mercy and grace with a compassionate heart, could not continue letting Philip alone any longer.   Jesus finally opened His mouth and told:  “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”   It was the moment that he was patiently waiting since they were climbing up the hill.   Philip was fully ready to pour his frustration.  He quickly jumped in and talked about the core issue – the crowd was huge, and feeding them would cost lots of money: exactly two hundred denarii or more.   While he was talking, he thought that Jesus would praise his well-prepared answer, and initiate a discussion among by calling all His disciples to deal with the immediate issue.  To his surprise, Jesus did not even respond to his answer.  Jesus was silent.   Jesus’ silence made Andrew as well as all other disciples somewhat uncomfortable.  

Suddenly, one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?  (John 6:9).  They heard and they knew Philip was right.   Two hundred days’ wage was a huge amount of money, and there was no nearby town that was ready to serve ten to fifteen thousand people.  In some reason, Andrew looked back what had happened since he started following Jesus.   He saw many signs that Jesus performed, and Jesus healed the sick wherever He went.  To Andrew, all of the events with Jesus were miracles.  Such things should have had not happened, but they actually did.  He also recalled the moment that Andrew and Peter, his brother, were called by Jesus.  Jesus’ voice was totally different.  He and his brother could not resist on his calling.  His calling was:  “Follow Me.  I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)  They immediately left their nets and followed Jesus.   Since then, Andrew experienced that Jesus was not an ordinary teacher.   Jesus’ teaching had authority not like those of other teachers or religious leaders.   Although he was not able to pin point when he was starting to believe in Jesus, he knew he had a faith in Jesus.  In this faith, Andrew looked around again, and saw one small boy with five barley loves and two fish.   Then with his total trust in Jesus, he broke the silence.  Andrew spoke to Jesus about the five barley loves and two fish that one boy had.  

Although Andrew believed Jesus that He could do anything beyond his imagination, his rational mind was still lingering.  Thus, he had to add “but what are they for so many?” at the end of his utterance.  Yes, Andrew eye-witnessed many miracles that Jesus performed, but he was not able to overcome what was seen his own eyes – the huge crowd.  Again, there was a silence.  However, it was a rather short one.  Jesus soon told: “Have the people sit down.” (John 6:10)
Unfortunately, there was no explanation, nor discussion.  Jesus simply said “Have the people sit down.”   It was another surprise to Philip, Andrew and the other disciples because Jesus did not give out any rationales and what He would do.  The disciples were confused what they had to do next.  They looked at each other’s faces, and saw the face of Jesus again.   Then one by one the disciples walked out into the crowd.   They slowly spread out into the crowd, and made them sit down on grass.   The crowd did not know what was going on.  They did simply follow the instruction given by the disciples, and sit down on grass.   Of course, the disciples did not know why they had to make the crowd sit down.  Soon all of them were settled down on the grass.  Then, another silence fell on the hillside.

Jesus stood up with the barley loves, and gave thanks to the loves in front of the huge crowd.  Then Jesus broke up the loves and gave to the disciple.   The disciples then moved out into the crowd and gave out the loves broken by Jesus.   Jesus also did to the fish, and the disciples distributed the fish too.  Miraculously, the entire crowd was fed and fully satisfied.   Both the disciples and the huge crowd were able to experience the miracle and the blessing directly coming from Jesus, not because they had a really good faith, but because the mercy of Jesus found on them in His compassionate love.  

Then the crowd were about to come and take him by force to make him king.  Jesus withdrew to the mountain by himself, and He moved to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.   Then, the people followed Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee.   When Jesus saw them again, He directly revealed their heart and motivation:  “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.”   (John 6:26)   Then Jesus revealed the truth to them with a compassionate and loving heart:  “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27)  And Jesus continued, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  (John 6:35)

Yes, Jesus is the bread of life.  Whoever comes to Him shall no hunger, and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst.  Amen!

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)


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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Who really am I?

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  (Jonah 1:1)
 
One day God appeared to Jonah, and told “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”   But Jonah ran in the opposite direction to get away from God.   He found a ship leaving for Tarshish, and bought a ticket.  He went on board, hopping to escape from God by sailing to Tarshish because Tarshish is located at the opposite direction of Nineveh.
 
But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threated to break the ship apart.   The sailors did everything they could – calling their gods, throwing the cargo overboard to lightening the ship.  Nothing worked.   But all the time, Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.   The crew found Jonah and woke him.  They continued their effort to save the ship, but the situation was getting worse.  Finally, the crew cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.   The people on the ship asked Jonah about who he was and why he was sailing to Tarshish.  Jonah told about his sinful behavior against God.  Jonah asked them to pick him up and throw into the sea.   Initially, they were reluctant, but they had to do.   As soon as Jonah was thrown into the sea, the sea became calm.   The people were amazed, and Jonah thrown into the sea.   God prepared a big fish, and swallowed Jonah.  
 
Jonah was in the belly of the fish.  In his distress, he humbly called out God, while earnestly putting his hope in God.   Yes, he was hurled into the depths of the seas.  Seaweed was wrapped around his head, but he looked up God with faith that God would bring Jonah up from the pit.  Then Jonah cried out “Salvation comes from the Lord.”   God heard his prayer.  God commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.   Jonah was saved from the death, and he got a second chance.
 
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  (Jonah 3:1)
 
For this time, Jonah obeyed the word of God and went to Nineveh.  Although Jonah ran away from God, God patiently loved Jonah.   God put Jonah in a situation that he could not do anything but crying out for a help to God with his humble heart.   God answered his humble prayer.  Jonah experienced God’s great mercy.  
 
Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.   As commanded by God, Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”   To a surprise to Jonah, the Ninevites immediately heard his message, and they believed God.  A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  Even the king rose from his throne, and took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.   He issued a proclamation to the people in Nineveh:
 
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”   (Jonah 3:7-8)
 
God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways.  God did not carry out the destruction that God was about to bring in.   God is always full of mercy and grace, and slow to anger.   Thus, God did show the same mercy on Jonah to the people of Nineveh.  
 
However, to Jonah’s eye, God’s mercy seemed very wrong, and he became angry.   He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3)
 
Jonah was really angry.  He prayed to God to complain, not to give thanksgiving to God for His mercy given the people of Nineveh.  His prayer (actually complaint) revealed Jonah’s true heart.   Jonah did not want God’s grace and mercy on the people of Nineveh because Jonah hated them.  Jonah wanted a justice, not a mercy because Jonah with other Isarelites did not like the people of Nineveh.  They worshiped idols, and they were the greatest threat to the people of Israel at that time.  To anyone in Israel, it was unimaginable of the people of Nineveh to receive God’s mercy and grace that they were getting.  They mistakenly thought that God’s grace and mercy were only for the chosen people, the Israelites.   Thus, they never had a desire of sharing God’s grace and mercy with those who were idolaters and a great threat to them. 
 
In his anger and his own rationale, Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city.   Despite Jonah’s stubborn heart, God was patiently merciful to Jonah.  In His love, God prepared another opportunity for Jonah to realize how much off his heart was.   First, God prepared a leafy plant to grow and provided a cool shade on Jonah.  Jonah was very grateful for the plant.    Then God prepared a worm to eat through the stem of the plaint so that it withered away.  The following morning, as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah.   The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die.   Jonah could have withdrawn from his wicked motivation, and could have gone down from the hot and high place to a cool and low place.  He insisted his own thought and complained about the plant and his own justice till reaching his own limit of growing faint.
 
Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”  (Jonah 4:10)
 
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
     slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.  (Psalm 145:8-9)
 
Praise the Lord, who is merciful, gracious, and compassionate!  He is slow to anger, and full of love.   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)
 

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fear not, for I am with you.

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:4-6)
 
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue, which was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up.  So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
 
Then the herald proclaimed an order: all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worshiped the ninety-feet-tall gold statue of the King Nebuchadnezzar.  What would you do if you were one of the people called in?
 
Bible continues: so at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  All of them confirmed what was told.
 
However, one group of people did not bow down to the gold statue.  They were Jews, who believed God and faithfully kept God’s commandments – “you shall have no other gods before me, and you shall not bow down to a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (the 1st and 2nd of the ten commandments, Exodus 20:3,4,5).   
 
By the way, Certain Chaldeans in the country did not like the Jews.   They came to the king, and maliciously accused the Jews:  “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  (Daniel 3: 9-12)
 
Keeping a faith is not easy.   Some people do not like you who keep faith in God.  They try to stop you worshiping God.  What was confronted by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is a good example.  Chaldeans set a trap to destroy what the Jews believed.
 
Bible continues: Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up?  I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:14)
 
If you were one of the friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, what would be your answer?
 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
 
The three friends’ answer was so clear.  They even said there was no need to answer the king in this matter.   God would deliver them from the fiery furnace with His supernatural power because God was omnipotent.  Even though He would not save them, they would not bow down to the gold statue because they could not worship except God.   They were calm and faithful, and firmly declared the Supreme God and His ability to rescue from anything that man could make.   Additionally, they declared no matter what happened to them, they would keep their faith including the case that God would not save them.  Why?  They knew and believed what they saw was temporary, and what could not be seen was eternal.  They took the eternity with God rather than a small gain on earth – extending their lives on earth.
 
Upon hearing their answer, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury.  The expression of his face was changed against three faithful friends.   He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was used to be heated, and threw them into the burning fiery furnace.   The furnace was so hot and their king’s order was so much demanding that the super-hot flames killed the solider as they threw the three men in.   The three faithful friends, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. 
 
Then Nebuchadnezzar and their people suddenly saw a scene that they could not believe.   Four people were waking in the roaring flames unharmed.  Even the fourth looks like a god.   God protected the three faithful friends.   When they came out of the roaring flames, the people including the king could see that the fire had not touched them.  Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched.   They didn’t even smell of smoke!
 
God is with us always.  Especially, when we need Him most, He is right next to us.  What we need is to see Him in the midst of a firing life event.   His stretching hand is right before us, and asking us to reach out our hands to hold His hand.   Please lift up eyes in your heart, and see His face.  He has been long waiting for you to see your eyes, which is the most precious to Him.   This will make His joy and our joy together be complete.
 
Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)
 


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