Sunday, February 26, 2017

What is God's Work?

Good morning!

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

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 7:21)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.   The first teaching was The Beatitudes, which is the greatest sermon to everyone and anyone:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   (Matthew 5:3-11)

Then Jesus continued for His followers to be salt and light, and taught about giving to the needy without telling (i.e., secretly between us and God).   Jesus gave Lord’s prayer, and explained treasures in heaven, sinning by judging others, and how to ask, seek and knock before God as prayer.   Then Jesus asked His followers to go through the narrow gate, and few actually found and entered through the narrow gate.    Jesus also added:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus asked us to enter through the narrow gate.  The highway to hell is broad and wide, and many choose that way.  But the gateway to life is narrow.   Only a few find it, let alone entering it.    Therefore, one who enters the narrow gate has already traded an easy-going life with a life that many do not want.   

Surprisingly, Jesus added to the people listening to His sermon, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”   Should those who choose the narrow gate and follow Jesus be accepted by Jesus?   On the contrary, to those who prophesy in Jesus name, cast out demons in Jesus name, and performed many miracles in Jesus name, Jesus will tell on judgement day, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s law.”  

Why?   This teaching of Jesus has puzzled lots of believers.  Some of them are even fearful about this Bible verse.  One of my dear Christian friends is one of them.  One day, he talked about his fear about this verse to me.   Through God’s grace, my friend literally did what Jesus described – gone to a remote mission field in a foreign land, calling His name for the people in the land, preaching Gospel in Jesus name, and even casting demons in Jesus name.   Should he be really fearful about what is written in this Bible verse?

Here is what Jesus also did.   After feeding 5000 men (could be 20,000 if women and children were included), Jesus immediately sent them away.   Then Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples to the other side.  The people followed, and when they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  (John 6:26-29)

What was the focus of the people who followed Jesus?    Their question answers.  Their heart was fixated to what they must have done (i.e., performed) to do the works of God.  Upon their question, Jesus’ answer was brief and direct.   The work of God is nothing more or less than believing God.  

We are not that much different from the people who followed and asked Jesus.   If not [extremely] careful, without knowing, we approach God with a merit-based mind.   This is a natural tendency of us.  We constantly observe what we do, and evaluate what happened (i.e., what is achieved.)    When we see something achieved, our heart praises the achievement, and own lips are easily quivering, “I did for God a great God’s work, or a miracle, or even casting demons.”    Verbalizing our own praise with our own mouth is a tell-tale sign that we are no longer entering in the narrow gate, but we are on the easy and smooth highway that everybody loves to travel.   Therefore, it is so obvious that what will happen when we stand before the judgement seat.  All self-praised works and achievements will reduce to nothing, because we have already taken our rewords in full on earth.  Wait a minute, even worse, we actually robbed God’s glory because all praises absolutely should belong to God.   Then what will we logically expect to get?   Surely, God will declare, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

God asks us to be still before Him, just believing and completely trusting Him.   Why?  Because God is one and only one true and ever-loving Father.   As a proof, He gave His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.  Through Him, God has saved us from the eternal death.   Then with His loving provision, He gives us everything that what we have.  Let’s not forget that God owns everything that we see.   Thus, God does not need us to do anything on earth.   Then why does He care for us so much?   Because He dearly loves us, He wants us to be part of His glorious kingdom plan.   Yes, this is God’s unfathomable grace.   Thus, we infinitely owe His love and everything that we have as well as who we are, and especially what we have done for God.  (In reality, all have been done by, thought and in the power of  God.)   Then what should we do to Our God?   As commanded by God, the first is loving God, and the second is loving our neighbors.  Our love to God and our neighbors is the tell-tail sign of our humble and genuine belief in God.   

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our Faith and Jesus Love

Good morning!

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

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

A large crowd of people followed Jesus.  It was a remote area, and Jesus saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.    As evening approached, the disciples tried to send the crowd away.   Instead, Jesus asked to bring what they have – five loaves of bread and two fish.   Then He fed the large crowd of people.  They were satisfied, and the leftover and broken pieces only could fill twelve baskets.  There were about 5,000 men only.  Thus, it could be up to 20,000 or more people.

Immediately after this miracle, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, while he sent the people home.   After sending them home, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Night fell while he was there alone.

Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land.  The disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting against the heavy waves on the Sea of Galilee.  Some of them were skilled fishermen, but the particular wind was very difficult even for them.   The boat started getting water.  The situation was getting dire.   The harder they did, the stronger the wind and waves were.    They were all wet and exhausted.   A fear started getting in their hearts.   They looked around.  What they could see was a stormy sea with huge waves coming to their boat.   Thus, their struggle continued.   Now, it was almost dawn.   It was a really long and exhausting night.   There was no sign of ending of the storm.  The storm continued, and they were tossed by the strong wind and beaten by the waves.  

Suddenly, they saw something out there in a considerable distance.   It was moving toward them.  As getting closer to them, they fall on fear.  They cried out, “It’s a ghost.”   Immediately, they heard a voice, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. It is I!” (Matthew 14:27)    It was the voice of Jesus.   They realized that it was not a ghost, but their Jesus, who was approaching to them by walking over the stormy water.  

Then, Peter called to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”    “Come,” Jesus said. (Matthew 14:28-29)    As soon as Peter heard Jesus, he moved up to the bow of the boat, and his eyes were fixed on Jesus Christ.   The other disciples looked at Peter moving up to the bow.    They started saying, “What are you doing?”  “Are you out of mind?” “Are you really jump off this boat to the stormy lake?”  “You will die, please don’t jump off from this boat.”  “Although we are beaten all night by the strong wind and waves, this boat is still only way to save us from the storm.  You’d better hold tight this boat.”   “You are simply crazy.  Walking on water?”    Some of them grabbed Peter to prevent him from jumping off from the boat.  

Peter was completely determined.   He pushed away those who were grabbing him while ignoring all sayings told by the other disciples.   Peter’s eyes were fixed to Jesus.   In fact, he could not hear anything – the stormy wind and the crashing waves on the boat became silent before Jesus.  What he could hear was only one thing -- the voice of Jesus: “Come.”  

As Peter reached he bow, he watched Jesus from the violently swaying boat on the stormy water.  Jesus was calm and in absolute peace standing on the stormy water.   As looking at the calm and peaceful Jesus, the same peace and calmness started flowing in Peter’s heart.    Soon Peter slowly but steadily lowered his right foot from the boat, while holding both of his hands on the boat.   His heart was calm, and his eyes were completely fixed on Jesus.   He shifted his body weight onto the right foot, as he lifted up and removed his left foot from the boat, while letting go his both hands from the boat.  He, then, straightened up his body as standing with both feet on the storm water.   Not like the stormy water being violently moving, Peter stood calmly and peacefully like Jesus.    Not all other disciples could believe what they saw.   Peter was standing on the water without holding the boat. 

Looking at Jesus, Peter started walking toward Jesus.  Jesus was lovingly watching over Peter, walking on the stormy water.    Peter’s heart was filled with the love of Jesus, and all other disciples were filled with awe.   Jesus, then, gently stretched His arms as Peter was getting closer to Jesus.  It was a beautiful moment.   Suddenly, there was a strong wind with a huge wave.    Not like other waves, it was much bigger and stronger.  Peter could not resist, and he turned his head to see the approaching huge wave.   Soon, fear found Peter, and he began to sink.   He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  

Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, who was sinking deep into the stormy water.  
“You of little faith,” Jesus said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:33)  Jesus pulled out Peter from the water.  Peter was again safe with Jesus.    Then both Jesus and Peter climbed back into the boat, and the wind died down.   The disciples exclaimed, “You really are the Son of God!”, and they worshiped Jesus.

Peter had a faith and trusted in Jesus.   He stepped out of the boat without knowing what would really happen to him.   He believed one word of Jesus, “Come.”   He did not pay attention to all other’s sayings and opinions.   Instead, he just fixed his eyes on Jesus.   Then he jumped from the boat to the stormy water without a slightest doubt.   Then like Jess, he could be in calmness and in peace.    He walked on the stormy water with fixing his eyes on Jesus Christ.  But when he took off his eyes from Jesus to look at the things around him, he was sinking into the stormy water.    Only was Jesus who could save Peter.   Jesus stretched His hand and grabbed Peter rapidly sinking into the depth of the water.  

Jesus is our savior, and He is always with us, especially in the time of need.   Although we are in a life storm, we are safe and in peace with Jesus if we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.    Yes, fixing eyes on Jesus always is not easy.    Sometimes we take off our eyes from Jesus to see the world around us, and then soon we find we are rapidly sinking into the depth of the stormy life again.    However, there is an absolute assurance to us -- Jesus surely stretches out His hand, and grab us with His strong and loving hands as He did to Peter.   Jesus is our true friend.  He has been with us and surely will continue to be with us till we see Him face to face because He loves us.    Yes, Jesus loves us, and He is our True Friend in the time of need.

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)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Faith vs Our Inherent Limitations

Good morning!

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

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

What is faith?  It is a question frequently asked from new believers to those who faithfully lived entire lives in Christ.   The scripture tells that faith involves two key aspects: one is something that will happen, i.e., future and the other is something that cannot be seen, i.e., intangible.    Both of them are very challenging topics.   No single person ever existed did have an ability to know about future, especially the person’s own future.

Invisibility is another hard topic.   If faith were visible, we could see faith, and measure it.   Then we could compare faiths among believers, and could even tell whose faith is bigger, greater, or more beautiful, etc.   In fact, faith is not visible.  Faith, thus, reminds as a mystery.  That is, it does not belong to the domain of our ordinary life or our cognition ability.  It is far beyond the domain of what we see, know and can touch.   

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

As matter of fact, faith itself is a gift of God.  It is neither bounded by our limited understanding nor bounded by the physical world and human imaginations.  Thus, it can free us from the bondage of what we see, know and touch.   It directly connects us to God, Our Eternal Father.   Then it transcends us while making us start to understand the domain of God, which is far beyond anything known to us and reveals the secret of God – God’s salvation and God’s love.

It is absolutely true that our stature is far smaller than the earth that we live on.   This seems a silly argument, but let’s image.  One kid draws himself/herself bigger than our earth on paper.  The kid feels good because the kid is bigger than the earth.   Then the kid learns about our galaxy.   Then the kid thinks about making himself/herself bigger than the galaxy.  He starts drawing another drawing in which he/her is bigger than our entire galaxy.    (By the way, the size of our galaxy is mind-mindbogglingly big.   In order to cross our galaxy from one end to the other, it takes about 100,000 years if we travel at the speed of light.   How fast is the speed of the light?   We know our earth is big.   If light circles our earth, it can wrap around 7.5 times in one second.   Light really travels is fast.  This fast light has to travel 100,000 years to cross our galaxy.  Thus, the size of the galaxy is unimaginably huge.   Numerically speaking, it is 600,000,000,000,000,000 miles or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 km.)

Maybe the same kid might draw even bigger himself or herself by reducing the size of our galaxy to the size of a penny on paper.    The kid still can continue drawing another one while even further reducing down the size of our galaxy to a microscopic size of a single cell or even smaller so that the kid can be even bigger and bigger.   Yes, the kid can continue this process again and again (i.e., infinitely many).    In other words, the kid can make himself/herself infinitely bigger.    

The above silly story seems logically plausible:  drawing him/her infinitely bigger.   Is it possible?   In reality, it is not.   The latest scientific discovery and understanding tells that the size of our universe is actually finite.  Precisely speaking, the universe relevant to us is finite.  That is, even if there are something out there beyond our “universe,” there is no way to know of the existence of nor communicate with them.  This is not a technological limitation.   This is the fundamental limitation of our physical world (or the law of physics).  As long as we exist in this physical world, we are bounded by this limitation.  

Ok, the physically bounded universe is somewhat bothering, but for most of us, it is fine.  The size of the physical universe is so huge compared our human size.   Thus, practically speaking, it does not matter.   There is little reason why we need all of the huge space.    Then we might say, although we live in the limited universe, we can think freely without being limited by anything because we feel like that.  That is, our human logic seems limitless.   We can logically analyze anything, and we can make a logical conclusion out of our thought process about anything.  Unfortunately, it is not.  Surprisingly, our human logic has its own limitation.    In 1931, Kurt Godel published incompleteness theorems, which described (i.e., proved) our inherent limitations of our human logic.   In other words, our logic as a whole cannot demonstrate (i.e., proves) its own consistency.  (In other words, we cannot logically think or define a universal truth.)   Some of us love to prove everything logically.   Unfortunately, Godel’s finding tells that no, it cannot be done due to our inherent limitation of our logic, although it is seemingly infinitely logical to us.   This finding really makes us humble.  In other words, there exists something beyond the limitation of our human logic and knowledge, which are untouchable as long as our own logic is applied.   

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.  (Hebrews 11:3)

Bible tells the truth.  By faith, we understand the entire universe was formed at God’s command, and what we see does not come from something that we can, but cannot be seen.   Our sensory system and logic system, due to the inherent limitations, cannot lead to a full comprehension of this truth.   Many people have attempted to logically prove or disprove this truth.  Some of them have tried to have a physical evidence about our faith, but all these efforts have become fruitless.   It is not surprising if we know our inherent limitation of our own sensory system and logic.   Even so, even today or at this moment, surely there are many people who try to prove or disprove physically and logically our faith.   As we talked, all of these efforts are futile.

Many efforts of proving or disproving our faith have been with us since the beginning of our faith in Jesus Christ, and such efforts will continue despite numerous failures evident in our history, let alone the inherent limitations of the world that we live in and the logic that we use.   Faith can be proved by only faith.

 through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. (Hebrews 11:2)

Through faith, our forefathers in faith proved their faith and earned a good reputation before God and people.    After all,  they are far beyond the world, and the world was not worthy of them, (Hebrews 11:38a)

Faith is about future to come and about invisible and intangible.   Therefore, our faith is precious and truly valuable, especially in the eyes of God.   Therefore, those who wants please God should approach Him with faith, because faith can transcend all things that we know and can see and touch in this world.   This is the power of faith.  Praise God!  Through faith, we are free.   Hallelujah, sing praises to the LORD!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Love Neighbor

Good morning!

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

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:31)

Religious leaders, who were jealous about Jesus, sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested.   They asked a difficult question about tax: whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?   

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.”  When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.   They could not trap Jesus because Jesus pointed God rather than earthly ones.

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”   He had been struggling for a long time with this question. 

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD.  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31)

The teacher of religious law immediately replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other.  And I know it is important to love God with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

The teacher of religious law finally found the answer and the truth that he had been looking for. He was really joyful.   Then he immediately connected the most precious one to him:  the law that he had been teaching and all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices that he had offered with loving God and neighbor.   Then he professed that loving God and neighbor is more important than the most precious to him – being a teacher of the law and practicing the law.   Since then, the teacher must have taught and lived out the highest commandment  -- loving God and neighbor.   Yes, we also love God with all of our mind and soul, and love our neighbor.

Then we can ask what does “love neighbor” really mean?  Jesus gave the greatest example of how to love our neighbor.    When Jesus told his disciples about the upcoming betrayal of one of His disciples and his arrest.   Peter confidently told He would never forsake Jesus.   Even so, Peter denied Jesus before people including a servant girl when Jesus was captured, as Jesus foretold about Peter’s denial.    Jesus had to eyewitness Peter’s denial with His own eyes.   Soon Jesus was flogged and crucified on the cross.    On the cross, Jesus forgave Peter’s sin and the sins of others including mine.  Then He took the wrath of the sins, and died as our atonement for all of our sins.   Three days later, Jesus rose again from the death, and became the first fruit of resurrection for all.

After His resurrection, Jesus came to Peter, who was suffering from the guilt of denying Jesus.  He recited many times in his heart.  He failed.  He said he would not leave Jesus although all others would leave, and he would lay down his life for Jesus if needed.   Peter could not get out of this deep despair and terrible guilt of his sin of betrayal of his loving teacher,

Jesus did talk about anything, but gently asked Peter, “Do you love me?”   Not just once, but three times, Jesus asked the same question.    Jesus gave the opportunity of healing of his guilt.  He gave an assurance of full forgiveness of Peter’s sin – Peter denial of three times, and blot out the bitterness in the deepest part of Peter’s heart.    Jesus restored Peter, and made him fully ready for Peter’s next mission for God.   Soon after Peter received the power of the Holy Spirit, he boldly proclaimed Jesus, the Risen Lord, the truth and the salvation.  The forgiven Peter could bring thousands to the Lord, and expanded His kingdom one earth.   This is the power of the forgiveness and Love of Jesus Christ.

We all have neighbors.  Do we really love our neighbor?    How do we know whether we truly love our neighbor?    Please look closely what Jesus did.   He forgave Peter, and then restored Peter with His Love.  We are all humans, who are not perfect.  There are always something bothering or even hurting between us and neighbor.   Then, how to love our neighbor?   The first step is to forgive our neighbor.   Yes, forgive our neighbor regardless what they did to us.  (Neighbor means our next-door neighbor physically living right next to us, a coworker in workplace, a family member or relative, and eventually anyone around us or somehow related to us.)  Then on the firm foundation of the forgiveness, we will be able to restore and build up our neighbor with the love of Jesus as Jesus did.    An unforgiving heart undermines our heart, while a forgiven heart liberates us by freeing us from the bondage of the bitterness of unforgiveness.   True forgiveness of our neighbor is the first step of loving neighbor.

Give thanks to Jesus, who showed how to love neighbor!   Peter failed, but Jesus did not.   Jesus fully forgave Peter first.  On the firm foundation of the forgiveness, Jesus restored and build up Peter.   We are an ambassador of Jesus Christ.   The first step is to forgive and forget our neighbor’s faults, offenses and sins, and then we restore, build up and encourage our neighbor with the love of Jesus Christ.  

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.   (Colossian 3:13-14)

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