Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Pray to God?

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, … (Nehemiah 2:4-5)
 
In late autumn, in the month of Kislev (i.e., November to December), in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, Nehemiah was in the citadel of Susa.  Hanani, one of his brothers, came to visit him with some other men who had just arrived from Judah.   He asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
 
They told him, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
 
When he heard this, he sat down and wept. In fact, for days he mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven:
 
“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!  We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
 
“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’
 
“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”  (Nehemiah 1:5-10)
 
Under the distress, Nehemiah earnestly and humbly prayed.  His prayer is such an example how we pray to God especially when we are in trouble and need His help.  Here is the pattern:
1.    He praised the God, and his covenant of unfailing love.
2.    He humbly asked God’s attention on his prayer 
3.    He confessed sins of the Israelites, specifically himself and his family
4.    He clang to the promise of forgiveness and restoration
5.    He professed “we are your servant.”
6.    He presented his needs to God.
 
His faithful and earnest prayer was heard by God.  However, it was not God’s time yet.  God was silent to Nehemiah till His time came.   Nehemiah was not deterred.  Although the Bible explicitly did not say, Nehemiah must have prayed every day (even multiple times a day) with the pain in his heart inflicted after he heard about Jerusalem: the wall was torn down and the gates were destroyed by fire.   It is another lesson that we can learn from Nehemiah.   We should pray continually and do not lose heart, although God seems silent, which is not true.
 
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
 
Early the following spring (about 4 months later), in the month of Nisan (i.e, March to April), during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, he was serving the king wine.  Despite of his effort hiding his heartbreak about Jerusalem from the king, one day the king noticed.  So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”   In an earthly term, it was not a good sign.   Making the king not pleased easily led to a severe punishment.  
 
Like you and I, Nehemiah was a mere human.  Thus, he was very much afraid.  He was in dilemma.  If he was silent, not answering to the king, it could cause an even bigger problem – making the king even more displeased.   Answering to the king is also risky too.  The response of the king is unpredictable.  
 
The Bible continued: with faith he quickly answered to the king, “May the king live forever!  Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”   He praised the king to soften his heart.   Then he carefully explained his concern in his heart as a gentle question to the king. 
 
The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
 
This is the moment that he wanted for four months.  What would you do, if you have been praying for four months, and an opportunity that you have waited for finally has come?”  It would be very easy for us to immediately grab on the opportunity, and answer to the king for his favor.  
   
However, Nehemiah did not answer immediately to the king!   He looked up his eyes, and prayed to the God of heaven first.   How awkward the moment was!   The king, who had the absolute power, was waiting for Nehemiah, who was one of the captives and for the king.    Nehemiah looked up the heaven and prayed.   All officials around the king watched carefully Nehemiah and the king back and forth.  There must be an eerie silence.  Yes, the king could make a snap decision making Nehemiah removed from his presence, simply because Nehemiah made the king unpleasant. 
 
Nehemiah knew that who was in control.  It was the God who gave the opportunity.   He truly believed the absolute sovereignty of God.  Thus, he talked to the God by prayer looking up the heaven.   Then he answered to the king.  The king was pleased for his answer!  The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem to restore the temple.
 
Praise the Lord!    He hears earnest and humble prayers of the faithful like Nehemiah.  Nehemiah lifted up his eyes on God in Heaven, and prayed first before answering to his king.  God, who watched over the faithful, protected him and answered his prayer by making the king pleased.   Sometimes we rely on our wisdom and logic instead of God.  Our God is sovereign.  His sovereignty has been proved again and again.   Let’s humbly approach Him, and completely trust Him with faith.  
   
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  (John 16:23-24)   
 

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

What's the Real Meaning of Faith?

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
….Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16)
 
King Xerxes reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia.  At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.  
 
On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. 
 
But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come.  (This must be God’s plan.)  This made the king furious, and he burned with anger.  After Xerxes’ anger had subsided, his personal attendants suggested, “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king.  After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect. 
 
As a result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king.  And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.  To celebrate the occasion, he gave a great banquet in Esther’s honor for all his nobles and officials, declaring a public holiday for the provinces and giving generous gifts to everyone.  Esther was a Jew, but following Mordecai’s advice, she kept it secret.   Mordecai is Esther’s cousin. 
 
Sometime later King Xerxes promoted Haman over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire.  All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by.  But Mordecai refused to bow down to him.  This made Haman greatly displeased, and he found out Mordecai was a Jew.   So he decided that it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.  Even he set a day that he would execute the plan.
 
Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. If it pleases the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 talents of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.”  
 
Without knowing the Haman’s plan, the king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman.  The king said, “The money and the people are both yours to do with as you see fit.”  Now, Haman got the full power of the king, and started executing his plan.  
 
Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.  A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.  Then the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa fell into confusion. 
 
In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.  Mordecai, tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth, and mourning before God, sent a help to Esther.    Esther replied, “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” (Esther 4:11)   
 
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther:  “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.  If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:13-14)    If we were Esther, what would be our answer?   Trying to seeing the king without his permission was risking our own lives.  
 
The Bible continues:  Then Esther sent reply back to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” (Esther 4:16)    What a faith Esther had!   She decided to go in to see the king although she was risking her own life.
 
Mordecai heard Esther’s faith and her determination.  So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.   He called for fasting:  all Jews of Susa not to eat or drink for three days, night and day.   Two great faiths of  Esther and Mordecai met, and committed to each other to be faithful before God although their faith costed their own lives.   It is a great example of how believers support each other – encouraging, sharing lives and faith, and committing together to God. 
 
On the third day of the fast, as promised and prayed about, in faith, Esther put on her royal robes and entered the inner court of the palace, just across from the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court while waiting for the king’s invitation, he suddenly welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter.   God heard Esther and Mordecai’s prayers in absolute faith, and God saved the Jews.  
 
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”   (Romans 1:17)
 
Give thanks to God for giving us a great example of faith and how to keep the faith even before the extreme situation of being killed!   “I will go in to see the king.  If I must die, I must die.”  Esther chose her faith rather than taking a momentary and fleeting comfort that the palace provided.  Please help us to choose you over anything that the world can offer.  Amen.
 

 

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The True Secret of Success in Life

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. … (Judges 7:2)
 
Gideon was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.  The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. So the LORD, our God, handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites came and forcefully took the crops.  They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.  Gideon did hide thrashing wheat from the sight of the Midianites.  By going through this hardship, Israelites realized their sins, and cried out help to God.  God sent an angel to Gideon to save the Israelites from their suffering under the Midianites. 
 
God appeared to Gideon, and gave His word, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”  When Gideon was hesitant, God told again, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”  Following the word of the God, Gideon demolished the alter of Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole beside it, where were the idols of the Midianites.   Then using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer a bull as a burnt offering.   When the Midianites demanded Gideon, but Joash, Gideon’s father, replied, “Let Baal contend with him.”
 
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 the Israel, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.  So 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.   They confronted at the huge armies of Midian and its allies.  By the numbers, there is no way to win the battle, but Gideon and his army were fully ready to fight.
 
Suddenly, God said to Gideon, “You have too many men.”   It must a real surprise to Gideon and his army.  If we were Gideon, what would be our response?   Let’s see the fact: we were totally outnumbered by the enemy, and with courage and faith, we were ready to fight against the huge enemy without fear of getting killed.   Then why did God stop the courageous Gideon and his army?        
 
Bible continues:  I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’  (Judges 7:2)   This is the answer.   God surely would be with Gideon, and give them a victory over the huge armies of the enemy.    However, God focused on the sinful and prideful human hearts.   The God’s victory that be about to be given to Gideon and his army would make them boast against God due to sinful nature of human beings.  He already knew this.   Without God’s help, they would surely praise their own courage, their faith, their well-coordinated plan, Gideon’s leadership, and others what they did, not what God actually did for them.   Human eyes could be really easy to be deceived.  The great number of the Gideon’s army (although they are far smaller than the enemy) would easily give a false confidence on their own might, wisdom and courage.  God truly loved Gideon and his army as parents love their children.  As parents clear a path before a toddler so that he/she can be safe from being hurt by falling, God took away all dangers and obstacles before Gideon and his army before the battle began.  
 
Let’s look back our lives.  Have we ever been putting our focus on what we did rather than what God actually made happen, when we successfully serve God’s work as an individual, a group, as a church, a big Christian organization or as a nation?  
 
Thus, God, who dearly loved Gideon and his army, decided to reduce the size of the army.   How do you think? How small should the size of the Gideon’s army be to complete get rid of even a slightest possibility of giving credit to them instead of God?   Half of what they thought enough?  One third?  Even one tenth?
 
Let’s continue following what God said to Gideon:  Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’   (Judges 7:3)    After hearing this, twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.   The Gideon’s army was reduced to less than one third.   
 
Should the remaining ten thousand be small enough to eliminate all of human pride of Gideon and his army?   Let’s face it.  It would be a real miracle: the small army defeated the huge allied armies with less than one third of what they originally estimated.
 
God truly loved the Israelites.   God told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” (Judges 7:4)   Following the God’s command, Gideon took the remaining ten thousand warriors to the water.   God’s plan was to divide them 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.   God told Gideon to separate the first group from the second.   Only 300 of the men remained because they drank from their hands.  The number is less than 1% (0.9375% exact) of the original army who came with great courage and faith to fight for God against the much bigger enemy.
 
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)   Bible describes the enemy: they had settle in the valley like a swarm of locusts.  Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore.  They were too many to count!   In the human’s eyes, there was absolutely no chance for the minuscule mere 300 army to win the battle against the enemy that was too many to count.   Yes, God plainly made visible this chilling fact to the small Gideon’s army.  God really wanted for them to completely rely on him with an absolute trust and faith in Him.
 
Bible continues.  Each of the three hundred just took a jar and a torch hidden in the jar on one hand, and a horn on the other hand.   Please note that no hand left to carry weapons.  Nobody questioned except moving forward with faith.  It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, they reached the edge of the Midianite camp.  Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars, and all shouted in faith.   When the three Israelites blew their rams’ horns, God caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords (Judges 7:22).  God, not Gideon’s army, utterly destroyed the countlessly many enemies with His might hand.  
 
Praise the Lord, our almighty Father, who truly cares for Gideon and his army.  The same God loves us as He cared for Gideon and his army.   He continuously prunes our lives not to boast ourselves.  If not, He cannot do His miracle in our lives, or we would boast against God.  
 
The LORD said to Gideon, “ You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’   (Judges 7:2)

 

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

What does mean to have faith?

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-27)
 
Daniel was one of the captives, but God made him great through his faith in the land of captor. Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.
 
The other administrators and high officers did not like what was happening to them and Daniel.  Thus, they began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”
 
So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” It was a trap to get Daniel whom King Darius completely trust.  Without knowing this secret plot of the administrators and high officials, King Darius signed the law.
 
Daniel learned that the law had been signed.   If we were Daniel, what would be the next course of action?  Continue praying before God while ignoring the law?   Or stop praying for the next thirty days?  Of course, continuing prayers meant death by being thrown into the den of lions as signed in the law.   Historically, many believers and pastors confronted this hardship reality:  keeping faith despite of being killed or compromising faith to survive. 
   
Bible continued:  Daniel went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem.  He did not hide what he was doing.  He openly prayed three times a day, just as he had always done.  He also gave thanks to God as he did. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help.  So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?”
 
“Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.”  Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.” (Daniel 6:13) Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.
 
In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.”  The king realized he was completely trapped. So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” (Daniel 6:16)
 
A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.  The king deeply loved Daniel, and he knew Daniel’s innocence.
Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den.  When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”   He thought that Daniel was perished in the lion’s den.
 
Suddenly Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” (Daniel 6:21)
 
The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.   Daniel’s faith brought the miracle.  God sent an angle and protected him from the danger of the lion’s mouth and teeth.  God is gracious to His children.
 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. 
 
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)    but my righteous one shall live by faith…  (Hebrews 10:38)
 
Please God help us to increase our faith to completely trust you in any situations.   Those who don’t like us might set a trap to capture us, but please make us strong and courageous in you.   Help us to walk the walk given to us, while following the footstep of Jesus Christ.  We earnestly pray with our humility before you, who is One and Only God full of mercy and love.  
 
… Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)


 
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