Sunday, May 29, 2016

Troubles, Disaster, and Prayer

Good morning!

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

And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. (2 Kings 19:15-16)

Hezekiah was a king of Judah with faith.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He followed God wholeheartedly. He smashed the scared stones, and cut down Asherah poles that people worshiped.  He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, which became an idol. The Israelites had been burning incense to it.  

He held fast to God and did not stop following him; he kept the commands God  had given through Moses.  The Bible recorded “There was no one like him among all the king of Judah, either before him and after him.” (2 King 18:5)  God was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.

The fourteenth year of his regime, Sennacherib king of Assyria invaded all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.   So Hezekiah king had to send a message in humiliation: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.”   The Assyrian King demanded three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.  Thus, Hezekiah gave all the silver found in the temple of God, and in the treasuries of the royal palace.   He also stripped off the gold from the doors, doorposts of the temple of God.   What a pain and humiliation!

However, the Assyrian king did not stop.  He sent his troop again and pressured on Hezekiah and his people.  For this time, the Assyrians called on the God wrongfully.  Even they justified their invasion by telling: “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD?  The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.”  

Hezekiah and his officials begged not to speak in Hebrew because ordinary Hebrew people could not understand Aramaic.   The Assyrians did not hear, and called out loudly in Hebrew: “Do not listen to Hezekiah.”  Not just once.  They repeated in Hebrew.   Hezekiah and his official tore their clothes, and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord to pray to God.  God answered the prayer.  God sent Prophet Isaiah, and told “Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country,” 

The Assyrian army left as told by God.  Hezekiah and his people could have peace again, and they could have thought that it would be no more Assyrian’s terrifying and humiliating invasion.   However, it was not the case.   Soon Sennacherib the Assyrian King sent a letter to Hezekiah.  In the letter, Sennacherib told that Jerusalem would be given in to the hands of the king of Assyria, and would be completely destroyed as he did to other countries. 

Upon reception of the letter, Hezekiah could not stand.  He went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.   And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

“Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.   Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.   It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.   Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” (2 Kings 19:15-19)

Hezekiah was in real distress. In his distress, he came to God, and humbly bowed down before God.   He spread out the Assyrian King’s letter, and prayed.   He prayed first by confessing his faith in God – the creator of heaven and earth.  Then with his heartbreaking pain, he carefully presented the blaspheming words of Sennacherib.  He honestly shared his fear about the Assyrian King: “Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them.”  Even so, Hezekiah clearly declared that those gods destroyed by the Assyrian king were mere creation of human hands.   He, then, called on God by asking His deliverance with the mighty hand of God, One and Only True God.   Although Hezekiah was experiencing the insurmountable difficulty, he was able to see the end.  God would deliver him and his people, and “all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.”

Upon Hezekiah’s faithful and authentic prayer, God answered.  That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.  Sennacherib king of Assyria withdrew and returned to Nineveh.  While he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him.

God has never stopped caring His people.  He always and carefully listens prayers of His people.  Sometimes, we confront at unexpected hardship and trail, but at the end, surely we will know. God will deliver us, and God’s name will be glorified.  As Hezekiah and his people did, we need to faithfully cling to God, and prayed even under the situation that they could not understand why painful things are happening to us.   Yes, God is always faithful, and His mercy, grace and love will be with us forever.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  (Hebrews 11:6-7)

God appeared to Noah, and told him, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  Make yourself an ark as I instruct to you.”   Upon hearing of God, he started building an ark in the middle of a dry land against a common wisdom.   It must have been very difficult to him.  Many of his friends and relatives came and tried to persuade Noah to stop his craziness of building the ark.  However, Noah was persistent with faith. He believed God’s warning against events as yet unseen.  He followed the God’s instruction with faith while demonstrating his absolute obedience to God.   So Bible recorded “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22)  Faith is the conviction of things not seen, and the substance that we hope for.  

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)

One day, God appeared to Abraham, and said to him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.”   Abraham left his country without knowing where he was going.   He just believed God and His promise: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”   So Abram went, as God had instructed him.  He was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.   Of course, there was no Internet, no Google search engine, no TV, nor a phone to call, to search or browse about the Promised Land.  But by faith, he went on.  

He made a long journey from Haran to the Promised Land (i.e., Canaan), which was about 500 miles (about 800 km).   The journey was not easy.  It was difficult and full of the unexpected and dangers.  He had to go through unknown foreign lands.  When he arrived at the Promised Land, he found that nothing was waiting for him.  Only was the promise of God what he had.  Even so, he was not deterred.  God saw his faith, and appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”  By faith, again he believed what was told by God.  So he built an alter to God and worshipped God.   What a faith!  

God did not stop there.  God continued testing and hardening Abraham’s faith.  Abraham did not let God down.  By faith Abraham offered up Isaac, although he was told by God, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”  In his heart, Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.   God stopped at the last moment, and saved Isaac.  For Abraham’s point, he effectively did receive his son back from the dead.   Abraham had never lost heart on the promise given by God – you will be the father of a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.  (Heb 11:12)  

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

Noah pleased God because he did all that God commanded by building a huge ark in the middle of a land despite of all kinds of ridicules and persuasions from his friends and relatives.  Abraham pleased God by believing the promise of God even though he was able to neither see nor touch the promise.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is the reality of what we are hoping for, and the proof of what we do not see.   Through faith, we can see what cannot be seen by our own eyes.   We assure the existence of what cannot see.   By faith, our heart is fully convinced the very substance of what we cannot touch.   In faith, we experience true freedom, which is not bounded by what we see and touch.   With faith, we overcome the world.  This is the victory of faith.   Therefore, God is not ashamed of being called our God.  The world is not worthy of us, because we have already overcome the world by faith.  Through faith, we completely assure our victory in Him.  Praise the Lord!  This is the secret and the power given to all those who are faithful in Him.   We are more than conqueror.  This truth has been proved again and again in our lives.  Hallelujah!  His name will be praised from now and forever.

Let’s pray together.   Oh, God, please give us true faith so that we can continue our journey although we don’t see what we want to see as Abraham did.   Please give us strength in you to overcome all kinds of obstacles and disapproval of those who are around us as Noah did.   We want to receive the same approval of Abraham and Noah from you.  We really like to please you as Noah and Abraham did.   We humbly bow down and ask your loving and merciful hands on us so that we continue to be faithful in time of sorrow and laughter, joy and pain, failure and success by just fixing our eyes on Jesus on cross. 

And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
  

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Faith, Patience, and Obedience

Good morning!
 
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  (Hebrews 11:30)
 
Following the promise of God, the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter Canaan, the Promised Land.   As soon as they cross the river, they had to confront with Jericho.  Jericho was strong with its king and mighty men of valor.   It was completely shut up inside and outside.   Jericho was strong and well-defended.  
 
And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”  (Joshua 6:2-5)
 
God, full of grace and mercy, came to Joshua, who was leading the Israelites puzzling about how to overcome the strongly defended Jericho.   God told “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.”   That is, God did not say “I will give Jericho in your hand”, but He said “I have given Jericho into your hand.”   That means Jericho was already given to the Israelites by the omnipotent and omniscient God, not just a promise that will happen in future.   Of course, with physical eyes, the Israelites could see the victory because the event did not happen yet.
 
Through faith, Joshua called the priests first, and said to them, “Take up the Ark of the Covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord.”   Then he said to the Israelites, “Go forward. March around the city.”
 
By faith, Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.  And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually.  Then they returned to their camp on the first day.   And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. For six days, they didn’t do anything except what was commanded by God. 
 
The people in Jericho looked out what the Israelites did for the last six days, who just circled Jericho once a day, while blowing trumpets with their ark.  Of course, nothing had happened.   It was a really strange daily scene to the people in the Jericho.   For the Israel people, it was a period of testing their faith.   Circling around Jericho was risky because there was always a danger that the Jericho people broke out and attacked the Israelites who were not really prepared for a battle with the people of Jericho.   As day goes by, the people of Israel felt the danger escalating daily rather than subsiding.  However, the people of Jericho were awfully quite, and the Israelites could circle the city without any incidences.   Despite of fear and uncertainty, they faithfully followed what was told by God.
 
On the seventh day, in the same manner, the Israelites got up early in the morning and marched around the city.  However, on that day they circled the city seven times.  The seventh time around, following the command of God, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout!”   All of the Israelites shouted in one voice.  The wall of Jericho collapsed.  The wall was destroyed before the Israelites, not by the Israelites, but by God.  
 
God patiently watched over the Israelites, who were faithfully following God’s command. The Israelites could not see one single sign of progress toward what they were told, but they exactly followed God’s command not just one day for six days.   Even so, at the end of sixth day, nothing happened.  Many of them thought why the seventh day would be different because they did not see any change for the last six days.   In reality, behind the scene, God was patiently waiting for Israelite to obediently complete the seventh day in faith.  Yes, they actually did, and God rejoiced because of the Israelites’ absolute obedience.  Then God answered: making the strong wall of Jericho miraculously collapsed.  This was the power of God, and only was it possible through the absolute obedience to God with true and steadfast faith.  
 
God is always carefully and patiently watching over us.  Why?  He wants to give our victory in faith.   As God told to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand,” God has already given victory into our hand.   What we need is claim this victory with faith.
 
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
  Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
  and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy,
  for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
  and He will trample down our enemies.  (Psalm 60:9-12)


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.

Good morning!

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

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

Elijah the prophet served God in 9th century BC.  While Ahab was the king of Israel,   there was a severe famine.  Ahab sent out people to go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys.  The search team spotted Elijah, and brought him to Ahab.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father's house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.” (1 King 18:17-19)

Ahab called Elijah a troublemaker.  Then Elijah answered “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baal.”   Elijah challenged Ahab to gather all Israel at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah.   

When all Israel gathered at Mount Carmel, Elijah directly asked the Israel people, "How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!"  (1 King 18:21)  But the people were completely silent.  How sad Elijah was!   The people were totally confused, and could not tell between the true God – the LORD and Baal, an idol, which is a mere object of human creation.  

Driven by God, Elijah asked to bring two bulls: one for Baal, and the other for the God.  Then he challenged the 450 Baal’s prophet to call their god to bring fire on their bull.  They called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!”   But there was no answer.   Elijah questioned the Baal’s prophets why there was no sign from their god.  Throughout the afternoon, the prophets cried out louder while performing their rituals even cutting themselves.   There was no sound, no answer, and no response.   

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord.  (1 Kings 18:30-32)

Elijah, then, made a trench around the altar, and asked pouring four jars’ water on the altar, the bull and the wood on the altar.   Not just once, twice and three times.   The water flowed down all sides of the altar and filled the trench.   

And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”  (1 Kings 18:36-37)

After his prayer, fire from the LORD fell from the sky.  It consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, and the dirt, and licked up the water in the trench.  What a scene it was!   When all the people saw this, they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and said, “The Lord is the true God! The Lord is the true God!”  (1 King 18:39)  Now, the people could see that the LORD is the true God.  

Elijah ordered to seize the false prophets of Baal, and the people seized them.  All of the false prophets were killed.  Then Elijah told Ahab, “Go on up and eat and drink, for the sound of a heavy rainstorm can be heard.”   Elijah prayed, and God answered.  God opened the heaven, and gave the precious rain to the people of Israel. 

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, but when Elijah earnestly prayed to God, God answered by sending fire from heaven and setting fire on the altar flooded with water.  The fire also licked up the water in the trench around the altar.  Through prayer, Elijah could prove the 450 Baal’s prophets were false prophets, and made the Israelites turn back to God.   After the victory, he prayed for rain, God also open up heaven, and watered the land suffering from the three year’s drought.  

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  (Matthew 7:7-8)
  
Our Heavenly Father loves to hear our prayers.  He wants for us to seek through prayer.   He patiently waits for our knocking prayer because He is ready for us in order to give the best that He has already prepared for us.   Pray earnestly with faith and experience God, Our Loving Father. 

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help?

Good morning!

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

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.  (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Habakkuk, one of the prophets of God, saw injustice, which prevailed around him:   God’s people were suffering from oppressions inflicted by those who did not know God.   He and those who were faithful earnestly prayed, but those oppressions did not diminish.   The hard life continued with him and the people of Judah.   He, himself as a prophet, was getting frustrated.  Finally, he opened his mouth and questioned -- “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?”   Then Habakkuk continued listing what he saw:  violence, iniquity, destruction, lawlessness, and perversion.   His heart, who had been faithful to God, started being clouded by what he saw.  He could not stop crying out to God.   His doubt was slowly creeping into his heart, and undermined his absolute trust in God.  One portion of his heart started questioning about God Himself: 

 “Are you not from everlasting,
    O LORD my God, my Holy one? …
“Why do you idly look at traitors
    and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
    the man more righteous than he?”  …
Is he then to keep on emptying his net
    and mercilessly killing nations forever?”  (Habakkuk 1:12a, 13b, 17)  

Habakkuk could not believe let his God, the Holy one happen what he saw.  He asked why God remained silent especially when the wicked one swallowed up those who were more righteous than him.   Not just once, this injustice seemed continuing without any sing of ending.   Like a fisherman, who used a dragnet, the wicked gathered everything on his path, dragged to shore, emptied the net, and went back to continue gathering whatever he could collect.   The wicked did for pleasure while the righteous were suffering.  For his eyes, this vicious act seemed never ending.  

Upon Habakkuk’s prayer, God answered:

Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.
Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
    but the righteous shall live by his faith.  (Habakkuk 2:2-4) 

Although in our eyes, there is no justice and God seems indifferent to the righteous suffering.   God says that His righteousness and His mercy will not delay, and will come on its appointed time.   It seems slow, but it is not.  It will surely come; it will not delay.  And God says that the righteous shall live by his faith, not by what he sees, what he hears, or what he touches.  Our God is greater than anything else.  He is not indifferent to the faithful, and He carefully watches over the faithful because the faithful (i.e., we) are precious in His eyes. 

Habakkuk concludes the book of Habakkuk by declaring about God:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This is Habakkuk’s victory song.  He looked around, and he saw: the fig tree did not bud, and no grapes on the vines.  The olive did not produce, and no crops in the field.  The sheep disappeared from the pen, and no cattle in the stalls.   But through faith, he could see through God’s hand behind the scene ready for action.  Then he rejoiced in the Lord, and he was happy because God delivered him.  Then he sang and praised “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” 

Praise the God!  The righteous will live by faith, not by sight.  We will rejoice in God.  We will be happy because of the Lord who delivers us.   We are so precious to Him.  He purchased the blood of Jesus Christ to make us His children.  The One, who is the creator of the word, the omnipotent, and omniscient God, watches over every step of our lives.  Hallelujah!  His name will be glorified ever and forever.   We take our refuge in Him, and He will protect against harms and guide us in the paths of His righteousness till we see Him face to face in our Eternal Home.  He is One and Only One God!   Sing praise His name with our eternally joyful voice!  He is our ever-loving God.


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