Sunday, November 26, 2017

Pray Continually And Never Give Up

Good morning!

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

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.  (Luke 18:1)

Hannah was full of sorrow because she could not have a baby.   Every year, Elkanah, her husband, and Hannah traveled to Shiloh to worship and give annual sacrifice to the LORD of hosts.   Year after year, Hannah prayed for her baby because she could not have a baby.  She wept before the LORD, God.  She could not eat due to her pain in her heart.   One year, her heart was much heavier than other years with full of sorrow due to her inability to have a baby.   Her husband comforted her, but her deep sorrow remained in her heart.   Thus, she went to the temple, and she looked up heaven in anguish, crying while holding her hands on her heart as she prayed to God.  And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.”  (1 Samuel 1:11)

She was so much into her prayer with her heart.  Her lips were moving, but no sound was made out of her mouth.   Eli, the priest of the temple, watched her, and he thought that she was drunken.   “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

“Oh no, sir!” Hannah replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD.  Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.  

She believed her prayer was given to God, and God heard her prayer.   God opened her womb, and gave her a male child, Samuel.  (The meaning of Samuel is God has heard.)   Yes, God heard her prayer out of her deepest part in heart – the contrite, authentic, earnest and God’s-help-seeking prayer with absolute trust on Him.  Surely, God answered her prayer, and Hannah experienced God, who was compassionate and full of mercy.  She was in great joy, which she could not described in any words. 

As Hannah promised to God, she waited until her son was weaned.  Then she brought her son, Samuel to God.  She sacrificed to God a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and a basket of flour.   After the sacrifice, she took the boy to Eli, the priest. 

“Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the LORD.  I asked the LORD to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.  Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will belong to the LORD his whole life.” And Hannah, Samuel, and Elkanah, Samuel’s father, worshiped the LORD there, and left Samuel with Eli so that Samuel be with God.  

Then Hannah prayed and praised God:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
   for I delight in your deliverance.
“There is no one holy like the Lord;
   there is no one besides you;
   there is no Rock like our God.   (1 Samuel 2:1-2)

Samuel ministered before God under Eli the priest.   He grew in the temple, and in favor of God and man also.   Samuel became one of the most faithful prophets before God, who led the Israelites to God till a king was appointed.   The Hannah’s earnest and contrite prayer out of her deepest part in heart was answered, which did not only lead to a great joy to Hannah, but also God’s blessing to the entire of people of Israel.    This is the power of an earnest prayer of one person, Hannah.

 The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.   (James 5:16b-18)

Elijah, one mere person, prayed to God for rain on the land of full of sins,  God was gracious and full of mercy.    When Elijah earnestly pray to God with all of heart and mind, God heard and answered his prayer.   There was no rain for 18 months.   The sky was always blue, and nobody could see even one single cloud in the blue sky.    The prayer of Elijah, one faithful person, was powerful and answered.   Initially, one small cloud appeared against the blue sky.   His servant spotted it over the horizon as shown in the figure.    Then the sky was getting darker and darker, and the sky opened up and poured the much needed rain on the bone dry land.   The entire people in Israel was in joy including Elijah and his servant. 

It is also true that praying continually to God is not easy because our God is not visible.   It is much easier to rely on someone whom we can see or something that we can touch.   However, Jesus said “you should always pray and never give up,” and gave a probable.   There was a judge in a certain city,” Jesus said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.  A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’  The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!'

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people who cry out to him day and night?  Will He keep putting them off?  I tell you, He will grant justice to them quickly!” (Luke 18:6-8a)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Jesus Love and Humility vs Our Pridefulness Toward Others

Good morning!

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

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.  (Matthew 7:1-2)

After Jesus taught about money and possessions, He started teaching the Godly relationship between fellow humans.  

Let’s look into us.  What do we do well, and are doing all the time?  We compare us with others.  If we are alone on earth or just two like Adam and Eve, we would not compare ourselves with others.   However, there are many people around us.  As matter of fact, each of us is just one of seven billion humans living on earth.   The population during the time of Jesus was far less than now, but they were not much different from us: comparing oneself with others.    

Why? It is our pride: a part of our human naure.  For example, 94% of college professors believe that their teaching skills are above average.  A survey of high-school students found that 70% described themselves as above average leaders.   These are incorrect perceptions.  These phenomenon is not limited to the professors and the students in the surveys.  As we all know, each one of us is engaged in this egotistical self-deception.   That is, we all suffer from this illusory superiority: a cognitive bias whereby a person overestimates his or her own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other persons.    As a result, we believe we are better than others.  However, in reality, we are at most as good as others, or often even worse than others.    This is a just manifestation of our egoistic pride.   

This sinful trait is not easily confined in one’s self, and it soon finds out a way to outside of ourselves.  Then it is manifested as we are superior to other by comparing our ability or characters with those of others, which is a self-centered comparison biased by our egoistic pride.  As a result, all self-induced comparisons are practically unfair ones although our hearts believe those comparison are fairly and objectively done   For example, we think we are smarter than others.  Then our eyes automatically becomes an instrument picking up wrongness from other people’s behavior.   Unfortunately, our eyes are biased and tainted by our false superiority.  In most of cases, what they do are not wrong, but they are simply different.   Yes, it is just another way to do the same thing.   Even so, our hearts continuously tell that we are right and other are wrong.   We blame them for their ignorance and wrongness.    Remember that we are constantly driven by this self-pride induced false confidence, which is a self-protection scheme to preserve our own pride by shielding from the rather cold reality.   It is very hard to take off this fundamental human nature from our egoistic pride, i.e., our pridefulness.

As a result, we tend to judge others rather than love them.  We also believe that we are capable of objectively and correctly judging others.   Therefore, we think our act of judging others is doing a right thing.   We even believe we are helping others.   This is completely a fallacy.  Again, this is driven by our pridefulness.  However, there is a drawback of this improper and sinful behavior.  Please closely look at the picture on the left.   One finger points out of the page to point other.  Then what happens to the other fingers?   Yes, three out of the four fingers are folded to point at self.   The picture awfully looks like pointing at me (and you too as you are reading this).  For me, it gives me an uneasy feeling.  However, when I think about the truth that three fingers actually point back to the person fingering at me, I feel pity on the person in the picture.   

To protect us from this sinful behavior, Jesus lovingly told to the people around him, “Do not judge others, …  why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1, 3-5)

How prideful we are!   We think we know more than others.   We are more righteous.   We are less sinful than others.   We are exemplary by setting a really excellent moral stand for others.   As a result, if we see others cannot make up to our standard, we judge them with our own standard, and even try to correct them.   If needed, we even employ some corrective measures, such as punishment.   God created us to serve others, not to master over others.   How to serve others?  Jesus Christ showed the greatest example.   

One day prior to His crucifixion for our sins, Jesus gathers all of His disciples, and told them “I love you, and will love you till the last moment.  Thus, you should love each other.   Then He demonstrated His love by humbly washing His disciples’ feet, although He knew one of them would betray Him and the rest would fled.  Most heartbreakingly, Jesus knew Peter, who said “I would not leave you although the rest will leave you.” would deny and curse at Him publicly before a slave girl.  Yes, Jesus was truly superior to anyone ever-lived on earth because He is the Son of God, but He did not consider His equality with God.   

Instead, [Jesus] gave up his divine privileges;  he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  (Philippians 2:7-8)

This is the love of Jesus Christ, and the God's lover toward us.   The Holy Spirit in our heart even this moment witnesses this love.   Give thanks to God for His unconditional love toward us, and the Son, who died for our sins.  The protection of the Holy Spirit from all evils inside and outside of us to be continuously becoming like Jesus even while we are on earth. 

The book of Isaiah describes Jesus and His loving act toward us at the cross:

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.  (Isiah 53:7-9)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Do Not Be Anxious About Your Life, and Fix Eyes on Jesus Christ

Good morning!

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

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus looked about people with love, and said to them to lay up treasures because the treasures on earth would soon disappear, but the treasure laid up in Heaven would stay with us forever.   Then Jesus told them not to be a slave of money.  Instead serve God by telling them:  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Like or not, we are those who make a master and serve the master.   Even so, we are confused.  We think we are our own master.   If we are not careful, soon we are working for something on earth, which will disappear as a morning fog that quickly disappears as the sun rises.    However, it is also true that before sun rise, the fog is so real to us and as if it would stay with us forever.  Yes, we know its fate of the vanity.   However, the power of the temptation of earthly things: earthly comfort and earthly desire are so strong that nobody cannot subdue this urge completely.  However, if we don’t control it, the urge makes us really ugly.  It sends us down to a pit, full of worry, and makes us so anxious about virtually everything in our lives because the urge’s appetite is truly bigger than us.   

Then Jesus continued “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” (Matthew 6:25a)   Jesus clearly knew what people would be ended up.   Although people heard the truth, they would choose the world, i.e., money as their master.   Thus, Jesus said “Therefore, I tell you.”  Then what’s the first sign that we serve the world instead of God?   Anxiety -- being anxious about our lives on earth. 

Temptation of the world is so strong that nobody can resist by one’s own strength alone.  The worldly temptations are always with us, and we can touch and feel them.   Yes, we see the reality by reflecting ourselves on the truth, soon we forget what we see on the mirror of the truth of God.   Then we become like one of those who worship the world.   Anxieties overtake us, and suddenly we are surrounded by worries – worries about things on earth: even as basic as whether we have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  (Matthew 6:25)   Then our health, our family members, the relationship with them, relatives, friends, colleagues at works, neighbors, and even those who are connected through Facebook and other social media and keeping expanding to virtually everything in our lives.  Choosing the world means full of worries and anxieties over our lives on earth.   Unfortunately, nobody has ever overcome them by our own might and strength.   This is really depressing.   

Jesus looked up and pointed at the birds on the air.  They freely flew over the people around Him.   “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.”  (Matthew 6:26)    
It is absolutely true.  The birds do not plant, harvest nor have barns to store their harvest.   God feeds them.  The God who feeds the birds also feeds us bountifully because God loves us more than birds.   Why?   We are His children.   God always provides us the best.   Even so, our earth-bounded heart is continuously bringing in worries till we are taken hostage by worries rather than enjoying the best blessings from God.   

Jesus drew the people’s attention to the lilies flowering its beauty on the wilderness.  He said  “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  (Matthew 6:28-30)

Yes, no human can create such a beautiful lily with hands, even King Solomon, the most glorious king known to the people at that time, could not have the splendor and beauty of one small lily that is God’s creation.   Nobody can compete with God’s hand.   We just awe before His creation. 

Jesus explained, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”  (Matthew 6:31-32)   Yes, God, who is omniscient, knows exactly what we need, when, where and why.   As the “All I Have Is Christ” Lyrics precisely captures, we blindly run our own “hell-bound race” with all our heart and mind, which are originated from the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, which is not from the Father but is from the world.  (1 John 2:16)   

We all believers know this truth.   Sadly, the force of the world suddenly comes into our heart and tears apart our heart into two.  How wretched we are!   This is not just our struggle, but Apostle Paul’s also.  Here is what Apostle Paul wrote for us:  And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  (Romans 7:18-21)

Yes, we are all weary of the constant fighting of the two in our hearts.   As Apostle Paul confessed the principle of life, we suddenly find ourselves taken to hostage of this world although we tried very hard. 
Jesus calls us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)   If we are weary on this earth from this battle in us, just look up our eyes and see Jesus who is right next us.  His hand is stretched out and is waiting for us.  He is one arm length away from us.   Just stretch our arm and hold His warm and loving hand.   Then fix our eyes on His loving eyes.  

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2a)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Two Masters: God or Money?

Good morning!

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

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

People flocked around Jesus Christ, because people were amazed at His teaching, for He taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law at the time.   The people around Him tasted blessings, mercy and love from God, because Jesus truly loved them.   They were poor in spirits, and hungered for God’s mercy.   While they hearing the message of Jesus, their hearts were filled with God’s mercy and love, and their poor spirits were enriched by God’s blessings.   Jesus personally taught about prayer, and He showed how to pray to God as He did to God, which was the Lord’s prayer – how to tell God, our Heavenly Father.

Then Jesus started to talk how to live one earth, especially what to focus while living on earth:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  (Matthew 6:19-21)

Yes, Jesus was right.  we all stored up treasures on earth: getting up early and going to bed late in night to make money.  Then, we set aside some of our money for our future, such as retirement accounts.   We regularly put our money to the account for future retirement.   This is really wise, and everybody should do.   As a result, the retirement accounts grow.  They are getting bigger every year or even every month.  As the accounts grow big, our hearts are comforted by the growing accounts (i.e., our future money -- growing bigger and bigger).

Jesus gave a parable:  “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops.  The rich man said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’  Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

It is true that our treasure on earth will not stay with us forever.  Sadly, when we need most, the treasures that makes our hearts delight disappear or become no longer with us.  When the stock market crashed in 2008, our treasures on earth were literally halved.   In 2008, those who thought they were rich painfully eye-witnessed that the account values suddenly halved one day, and felt they were vulnerable because they were no longer rich.  Their wealth was literally reduced down to ½ of what they had.  It was just a moment that the reality of the wealth was manifested before our eyes.

In fact, what we have is not ours whether it is money in our pocket or our retirement account.    When our lives come to end on earth, all of these things are irrelevant.  We will leave everything including even a single penny before we go back to Our God, the Eternal Father.   Even though this truth is so obvious, we tend to forget it.   We live on earth as if we were here on earth forever and truly own things that we have.   We get up early and toil for those.   Do we really have a heavenly perspective on every moment of our lives while we are on earth as Jesus told to the people around Him in two thousand years ago?   We need to lay up our treasures in heaven, and constantly remind us about the heavenly perspective and the reality of our existence on earth.

Then how to lay up our treasure in heaven?    The easiest one is to give (precisely speaking return) the whole tithe to God.    It might sound a new commandment, but it is not.   God told the Israelites, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”  (Malachi 3:10)   God really wants to lavishly give out His blessings to us, but some of us misses His blessings.   God says the first step is to return to God what is God’s.   We think we own things on earth.   It is not true.  In reality, God allows for us to have things on earth, which actually belong to God.  God is the creator, and he owns all things in His creation.   This is the truth.  Does God own ll things?  Yes, all things:  everything that we own and even our own lives on earth also.   God’s promise of His blessing on our whole tithe is not a contract, but his generous act on us. God does not have to receive anything from us, because He owns everything.   The whole tithe is a kind of a teaching moment to our kids as earthly parents constantly do in love to their children.   God really wants to know the truth, and for us live out our lives in His Godly principle, and enjoy His lavishly pouring blessings on us.  

Yes, our whole tithe is our recognition to God about God’s ownership on our lives as well as all things that we own.   If we give our whole tithe, then do we do all things to God.   In other words, dose our whole tithe completely relieve us from our duties to God on earth od?    No, not really.   Why?  We owe to God also.   What?  We owe to God.  Yes, we do.  We believers unfairly received our salvation through Jesus Christ, and we got God’s assurance on our salvation too.   Here is why.   In short, we are sinful, and we sinned a lot.   Really sinned a lot.   Unfortunately, the wage of our sins is death.   Bible tells the wage of sins is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).   This verse means this.  We have to die due to our sins, but Jesus Christ died for us on the cross.   As a result, the wage of our sins has been paid by Jesus Christ, we are released from the eternal bondage of our sins.   The cross is the proof from God, and it is our assurance on our eternal life without being eternally condemned by our own sins.    Then what we should say to God?    We should say we are debtors.   We are in debt to God for forgiving our sins.   Then how big is the debt?    The above rich fool’s parable explains although we own the whole world, it is nothing if God calls us tonight.  The whole world vs our own life.  Which is more valuable to us?  Of course, our life is.  Our life is much more valuable than anything on earth.  Therefore, the answer is simple.   The size of our debt to God is bigger than the whole world that we see and touch.  We are infinitely in-debt to God.   Therefore, God gave His only begotten son to save us, and everyone who believes this beautiful salvation message in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.  

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone.  (James 4:14)