Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving, and God's mercy endures forever!

Good morning!

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

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
    gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
    and glory in your praise.”
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
   from everlasting to everlasting.  (1 Chronicles 16:34-36)

During Thanksgiving season, family members from far come and join together to eat Thanksgiving meal, and to share lives of the past days with each other.   For some of them, this particular year might be hard and difficult.  However, when we get together, we all forget things of the past, whether they were painful or joyful.   In Him, we are connected through the love of Jesus Christ, and become hearers of other family members while giving out support to each other.   At the end of the day, all believers together say “give thanksgiving to God because his love endures forever.”

Perhaps the most significant thanksgivings given to God by Moses and the Israelites was their praise to God right after they crossed the red sea:

“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
   shattered the enemy.
The Lord reigns
   for ever and ever.”  (Exodus 15:1-6, 18)

The Israelites saw the corps of Egyptians.   When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers rushed into the sea, the LORD brought the water crashing down on them.  However, the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground!   This was the moment that the entire Israelites were saved from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  Yes, God utterly demolished Egypt, and the Israelites were freed.   The LORD, our God is sovereign over absolutely everything including the Egyptians who put the Israelites in misery of the slavery for four hundred years.   At a blink moment, the entire Egyptian army was swept by a huge wave, and they sank to the depths like a stone.   Praise the LORD!  His name will be glorified forever, and the LORD reigns for ever and ever.

Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, also took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song:

“Sing to the LORD,
     for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
    into the sea.”  (Exodus 15:21b)

The Miriam’s song would have been continuing forever while giving thanks to God as a perpetual memory that should not be forgotten generation after generation.   Sadly, this excitement and thanksgiving to God did not last long.   Only three days later, they could not find water to drink.  Their mouth was filled with complaints.   They immediately turned against Moses, who led them out of the misery in Egypt.    Thus, Moses cried out to God, and God provided water to the Israelites to drink although they did not deserve.  How gracious God is!  He is full of mercy and love. 

Yes, it did not take many days or even months, but only three days for the Israelites to forgot the rare experiencing the unforgettable miracle of crossing the red sea.  It clearly reflected the tragedy of human hearts.  The Israelites were humans, and we are also.  Then how long would it take for us to forget such unforgettable miracle in our lives?  

Our lives are full of miracles.   Knowing and believing God alone is the most never-ending miracle.  Even our existence itself is the undeniable miracle.   His guidance and protection are the source of the miracles in our lives.   Before God, the Israelites’ real and eminent fear of the quickly approaching Egyptian army was utterly destroyed at His fingertip.  The Egyptian army was drawn in the red sea, and sank to the depths like a stone.   The mighty and huge army was no more, because the almighty God sided with the Israelites.    The God, who saved and protected against the Egyptian army, is on our side.   What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31)    Amen!   In all these things we will be more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Therefore, we sing to him with praise and thanksgiving!

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
“He is good;
    his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord (Ezra 3:11)

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

“O You Of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt?”

Good morning!

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

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

As soon as Jesus heard the news of John the Baptist’s death, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.  But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! 

The twelve disciples of Jesus were there.  It was yet another miracle that they eye-witnessed.   Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.  Night fell while he was there alone praying.   Jesus was with His Father, God.

Meanwhile, the disciples went deep into the lake far away from land through the night.    Suddenly, a strong wind had risen.   At the deep dark night, in the middle of the lake, they were fighting with heavy waves.  Their struggle continued through the night.   They were exhausted and in desperation without their teacher.   The night was long and harsh.  The disciples like sheep without shepherd was lost in the storm while doing everything to survive against the heavy wind and waves.  

Shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake toward the disciples.   In the dim light, they saw someone walking on the lake.  They were terrified.   “It’s a ghost,” they cried out in fear.  

Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. It is I.” (Matthew 14:27)

Then they realized that it was their teacher.  Peter, one of the disciples, called out to Jesus with courage: “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”   
“Yes, come,” Jesus said. (Matthew 14:28-29)

So Peter went over the side of the boat, and jumped in to the lake.  Amazingly, he was able to walk on the water like Jesus.   Then he walked on the water toward Jesus.   He carefully and slowly made a few steps to Jesus, while watching his face.   He could not believe himself – he was walking on the water.   All other disciples were astonished too.    Peter quickly built up confidence.   He walked as if he walked on land.   His eyes was fixated to Jesus, and each step by step, he was in joy because he was getting closer to Jesus.   Then he almost forgot he was walking on the water, although the lake was not calm.  It was still in the middle of the storm.

Without warning, a strong wind and a huge wave came to Peter.   It made him realize what he was doing.  Under his feet, there was nothing but water.   The wave approaching to him was much taller than himself.   He could no longer fix his eyes on Jesus, but started focusing on the huge waves approaching to him.   Suddenly his heart was filled with fear.   Immediately, he felt that one of his feet was sinking.   He quickly picked up the foot to walk on the water as he did.   It did not work.   He was helplessly sinking down to the lake.   Only was the hope to cry out Jesus, his teacher. 

“Lord, save me!”  Peter loudly shouted (Matthew 14:30b).   He was almost drowning because the water was already reaching up to his chest, and he was rapidly sinking into the bottom of the lake.   Jesus, hearing his screaming, immediately reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” Jesus said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31b).     

Peter was not the only one who lost faith before a strong wind and a huge wave.  Elijah was a really faithful prophet.  With the power of God, he fought against the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah.   Elijah proved that they were false prophets, which made them killed by the people who finally recognized them as false prophets.   The false prophets used to eat at Jezebel’s table.  After the victory, Elijah also prayed to God rain, and made rain on the land of Israel after the long three and half year’s drought.  

Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, was told about everything Elijah had done and how Elijah had killed all the prophets with a sword.   So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”   It was a great threat to Elijah.

Rather than fixing his eyes on God with faith as he fought again the 850 false prophets, he looked at the huge wave of Jezebel approaching to him.   Thus, Elijah ran for his life and went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

The merciful God made Elijah flee to a safe place, and then asked ““Elijah! Why are you here?”    Elijah answer that he did all miracles for God, but he was alone.  In fear of being killed by Jezebel, he fled.    God comforted Elijah in great fear by telling, “I have seven thousand people left in Israel who have never bowed down before Baal and whose mouths have never kissed his idol.”  (1 kings 19:18)

God is greater than anything on earth that make us put into fear.   After all, our fear is originated from our heart, which is manufactured by our own thought and imagination, which is not grounded on Truth.   As long as we are being connected to God by fixing our eyes on Him, we will know the Truth.  Our victory is sure.  Jesus has already won the battle.   There is no more fear in God, our absolutely sovereign God.    

You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Good morning!

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

To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  (Romans 12:20)

David was highly favored by King Saul. Whatever asked by Saul to do David did fully and successfully.   So Saul loved and made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.   Then there was a war between the Israelites and the Philistine. Both David and Saul fought, and God provided a victory to them.   When the victorious Israelite army was returning home, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.  This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!”  So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.   Then the relationship between David and Saul quickly was getting worse.  Finally, Saul decided to kill David.   He threw his spear to David, but David escaped Saul twice.  David had to run for his life.  It was started by one simple praise by women.   Saul’s jealousy quickly turned into an extreme hatred, even a murderous heart and action.   

On the other hand, God helped David.   Even Saul’s own son and daughter helped David to run from Saul.   Although he did nothing wrong to Saul, he became a fugitive.   One day, Saul was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi.  So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! David’s men whispered to him: “Now’s your opportunity!”, “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.   It was the moment that David could be free from the misery by eliminating its cause – Saul. 

But David did not kill Saul.  Instead, he had cut Saul’s robe.  Then David told his people with him, “the LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king, the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.”  (1 Samuel 24: 6) So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.   As soon as Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.   Saul realized that David saved him. Saul stop chasing David, and went home.

Saul’s jealousy did not leave his heart after the dramatic event of being saved by David, whom he tried to kill.   One day, some men from Ziph came to Saul at Gibeah to tell him, “David is hiding on the hill of Hakilah.”   His jealousy was so strong.   Saul exactly repeated as he did before.  Saul took 3,000 of Israel’s elite troops and went to hunt him down in the wilderness of Ziph. 

Saul camped along the road beside the hill of Hakilah, where he was told that David was hiding. When David learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, he slipped over to Saul’s camp one night to look around.   Saul was sleeping inside a ring formed by the slumbering warriors, with his spear stuck in the ground beside his head.  Saul had a false safety because he was surrounded by his army, he was in a deep sleep along with all of his army.  

Abishai who went with David whispered to David, “God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!  Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”    What would be our action if we were at this scene?   Not just once, this is the second time that David could end his fugitive life by killing Saul.  Bible continues:

“No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD’s anointed one?  Surely the LORD will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle.  The LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed!”  (1 Samuel 26:9-11a)  So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the LORD had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep.   God was with David, who was faithful to Him.

David climbed the hill opposite the camp until he was at a safe distance. Then he shouted down to the soldiers to wake them up.  Saul recognized David’s voice and called out, and confessed “I have sinned. Come back home, my son, and I will no longer try to harm you, for you valued my life today. I have been a fool and very, very wrong.”   And Saul said to David, “Blessings on you, my son David. You will do many heroic deeds, and you will surely succeed.” Then David went away, and Saul returned home.  

David knew that Saul would continue trying to kill him.   He escaped to the land of the Philistines, his enemy country to hide from Saul.  He stayed there with his people for a year and four months.   Then there was a battle between the Philistines and the Israelites.  Saul was critically wounded.  In fear of being abused and killed by Philistines, Saul took his own sword and fell on it.   Thus, the era of King Saul came to end.   David endured in faith, and he was finally freed.   Even so, David mourned about the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathan who was his close friend.   He made a lament song for them, and commanded that it be taught to the people of Judah.   David was a man of faith, and finally people made David their king.  

Yes, David had to endure a long time, but the long and harsh period made the David whom we know today.  God carved out the real David from the raw material of David.   It was God’s blessing to David.  David faithfully kept His Word, and put all his heart to God without revenging his enemy by his own hand.   Thus, David was able to save Saul’s life twice although he had two perfect opportunities to eliminate Saul.  Saul was there with his army to kill David.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45a) 

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our Eternal Hope in Christ and Our Emotion on Earth

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)
Today, there was a memorial service for my dear friend, Gerritt in Christ.  We all thought that he would have many more years in Haiti while serving the Lord as a missionary to orphans and young people in Haiti.  Instead, he was suddenly called by God, and he returned to our Eternal Home.   In the last summer, he and his wife visited us at our church to talk about his missionary work in Haiti.  Nobody knew it was his last trip to our church.  Soon after returning to Haiti, he had to come back to his home town to treat his sickness.   Nobody knew at that time that he was at his final stage of cancer because the cancerous symptom was not apparent.  Then only a few months was allowed for him to be with us.  During this period, he constantly demonstrated his love to Jesus Christ, and his absolute hope in faith.  Through faith, he had a victory over the cancer.   The cancer could not rule over him.  Even the death was powerless before his faith.   
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthian 15:54b-56)
Why do we, believers, have the absolute hope even before death?    
We have our eternal hope in Christ.   We all know that what we see is temporary, and what we touch will not last forever.   These things fade away from our sight and touch while slowly losing their existences on earth.   This is a common wisdom.  Yes, it is true that our physical body also slowly fade away on earth, because it is what we can touch and see.  However, our inner person is different, which is renewed day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit.    As an eagle is soaring up high in sky, our faith in Christ is soaring up to Our Heavenly Father and connects us to Him daily while transcending this mortal body to eternity in Christ.  Therefore, our inner person does not experience the fragility of the things on earth. 
In fact, our physical body’s death is a just mere event of taking off our mortal, corruptible body and a glorious moment of joining Our Eternal and Ever-Loving Father.   Stephen, one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles during the early church period, was a man full of God’s grace and power.   While he was preaching the Gospel, he was stoned to death by the zealots and the religious leaders at that time.  However, Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and was able to see the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  And Stephen even spoke up, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”   He did not accuse those who were stoning him.  Instead, he prayed for forgiveness of their sin, as Jesus did on the cross.
It is also true that as long as we are in this mortal body, we, believers, also feel sadness and sorrow of being separated from our loved one.   Today, Robin, our dear sister in Christ, sang out beautifully our hearts and emotion at the memorial service.   What she sang was “The Will”, which beautifully rendered our faith of the above in the midst of the sadness of being separated with our dear friend. 
I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will
I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Yes, our heart is emotionally in sorrow, but we are truly in joy in faith, because God is our Ever-Loving Father, and His Will is infinitely good.  Amen!
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthian 15:19-20)

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