Sunday, November 11, 2018

God Is Our Refuge And Strength, An Ever-Present Help In Trouble.

Good morning!

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

The LORD told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”  (Judges 7:7)

Like other the people of Israel, Gideon was in fear of the Midianites, who oppressed the Israelites for seven years.   God let the Israelites suffer because they did evil before God by worshipping the idols: Baal and Asherah, instead of the true and living God.   Finally, the people cried out to God, and God sent His angel to Gideon, not because Gideon was brave and more powerful than the rest of the Israelites.   He was the least of his family, and his family was the weakest among the Israelites.    God chose Gideon according to His good will to save the Israelites.   God opened Gideon’s eyes, and Gideon realized that he met the angel of God, and He was called by God to rescue the Israelites.

On the same night, God gave the first command to destroy the Baal’s alter and cut down the Asherah pole beside the alter.   Gideon destroyed them as God commanded.   However, Gideon did it during the night because he feared the people in the town and his family members.   Even so, God pleased with Gideon.   He did baby step in his faith although he was in fear.  Yes, he was still in God’s work-in-progress.

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.  Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and all of the men of the Israelites responded.   Total 33,000 warriors came to Gideon to fight against the armies of Midian and their allies from the east side of the Jordan river.  

Gideons saw the power of God with his own eyes.   His clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least in his entire family, but the entire Israel responded to his ram’s horn.   The next step for Gideon was to lead them to fight against the armies of Median and the allies.  But his heart was not ready.   Thus, he came back to God, and authentically opened his heart to God.  He asked His help to increase his faith.  God, who was merciful, graciously answered his prayers by wetting a wool fleece while the surrounding area was dry, and drying a wool fleece while the surrounding area was wet.    Gideon was truly encouraged by God.   He immediately took the 33,000 warriors, and marched out to the spring of Harod.    Yes, our God is always gracious and full of mercy.   He has never rejected our prayer of His help to increase our faith.   God answers.   This our faith as He answered Gideon’s prayers before going out to fight against the armies of the Midianites and the allies, which were much bigger and stronger than his small army.

The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.  They filled the entire valley, and were as numerous as the sand on the seashore.    Gideon and His worries were camped very close to where the armies of Midian to prepare their attack against the armies of Midian.   It was a truly brave act to make up mind to fight against the enormous armies of Median and their allies.

Suddenly, God said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you.”   Initially, what he was told by God did not make sense at all.   The 32,000 warriors of Israelites were absolutely not enough to fight against the armies of Midian and their allies, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.   Gideon had been worrying about how to fight against the huge enemy with his only 32,000 warriors.   He was completely baffled. 

Then God explained the reason, “If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.”   God’s real concern was not Gideon’s victory that God had already decided to give, but the Gideon’s prideful heart after he defeated the Midianites.   A temptation to give a full credit to oneself is the most subtle and strongest.    We love to give all credits to ourselves, not to God, although we know God has made us successful.  God knew what Gideon and his warriors would be tempted.  Thus, God cared for Gideon, and eliminated the temptation.  God must have had really loved Gideon.

God gave a step-by-step instruction, “Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’”   Gideon faithfully obeyed God, and told what was given to Gideon by God.   Upon hearing Gideon’s recommendation, to Gideon’s surprise 22,000 of them stood up and went home, leaving only 10,000 who continued willing to fight.    He lost more than 2/3 of his warriors.   His army was reduced down to 10,000 from 32,000.    Gideon could not believe what had happened.   He thought that most of them were brave and would be with him no matter what happened.    He was truly disappointed with those who went home.  His heart was in panic, but Gideon remembered the signs that God gave to him using a wool fleece.   In faith, Gideon struggled to overcome by making every effort to continue believing God and His goodness.   After all, he did not lose his faith after losing 22,000 warriors.   Let’s question to ourselves, if we lose 2/3 of what we have, what’s would be our response?   Calm like Gideon or panic like a scared rabbit?

Gideon was able to be calm with the 10,000 warriors.   In faith, he was about to go out and fight with the 10,000 warriors against the myriads of the armies of Midian.   Gideon still had 10,000, and God was with him.  He believed that he would win the battle in God’s power.    He started making a new attack plan for the reminded 10,000 warriors because the original attack plan would no longer work.    It was designed for the 32,000 warriors.  It was painful to make a new plan with only 10,000 warriors.  It was almost impossible to win the battle.   Even so, he was obediently working on the new plan to attack the armies of Midian with the 10,000 warriors.

While Gideon was working on the new battle plan, again God came to Gideon, and told, “There are still too many!”   What?   10,000 warrior vs the armies of Midian and their allies, who covered the entire valley.   Upon hearing, Gideon immediately stopped working on the new battle plan.   By that time, Gideon was a truly obedient man.    He waited for God’s next command.   God continued, “Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.”   For this time, God did not give any specifics.   God just told Gideon: “Do what I say.”    This was another opportunity to make Gideon’s faith stronger in God. 

Gideon obediently took the 10,000 warriors down to the water.  (Gideon’s obedience in faith pleased God.)   God again told Gideon, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.”    Per God’s instruction, Gideon asked the 10,000 warriors to drink from the stream.   Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

God told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”  It was almost unreal.    Gideon was ended up to get only 300 warriors out of 32,000 warriors.   This was less than 1% of the warriors originally responded to Gideon’s ram horn (exactly, 0.9375%).    Gideon, although he was strong in faith, became nervous.   How could he fight against the armies of Midian and their allies?   It was so obvious that it was absolutely impossible to fight and defeat the countlessly many armies of Midian and their allies.  Even so, in faith, Gideon obediently sent the 9,700 warriors home.  He did it in faith in God.

Gideon’s faith grew tremendously.   He was hiding from the Midianites and threshing in the winepress.   Then he did follow God’s command to destroy the Baal’s alter.  However, he could not do in daytime, but did it during the night because of his fear of the people and his family.   Even so, God pleased with his baby stepping faith.   Then God sent God’s Spirit to took possession of Gideon.  Gideon blew a ram’s horn, and 32,000 warriors responded.  Gideon, then, bravely took the 32,000 warriors to fight against the huge armies of Midian and their allies covered the entire valley.   Gideon and his warriors were encamped near the enemies.   Unexpectedly, God asked to send away 22,000 warriors.  Gideon did.  Only 10,000 warriors were with Gideon.  Then God asked again to send away 9,700 warriors.   Gideon also did.  Gideon was ended up with only 300 warriors.  Then it was literally impossible to fight and defeat the countlessly numerous armies of Midian and the allies.   Even so, Gideon was ready to fight against the countlessly many armies of Midian and the allies.  It was the Gideon’s faith.   

God transformed Gideon to one of the most faithful in Bible.   He experienced and believed God.   Once Gideon met God, he continuously grew into faith in God.   When he authentically prayed to God for God’s help, God answered.   God helped Gideon when he was weak in his faith.   Here is the pattern what Gideon did.   Listen to God, pray to God, and do God’s will.   Yes, we might not be perfect before God because we are still in fear of the world, but God pleases with us not because we are perfect, but because we did what God commanded despite of our fear and doubt. Therefore, whenever we need His help, just put out our heart, whether it is our fear, pain, sickness, uncertainty of future, a severe financial problem.   God hears us.  God is always faithful to us, and God wants for us to have a deeper relationship with Him.  This is how to grow in faith in God.    Baby stepping in our faith is a just first step, then keep listening, praying and doing what God wants.  This pleases God, and we grow in faith in Him.  Please remember God always loves us only because we are His beloved children and He is our ever-loving Father.

 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
                and the mountains quake with their surging.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

God Is Always With Us Patiently. Don't Be Afraid. Ask!

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

The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9)

Gideon was an ordinary person.  God came to him.   The angel of God found Gideon hiding in fear of the Midianites who oppresses the Israelites for seven years.  God, who was merciful, waited and waited.   The Israelites did not stop evil before God by serving their idols, which were nothing but things made by human hands out of wood, silver, or gold.   The idols could not give anything to them, but they worshipped.   They had mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet, but they could not speak, see, hear, smell, feel or walk.   They just stayed where they were placed.   Even so, the people of Israel put their false hope:  the idols would give them what they wanted.    God allowed them to suffer.   Their hardness of heart did not change quickly.   After the seven years’ suffering under the Midianites, finally they started to cried out to God.  

To deliver the Israelites, God chose Gideon.   Gideon met the angel of God, when he had never expected to meet an angel of God.   He was a good man.  Without knowing the angel from God, Gideon welcomed the angel, and he heard the angel.    He also served the angel with his finest food.   Then the angel of God revealed the power of God.  Gideon realized that he met the angel of God.   A terrible fear fell on him, but God comforted him.  God gave him a mission to rescue the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites.   Gideon looked himself.   He was not strong enough to take the unimaginable mission.   His clan was the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least in his entire family.   He humbled before God, but God raised him up.  Gideon built an alter to God, and gave thanks.

That night, God came and said to Gideon, “Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.  Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”  

Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded. But he did it at night.  Although he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town, he did it.   The following morning, the people of the town found that Gideon did it.  They came to kill Gideon, and Gideon was hiding.   The merciful God sent Gideon’s father instead, and protected Gideon.    God saved Gideon who did the courageous acts of taking away the very source of the evil of the people – their idols: Baal and Asherah.   God loved Gideon’s courageous act in faith.   Although he did it in fear of the people around him, Gideon passed the first test, and proved himself before God.   Gideon, in turn, experienced God, who was a strong hold for Gideon.   Gideon made the first, gigantic step in faith of God.   He was ready for the next step in faith of God, which was even bigger. 

Soon the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.  A really fearful event was unfolding to the people of Israel.  Although it was dreadful to the eyes of the people of Israel, it was a part of God’s plan for His children.  Before the threat, the people of Israel complained, “we have enough pain for a long time.  Why are we getting another one, which is even bigger than anything that we got?”    They felt that the sky was falling without any hope.   However, like a night is darker before dawning, the dreadful event was a sign for a new dawning set by God. 

God sent the Spirit of the God to Gideon, which took possession of Gideon.   For this time, Gideon was different.   He, who used to hide himself, was emboldened in God’s spirit.  Gideon stood up as the solider of God in order to free the Israelites from the Midianite, the alliance of the armies of Midian, Amalek and the people of the east.   Gideon blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him.  He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.   All were done by God’s spirit, in fact.   

Gideon saw the power of the God again.  He was the least in his entire family, and his clan was the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh.   Even so, when he blew a ram’s horn, and the entire people of Israel responded.   He again saw the power of God.    Again, he looked at himself.   Nothing has been changed.   Yesterday’s Gideon was still with him.  Only was different the God, who was continuously transforming Gideon.    Although Gideon clearly knew he was called by the Mighty God, before the daunting task, he felt that he still needed additional God’s help to increase his faith.   He approached to God, and authentically asked for his help.

Gideon prayed to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”   God answered, and that is just what happened.   Gideon Got up early the next morning.  He went out and gathered wool fleece on the threshing floor where he met the angel of God.   Then he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.   God heard Gideon, and answered his prayer.  What a merciful God He was!

However, Gideon was still cautious about what he experienced.   He was still haunted by his past.   He could see the old self in him, who was threshing wheat to hide the grain from the Midianites.   Gideon believed God, but he was still in fear.   Although he did the mighty act of destroying the Baal and the Asherah beside it, and he saw the people responded his ram’s horn blow against the armies of Midianites and allies, and the wet fleece, he was not fully ready for the daunting task.  Thus, he asked God.    If we were God, how would we respond?   Getting tired?   No.  God was not.  God was patient with Gideon and loved him.

With courage, Gideon prayed to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.    God answered Gideon’s prayer.   Not like us, God is patient.    It was not the only one example of God’s patience.   God was truly patient with Abraham when he asked for God’s mercy for Sodom, the wicked city.   

Abraham asked God to save Sodom if there were fifty righteous people living in the city.   God responded, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”    Then Abraham gave a thought.  He felt that it would be hard to find fifty righteous people.   He asked, “suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty?   Wil you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”   God answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty-five.”   Abraham, then, asked again for forty because he was not comfortable with the number forty-five.    God said yes, He would save if there were forty righteous people in the city.    Abraham returned to God again, while asking thirty.    God said yes.   He asked again with a lower number, twenty.   God patiently said yes.   Abraham finally made a decision to ask once more, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?”    And the LORD replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”  The God had finished His conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.     Abraham felt that it would be easy to find ten righteous people out of the big city like Sodom.    Although Abraham was confident, it was not the case.  The city did not have ten righteous people, which is less than one percent of the population.   (It is estimated that the population of the Sodom at that time was around 1000.   Then 10 people means only 1 percent.)   Please note that God patiently answered six times until Abraham became comfortable. 

Yes, God is always patient to us.   What we need is to authentically approach to God with anything including our deepest question especially about our faith in Him.  He loves to answer our question.   He always assures us with His love.  He will not reject nor ignore our heartful prayer.   Instead, He answers us with the best that is beyond our imagination.    What God really wants is for us to authentically approach him without hiding anything in our heart and to tell Him everything and our heart, pain and desire as Gideon and Abraham did.    If a child never talks to his/her parents authentically, then how do the child’s parents feel?    They will be truly in pain.  God is our ever-loving Father, who truly loves to hear from His children about all things that His children have in the hearts including joys, pains, concerns, fears, disappointments, and hopes.   Just put out everything in our heart to Our Father, He surely hears our prayers one by one patiently and lovingly.   This is our assurance in God.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.    (Hebrews 4:16)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Come, Come To Him. With His love, He Will Calm All Your Fears!

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

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

Gideon was an ordinary person.  Like others, he was in fear of the people of Midianites.  He was hiding from the Midianites, and threshing inside the winepress.   God, who is merciful and full of love, came to Gideon because God heard the cries of the people of Israel, His own children out of the suffering.   For seven years, their hearts had left away from God, and acted wickedly against God by doing evil of worshipping idols instead of the God.  God, who dearly loved His children, patiently waited for His children to come back to Him.   The Israelites, the God’s children, finally realized that their idols could not save them, because they were nothing but things made by their own hands.  

In fact, the idols could do nothing for them, as the Bible tells
Their Idols are merely things of silver and gold,
shaped by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear,
and noses but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel,
and feet but cannot walk,
and throats but cannot make a sound.  (Psalm 115:4-7)

Even so, the Israelites worshiped their idols for seven years.  The Bible says about the absurd stupidity of those who worship idols:
He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.  Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.  Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”  And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”   (Isaiah 44:14-17)

Thus, the outcome of worshipping idols was obvious as the Bible tells:
And those who make idols are just like them,
as are all who trust in them.  (Psalm 115:8)

The compassionate God sent an angel of God.   Gideon met the angel, but he did not know he was talking with the angel sent by God.   After a long conversation, Gideon realized that that he met the angel of God, he cried out “Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”      God, who was full of mercy, comforted and encouraged Gideon, “It is all right.   Do not be afraid. You will not die.”  

Gideon gave thanks to God, and built an altar to the LORD there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the LORD is peace”).  Before the alter, he remembered what was told by the angel of God, “You will rescue Israel from the Midianites.”   He also recalled God’s voice promise too, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”  That evening, Gideon recited again and again in his heart what was told by God.   He was also wandering about what the God’s message really meant. 

That night God came again, and said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

God, who started a good work in Gideon, did not delay.   God started unfolding His plan for the people of Israel.   God gave a really daunting task to Gideon, who used to be wimpy and coward in fear.   However, after meeting with God and His angel, Gideon was dramatically changed. (Actually God changed him.)  He was no longer the old Gideon.   As soon as he heard God’s command, he immediately brought God’s command in action.

Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded.  But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.   His faith in God was still in fancy.   He was still in fear of people.   He was courageous in God, but he was still afraid of the people.   This is quite contrast to Peter and John who confronted the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees.   They stood before the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law including Annas the high priest of the year.   Then the high priest and the rulers ordered Peter not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore.   What was the response of Peter and John?  

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  (Acts 4:19-20)

Gideon’s faith was not up to the level of Peter and John, who openly proclaimed Jesus, His resurrection, and salvation before the High Priest and all the rulers in Jerusalem, who directly prohibits the teaching of Jesus Christ.   Their bravely acted in faith, which gave the glory to God, and there was a miraculous healing of the man over forty years old.   God’s power was magnified in the faith of Peter and John despite of the imminent threats of the High Priest and the hostile peopole surrounding them.

Even though Gideon did during the night in fear of the people of the town, God was pleased with what Gideon did.   Despite of his fear, Gideon did what God commanded.  Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed.  The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.

The challenge against the faithful act done by Gidon started.  “Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash. “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”  The people were really hostile to Gideon.   They demanded Gideon to kill.   God knew Gideon could not stand against the people trying to kill Gideon.   God, who was merciful, protected Gideon.   God sent his father instead.

Upon God’s spirit on Joash, Gideon’s father, he sternly shouted to the mob of the people, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!”  The mob of the people were silenced.   From then on Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

Surely, God used Joash’s mouth and defended Gideon.   Additionally, to the people coming to kill Gideon, God told the truth about the Baal so that they could realize the Baal was not a god, but a man-made object carved out of the human’s hand, which could not speak, see, hear, smell, feel and walk.   God is always merciful to all people (including those who against Him), and provides an opportunity to anyone to come to Him.   If anyone hears God’s saving message, and comes to Him, He accepts the person.   Regardless who the person was, God accepts as His children.   God is always waiting and patiently waiting for coming of us to Him.   What God wants is returning to Him.   Our God is always merciful and full of grace, who always forgives all wrongdoings and sins committed if anyone returns to Him and confesses all sins committed.  

The mob of the people gathered to capture and kill Gideon were speechless after hearing Gideon father’s speech about the truth regarding to their idols.   One by one, they dispersed and went home.   They found that there was nothing that they could do.   God protected Gideon, and the mob of the people was utterly powerless before God.    

Why did God protected Gideon?   Not because Gideon was perfect, but he did best to follow God’s command despite of his fear of the people worshipping idols.  This Gideon’s faithful act pleased God.   What can we learn?    We should do God’s will despite of our own fear of the people around us or things on earth.   We might not be able to act bravely in faith like Pete and John, but God still pleases with us as God pleased with Gideon.   It is also true that what we need to do just follow God’s command, then the rest is God’s.   God completes His will and protects His faithful servant.  What a comfort God provides to us, who are faithful in Him!

God is always merciful and full of love.  He truly wants to see His child to grow in Him step by step and day by day.  Gideon followed God’s command, but he did it during night in fear of the people around him.  Then God loved Gideon’s faithful action in Him.   Before meeting God, Gideon was hiding in fear of the Midian, but in faith Gideon could destroy the alter of Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole to use as wood for the new alter that he built.  This first act in faith was a truly gigantic step for Gideon.   God sees the center of our heart, and our best effort before God.  We might not be like Peter or John, who could bravely proclaim God’s message before the threat of the High Priest and the rulers in Jerusalem.  Even so, we should not be discouraged.  God knows our heart, and He loves us, and help us to grow in faith every day.   Be faithful, and authentic before God.   Then approach to God as who we are.   God accepts us as who we are, and pleases with us because He sees our heart.   Just come, come to God.  He is always having arms open widely and waiting for us.   He is Our True and Ever-Loving Father, who will loves us forever. 

On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”   (Zephaniah 3:16-17)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Humble Before God. He Will Lift You Up In Honor!

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

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God, and God will come close to you.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.  (James 4:7,8a, 10)

 Gideon was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.  He was afraid of the Midianites, and also one of the Israelites, who questioned why they were suffering from the Midianites.   It was one of the days, not much different from other days.   Gideon just did his daily job, like other Israelites while fearing of the Midianites.   Hiding from the plain view of the Midianites during their daily jobs was a common practice for all Israelites.   

Suddenly, the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer.   The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”

Gideon did not know the person that was the angel sent by God.   However, Gideon felt that the angel was not an ordinary person who would listen to his heavy heart.  Gideon poured out his heart.  He first called “Sir”, then he continued, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

 Over the last seven years, Gideon and the entire Israelites had been suffering under the oppression of the Midianites.   Did they pray to God?   Yes, they did, but the oppression had not been diminished despite of all prayers.   Gideon and the rest of the Israelites heard many times about the great work of God, who brought them out of Egypt.  However, they had not seen God’s might hand for long time.   Then they started questioning why they could not see the mighty power of God although they prayed day after day to God.   They were truly getting weary and starting giving up.   They even felt that God had abandoned them, and handed them over to the terrible Midianites, who were much worse than themselves before God.   However, they did not forgot they were the chosen people of God.

We know why the Israelites were suffering.  They turned their backs on God to worship idols so God allowed the Midianites to treat them badly for seven years.   Their suffering was enough to make them bring really low.   One by one, the entire Israelites started looking up God and cried out for God’s help instead of going back to their idols.   God saw their heart was ready.   God started moving His mighty hand.   First, God picked up Gideon.  Why, Gideon?    Because he was special?   No, he was an ordinary person like any of the other Israelites.   Gideon was also in fear of the Midianites.  In fact, he was cowardly hiding at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites, when the angel of God came to him.

Then the angel turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”   Gideon could not understand.   He was cowardly hiding in fear of the Midianites.   Gideon was told to rescue Israel with the strength that Gideon had.  He could not believe what he was told.   Gideon knew he was not so strong to liberate the Israelites from the oppression of the Midianites.   His family was weak and not so famous among the rest of Israelites.   Thus, if he said anything, nobody would pay attention to him.  He was nothing.  He confessed his nothingness.   He could not do anything with his own strength.   He responded with his humility.   God saw his humility, and loved Gideon.

God, who knew exactly Gideon’s humble heart.  God encouraged Gideon by telling, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”    Yes, God, the Omnipotent God, made a solemn promise to Gideon, a mere and lowly human, “I will be with you.”   It was a truly extraordinary moment, but Gideon still did not know he was talking with God through the angel sent by God.   Gideon could not believe what he was hearing.  He would destroy the numerous and mighty Midianites as if he would fight against just one man.   With courage, he decided to ask again to the strange person.   He remembered Abraham who actually served angels when Abraham kindly offered food to the strangers visiting Abraham.   Gideon decided to do the same thing as Abraham did while thinking the stranger might be the angel sent by God.  

Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the LORD speaking to me.  Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”

He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”  

Gideon’s heart was in joy, and he hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to him, who was under the great tree.

 The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told.  Then the angel of the LORD touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the LORD disappeared.

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

“It is all right,” God directly replied to Gideon. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.”

Gideon built an altar to God there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “God is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer.

 Gideon was finally realized that he was called by God.  He was talking to the angel of God.   Although Gideon was mere a lowly ordinary man from the small clan without any special strength, power or influence, God came to call Gideon.   God initially told Gideons, “God with the strength you have, and rescue Israel.”   He humbly replied, and he neither had a strength to save the Israelites nor an influence to mobilize the entire Israel.   He humbly, authentically and honestly responded to God, and this made God pleased.   Gideon saw Gideon was ready for God’s grand plan of rescuing the Israel from the ruthless Midianites.   

 God has a plan for each of us, because He dearly loves us as the One and Only One Ever-Loving Father.   Sometimes we feel that God is not with us anymore by abandoning us.   Our enemy in our lives continuously oppresses, and our lives are full of pain.   Although we pray to God, nothing seems changed.  As days and months pass, we feel utterly helpless.   However, the pain and hardships are not random events getting into our lives, but they are a sign of God’s patience.    God patiently waits till we are truly ready before him with truly humility and absolute faith in God.   Yes, there has been and also will be unceasing temptations from our enemy, who whispers to our ears – taking off our eyes from God and following the easy and tangible temptations manufactured by our enemy.   Please let’s resist the temptations, and continue fixing our eyes on Our Lord, while humbly putting us down before God as Gideon did.   This truly pleases God.  Only when we are truly humble in faith before God, God uses us for His glorious plan.  Let’s not forget God’s promise, “I will be with you.”   Our God, the creator of the entire universe, is always with us whether we are in doubt, in faith, in pain, or in joy.   Thanks to God, whose love toward us endures forever.   Praise Our God, Ever-Loving Father to all His children!

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Stand Firm with the Sword of God's Word for Victory!

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

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:9)

Gideon was suffering like other Israelites under the oppression of Mediates.  The Mediates overpowered the Israelites, and took sheep, ox, donkey, and devour the produce of the land.  They came like locusts in number, and they lay waste the land as they came in.   Israel was brought very low.   Why?  The Israelites sinned against God by worshipping idols.  God truly hates worshipping idols because God is our true Father.  If we worship and serve something other than our true Father with our heart, that is our idol.  We often don’t notice we really worship or serve our own idols until we lose them. 

If the loss makes us mad, especially at God, then it is a clear sign that we worship and serve an idol rather than our one and only one living God – our  ever-lasting Father.   Even while reading now, some of us might be angry and mad at God because we have lost what you love or don’t possess what we really desire to have.   Of course, it is painful when we lose what we really love or we cannot not possess what we really want to have.   However, our anger to God clearly tells what we really worship.

Nobody says it is easy to resist an anger.  It is really hard.  In fact, it might be practically impossible for us to overcome our anger by our own might and strength.   The temptation to own or not to lose what we like is our nature, and it is extremely strong.    Literally, all human beings ever lived have knelt down before such temptations.   For example, Jonah complained and was angry at God even after he experienced God’s mercy and His loving hand.  He even asked to kill him because he saw God’s mercy on the people in the city of Nineveh.  The hetaerism toward the people in the city of Nieveh was so strong that he wanted rather to die than to see God’s mercy on them.   Jonah knelt down before this temptation.    King David surrendered before the temptation, and he sinned.   Then he could not stop sinning to cover up his sin.   He plotted and killed Bathsheba’s husband to own her, who was the greatest temptation to King David.   Nobody is stronger than temptations presented by our enemy.   We all fail like Jonah, King David, and the people of Israel, who fell and served idols – the hetaerism in Jonah’s heart, the strong desire to own Bathsheba, and the desperate search for getting a comfort from another god.  However, through the power of Holy Spirit, we can overcome this fundamental limitation of ourselves being tempted by our own justice in our heart, what we really like to own, and an effort to search for peace and comfort from something other than our God, the ever-loving Father.  Here is God’s Word:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  (Romans 8:26)

In reality, when we really stuck with something that blocks us, and it remains stubbornly with us after prayers and prayers, our prayers tend to be already dries out.  After payers after prayer, there has been no answer from God.   All our time devoted to our prayers seem nothing.   In the meantime, we tried all options, but nothing has been changed.   We certainly fee that nothing we can do.  We are simply stuck.  One corner of our heart tells that t is the time that we need to pour out our fervent prayers, but no more strength left to pray to God.  

It is not uncommon for us to experience this low point in our life.   Then what can we do?    The answer is God’s word.   We are completely exhausted.   Even prayers of ours have been dried out because all of the prayers didn’t change anything at all although we are in a desperate situation.   God’s word tells that even this situation, our helper is in our heart, who is the Holy Spirit.  He is not just sitting in our heart, but He intercedes for us.   Not just a simple prayer, but the prayers with groaning, which are so deep that no humanly language can even describe.   This is the promise that God has given to each of us in His love.   When we get to an extremely low point, please read and recite the above God’s word.  Yes, all things brought down to really low in spite of our so many prayers.  Now there is no strength to spare to pray.   But continue reciting the word in our heart again and again, we will experience the power of God’s word that restores our soul and heart in Him through the power of the Holy Spirit who intercedes us with inexpressible grownings.   Certainly, our enemy is strong, but our God is stronger.    Before God’s word, our enemy becomes powerless despite of his effort to cling to us as long as possible.  This is the power of God’s word.   

“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Ephesians 6:17)

Those who have an experience of using this most powerful weapon knows how powerful the word of God is.  Don’t try to fight by our own might, strength or even our own faith.   If so, the outcome is so sure, which is our total defeat.  Thus, don’t even expect to win the spiritual battle.  Can a solider fight against his/her enemy without a weapon?  It is suicidal.   Even so, many people have felt that they have strength to fight against our enemy.    Then again and again they were miserably defeated, while being publically disgraced and a shame to our entire Christians.   (Some of us still remembers big names in our Christianity.  They failed miserably by knelling down by giving themselves to temptation.   They became a huge obstacle to those who tried to come to Jesus, and failing many believers also.   Please don’t try to fight without God’s word, which is the weapon that allows for us to fight and win against our enemy.)   

  “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”  (Luke 4:13)

Our enemy, the devil, tempted Jesus Christ for forty days with all kinds of temptations, but the devil failed.   However, it was not the end.   The devil left Jesus, not forever, who left Jesus till the next opportunity came.   This is the true picture about our life on earth -- a constant battle between us and our enemy, the devil.   Again, what is the weapon to fight against our enemy?   There is only one -- God’s word.   Jesus Christ fought against the enemy with the exactly same weapon – God’s word.  Even for Jesus, it was the most favorable weapon and, as matter of fact, was only one weapon that Jesus used to fight against the devil when he was really weak and exhausted after His forty days of fasting.  Therefore, the paramount importance of God’s word cannot be emphasized enough.  God’s word.  That we need when we are spiritually weak and completely exhausted.   What is the best way to use God’s word.   The best approach is to have God’s word always.  This means putting God’s word in our brain, i.e., memorizing God’s word.   We highly and highly recommend to memorize God’s word so that we can use anytime and anyplace, and immediately against all temptations whether we are being enticed to worship our own idol covertly, or becoming angry to God because we have lost what we love most or we cannot have what dearly want to possess, or we are tempted by earthly pleasures.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

The first thing is to pray to God, not by our own might, but by the power of Holy Spirit in our heart.  As we talked about above, when we are in a real heavy attack of our enemy, more often than not, many of us have already experienced before:  it is really difficult (or almost impossible) for us to pray to God.  We are already worn out, and spiritually extremely weakened by the attacks from our enemy.   Then what we should do is rather than relying on our own spiritual strength, but using God’s word.  We need to continuously read, recite or believe in God’s word, and also make an intensive effort to carefully listening to the Holy Spirit who resides in our heart.  Sometimes, it is so subtle, but it is overwhelm powerful when we correctly tuned to the voice.   Those who believe in Jesus Christ as savior have already received Holy Spirit.   This is the promise given to us by Jesus:

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. (John 14:15-17)

Therefore, we can stand firm with our faith against all flaming attacks from our enemy, and fight back with God’s word.    Let’s also encourage each other, and remind that for we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.   (Ephesians 6:12)  The battle is not against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers of the unseen world, often manifested as our own self and self-desires, of which we are essentially blind.  

Here is what we ought to support each other and watch out together as brothers and sisters of one family in one faith, one God, and one Lord:   put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  (Ephesians 6:13-18)