Sunday, September 25, 2016

God Love, which is Infinitely Forgiving!

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.  (Mark 14:31)
 
Peter was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.   He was originally named Simon.  Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter.   Simon means “listen” and Peter “rock.”  Jesus transformed Simon to the rock of faith.   He was a Galilean fisherman and was the brother of Andrew.  Peter with Andrew came from the village of Bethsaida, which means in Hebrew, “House of fishing.”  They lived in a fishing village on the North East coast of the Sea of Galilee.   Peter was the first disciple called by Jesus along with his brother Andrew.   The Book of Matthew describes:
 
Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” At once they left their nets and followed Him.  (Matthew 4:18-22)
 
Soon Jesus called His twelve disciples.  Peter was unique.  He is a man of zeal and action, and enthusiastically followed Jesus more than the rest of eleven disciples.  Thus, he did a lot for Jesus, and also made a lot of mistakes.  This was the pattern of Peter.   
 
He made the greatest confession in faith to Jesus Christ when Jesus asked “who do you think am I?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:16)  Jesus was really pleased with his answer and replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:17-19)  What a blessing!  Jesus told He would build His church on the rock of the faith that was professed by Peter.  This moment did not last long.
 
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  (Matthew 16:21)   Jesus waited long time, and finally explained the truth that He must die for our sins and resurrect again on the third day to become the first fruit for all believers.  Immediately, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)  Without full understanding of the truth about Jesus Christ, he humanly tried to protect Jesus.  He also declared whatever happens, he would protect Jesus with all of his power and might. If he had to die while protecting Jesus, he would die.
 
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  (Matthew 16:23)   Suddenly, Peter, the one professed in faith that Jesus was the Son of God, became an obstacle and stumbling block to Jesus.  It was very brief moment: from the best and most faithful disciple, whose faith was solid enough to build Jesus’ ministry of salvation, to a voice of Satan, tempting Jesus.  (It can happen to anyone.  It is a sobering fact that all of us should remember all the time.)  
 
Then Jesus lovingly explained the real meaning of being His disciple, the principle of the Heaven and His Kingdom.  
 
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 16:24)
 
Jesus told His disciple to follow the footsteps of Him, who carried all sins and transgressions of the world on His shoulder, bled and died as the eternal sacrifice for all of our sins (past, present, and even future sins).  He would complete the salvation plan for all on the cross.   As a true follower of the Jesus Christ, we need to deny (i.e., dying before the cross daily and continually) and carry our own cross and follow Him.   Our human nature is all common – wanting to save our own earthly life because we can see and touch.  This is very hard to deny as long as we live on earth.  However, Jesus sternly gave a alarming truth to Peter and the rest of the disciples (including us):  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
 
Then Jesus continued:  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:26)
 
What we see is temporary, and what we cannot see is eternal.   What really good will it be to gain the whole world?  This is like capturing a morning fog, which soon disappears as a morning sun rises.   However, if we lose our soul (i.e., our inner person), which cannot be replaceable, is it really profitable?    
 
After the above event, Peter’s rise and fall continued.   He repeated at the mount of transfiguration, and on the lake of Galilee, where he walked on the lake.  Finally, Peter insisted emphatically declared "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."  This was the prelude of the biggest fall that Peter had ever taken.   Of course, Jesus gave a clear warning message.   Peter did not get it.   Only after he denied Jesus Christ three times, Peter had finally realized who he was – one who was pitiful and totally incapable of doing what he enthusiastically declared in his life.  Even so, Jesus loved Peter.   Jesus appeared to Peter, after His resurrection, and healed Peter’s deepest wound in his heart.  Peter was truly comforted by Jesus.   After His departure, he received the Holy Spirit, and became His true disciple who could lead thousands to Jesus.  As Jesus told him, he denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Jesus.
 
Give thanks to God, who will love us, His children to the end, as Jesus loved His disciples to the end.  This is our assurance and confidence in Him.  Praise the Lord!
 
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 8:38-39)
 

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

True Wisdom

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
    “He is good;
        His love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.  (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)
 
 
Solomon is the most blessed king.  Solomon, son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.  
 
Solomon called together all the leaders of Israel—the generals and captains of the army, the judges, and all the political and clan leaders. Then he led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle was located there.
 
His Father, King David had already moved the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the tent he had prepared for it in Jerusalem, and the bronze altar was made for the Ark of God.  So Solomon and the people gathered, and he went up to the bronze altar in the LORD’s presence and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings on it.
 
That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
 
Solomon replied to God, “You showed faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. O LORD God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”
 
God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”  (2 Chronicles 1:7-12)
 
God richly blessed Solomon, and for God, Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the LORD.   Solomon hired extremely talented and gifted people from his country and from Tyre, its neighboring country.
 
Solomon began to build the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, where the LORD had appeared to David, his father.   When the Temple of the LORD was completed, he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.  Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel.  Then the priests carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place.  
 
All the priests who were present had purified themselves.  And the Levites who were musicians were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. Then they raised the voice and praised the LORD: “He is Good! His faithful love endures forever!” (2 Chronicles 5:13)    At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of God.  
 
Solomon prayed by starting praising God, ““O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today. “ (2 Chronicles 6:14-15)   Then he continued prayed to God and for his people, while praising him and dedicating him and his people as His faithful nation.
 
When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the LORD because the glorious presence of the LORD filled it.  When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the LORD filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the LORD, again saying,
        He is good!
                His faithful love endures forever!”  (2 Chronicles 7:3)
 
Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices to the LORD. King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. And so the king and all the people dedicated the Temple of God. The priests took their assigned positions, and so did the Levites who were singing, “His faithful love endures forever!” They accompanied the singing with music from the instruments King David had made for praising the LORD. Across from the Levites, the priests blew the trumpets, while all Israel stood.
 
For the next seven days Solomon and all Israel celebrated while praising God. Then at the end of the celebration, Solomon sent the people home. They were all joyful and glad because the LORD had been so good to David and to Solomon and to his people Israel. 
 
This is one of the most joyful moments throughout the Bible.  Solomon asked for God’s wisdom while humbling himself.  This pleased God, and God blessed him.  When Solomon got God’s blessings, he wisely responded by building the temple of God. Then he dedicated the temple to God together with all of his people, and they raised their voices: “He is good!  His faithful love endures forever!”
 
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Proverbs 1:7)
 
We are blessed because Jesus Christ took all our sins and transgressions. 
We are happy because God delivers us. 
We are in joy, because we are His children.
Put all we have before Him, and
       praise Him because He is worthy of our praises.    Amen!  
 

 
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

We Are God’s Masterpiece!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
 
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:28)
 
Isaac and his wife, Rebecca were childless.  Isaac prayed earnestly to God to open the womb of Rebecca.   God heard the prayer, and opened her womb.  As the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins!  The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau.  Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob, i.e., Holder of the heel.
 
From his birth, Jacob was jealous about the birthright of his elder brother Esau.  Jacob’s jealousy was not diminished as he was growing up with his brother.  One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry.
 
Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!”
“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
 
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.   One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son, and said, “My son.” “Yes, Father?” Esau replied.  
 
“I am an old man now,” Isaac said, “and I don’t know when I may die.  Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”
 
Rebekah overhead what Isaac had said to his son Esau.    She, who loved more Isaac than Esau, and quietly called in Isaac to tell what was about to happen.  Then she prepared food for Isaac, disguised Isaac, and sent Isaac in to pretend he was Esau.   Isaac turning blind without knowing gave to Isaac the blessings prepared for his first son, Esau.   Soon Esau came back from his hunting, and realized Jacob stole his blessings.   He decided to kill Isaac.    Thus, for his life, Jacob had to go to his uncle, Laban. 
 
He was on the journey to his uncle’s house.  Night fell.  Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep.  The gracious God with full of mercy appeared in his dream, and He blessed Isaac as He promised to Abraham, his grandfather:  Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  (Genesis 28:14-15)
 
The next morning Jacob got up very early, made an alter to God with a stone, and prayed: “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”  (Genesis 28:20-22)
 
His prayer was really honest and authentic, which reflected Jacob himself.  As we can see, although he prayed, his prayer was almost a business deal between him and God.   The God full of love did not say anything, but accepted his prayer as he prayed.  (I recall that how many times I had accepted such deals with my two sons when they were young.  I did it because I knew that they did not what they were doing.  It was even my real pleasure because I loved them.)   Yes, God heard the prayer.   He made Jacob safely arrived his uncle’s house.  God also made Jacob prosper during his stay at his uncle, Laban’s house.    
 
Jacob was not changed.  While he was with Laban and his uncle’s family, he craftily made his fortune rather than humbly following God’s will.  Déjà vu.  His behavior upset Laban and his uncle’s family, and he was no longer able to stay his uncle’s house.  Thus, Jacob took his family and his belongings, and left his uncle’s place.   Then, he had no choice but going back to his home, from which he fled because Esau, his brother, tried to kill him.   
 
Again, the Merciful God sent an angel to help Jacob.  Getting closer to his home, Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau to soften Esau’s heart.   The messengers returned to Jacob, and told to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet you with four hundred men.  When he heard this, Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.  He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”   What a good idea!  Jacob was still relying on his cleverness.  He prepared a huge amount of presents to Esau to soften his heart, and he even put words on his servants’ months.   So the present passed on ahead of him, which was followed by all of his belongings including his two wives, his eleven children and his two female servants, who crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  And he himself stayed that night in the camp on the other side from all of his belongings.
 
Yes, that night, he was alone.  He knew what he could do was cling to God.   Suddenly, an angel showed up, he wrestled with the angel.   It continued until the breaking of the day.  The angel did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Even so, Jacob did not release the angel because he could not cross the ford without blessings from God due to the fear of Esau.
 
God, full of mercy, finally saw the faith of Jacob – truly trusting God.  The angel said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”  Then the angel said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  (Genesis 32:27-28)
 
The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.  That night, God change the Jacob, who was a clever and cunning man to “Israel.”    God made him the father of the twelve tribes of Israelites.
 
Praise the Lord, who loves his children with infinite patience!   God spent decades to carve out Israel from the raw material of Jacob.   His love never fails, and His mercy endures forever.   Let’s bow down to God, Our ever-loving Father, and praise His Name.   He will surely carve out His master piece out of the raw materials: us.  
 
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  (Ephesians 2:10)

 
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Great Prayer Example under Severe Distress, Threat and Fear

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. (Isaiah 37:14)
 
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. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.  First, he removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it.  Then 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.
 
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.  Then the king of Assyria sent messengers back to Hezekiah in Jerusalem with this message:
 
“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?”  (Isaiah 37:10-13)
 
Let’s put ourselves in King Hezekiah’s shoes.  He eliminated all idols in the kingdom so that people stop worshipping those man-made idols except God. He did not stop there. He also faithfully followed all the commands that God has given to him, which became an example to the people in the kingdom.  When they saw his example, they did faithfully follow God’s commands.  Everything that he did was successful, and the whole nation was prospering.  Thus, he must have thought that the peace and prosperity would continue.  No, it was not.   In the fourteenth year, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified border-towns, and captured them.  King Sennacherib, then, sent a threatening message to him.  .   If we were King Hezekiah, what would be our immediate reaction?   
 
King Sennacherib of Assyria opened his letter by saying, “Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you.”   King Sennacherib attacked the very center of the heart of King Hezekiah and his people – the faith in God.   Except the faith in God, what would make them different from other nations?   The Assyrian King wanted to destroy what they believe with concrete and tangible examples.  He listed out previous nations conquered by Assyria because their gods could not rescue their people.  As the kings of Assyria matched through nations, and completely destroyed everyone who faithfully worshiped and prayed to their gods.  Then the Assyrian king questioned, “Why should you be any different?”  
 
After Hezekiah received the letter from the messenger and read it, he did not say anything, except going up to the LORD’s Temple.  Then he spread out King Sennacherib’s fearful letter before the LORD filled with blasphemies to the creator and sovereign God.  Hezekiah prayed to 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.”  (Isaiah 37:16-20)
 
King Hezekiah bring an earnestly and authentically prayer before God.  It was a great prayer that pleased God, which is an great example to us -- how to pray to God under a server distress and fear.  King Hezekiah said in his prayer:
1.    His faith to the sovereignty to God,
2.    His troubling heart of hearing blasphemy of King of Sennacherib
3.    His authentic fear of the power of the kings of Assyria, and
4.    His absolute trust in Almighty God, who surely will provide deliverance.
 
God heard this earnest prayer of King Hezekiah.  God sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer about King Sennacherib of Assyria.“ (Isaiah 37:21)  After comforting the king with His Powerful Word, He told what He was about to do against the King of Assyria.  Thanks to God!  God has never put his children alone in danger, and He always takes care of His beloved children.   What we need to do when we meet a great threat or an insurmountable problem is our earnest and authentic prayer.   God hears our prayer in our distress, and answers our prayer word by word according to His infinitely good will.
 
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.  (Isaiah 37:36-37)
 
God did hear the blasphemies made by the king of Assyria with his own word in the letter.  One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords.  (Isaiah 37:38)  The Assyrian king’s own son killed the blaspheming king while he was worshipping his god in the god’s temple.  
 
 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; … (Isaiah 49:15-16)
 
Our God never forgets us.  God has engraved us on the palms of His hands.  He continuously watches over us especially we are under distress.  He loves to hear our prayer, and he answers to us with His mighty and loving hand.   Praise Him!  He is worthy of our highest praise from now and forever!   Let’s approach Him with our fullest confidence in the time of trouble. 


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