Sunday, September 16, 2018

Faith -- God Always Hears Us.

Good morning!

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

But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer. (Psalm 66:19)

God always hears a voice of His people.   

A new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are.  We must plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”

So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.  But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. Why? Because God was with the Israel people. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy.  They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God.  God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

God heard the voice of the Israelites, and in His mercy, God sent ten plagues to the Egyptians, and freed up the Israelites.   The day of being freed was the day of true celebration.   The Israelites was under the bondage of slavery for four hundred years.   Generation after generation, they waited and waited for God.  Finally, their freedom came through the mighty power of God.   They left the Egyptian land, which was tightly intertwined with their sorrows, pains and misery because there were salves for generations.  

However, soon Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked.  So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops.  He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander.  God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to God, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”    The people of Israel were freed by the power of God, but their faith in God was weak and so fragile.  They could not endure anything in faith.   Their mouths were quick to complain to God. 

But Moses, who was always faithful to God, told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch God rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.  God himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”   Moses comforted the Israelites terribly stirred by the Egyptian army chasing them.

Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them.  The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.  Yes, God protected the Israelites.

Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and God opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land.  So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!

When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that was unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. They put their faith in God and in his servant Moses.  Then they were full of joy, and praised God with songs and dances.    It was the most joyous time for the Israelites for the last four hundred years.   They even saw the corpses of the Egyptian army floating, who were the source of fear.  The Egyptians were getting closer and closer, and were about to take over and kill the Israelites with the swords in the hands.    

After experiencing the God’s miracle and His power hands, they moved out into the desert of Shur while praising God with song in their mouths.   They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water.   They were really thirsty, and they felt they were dying from thirst.  Then they show an oasis, and with hope, they ran into the oasis of Marah.  However, the water was too bitter to drink.   They were truly disappointed.   In anger and disappointment, the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.  

They experienced the biggest miracle ever, and put their complete faith in God.   However, only three days later, when they became thirsty, they directly complained to God.   The greatest miracle saving their lives before the edges of swords of the Egyptian could not endure before the three days of thirst!   They believed God because of the miracles and His mighty hand.  As time goes by, the memory of the miracle faded with their excitement.  So did their faiths.  

A faith based on miracle only lasts as the miracle is remembered.   Then how long the miracle was remembered?   By the Israelites, the greatest miracle in history could last only three days!   Even the greatest miracle could not last even a week or a month, when their mouths became thirst in the middle of wilderness, where they quickly concluded with their own reasoning that there was no way to get enough water in the middle of wilderness to satisfy the millions of the Israelites.   The merciful God forgave the unfaithfulness of the Israelites along with their harshly complaints to God.  

This was not the last occasion that they complained to God.   They continued complaining to God whenever there was an opportunity, but God was patient and forgave them.   Finally, they arrived at the Promised Land by God’s hand.   What was the first thing they did?   They sent spies, and they reported the impossibility that was observed by their own eyes – the giants, the strong people, the fortified cities and walls.   Then they made their own conclusion and did not believe God’s promise.   They totally forgot the miracles that God had done for them – the ten plagues on the Egyptians, the cloud and fire pillars protected from the Egyptian armies, the Red Sea parted by the mighty hand of God so that they could walk on dry land into the Red Sea, the corpses of the Egyptian armies floating on the Red Sea, the bitter water turned into a sweet water, and many other miracles, such as manna, and finally the Promised Land that they saw and was promised generations ago.   Even with the goodness of God along with the miracle and His faithfulness and patience, they could not believe God and His promise.   They rejected God’s promise and refused to go into the Promised Land.    God was truly patient with the stiff-necked people, and at the end, they rejected God’s promise only because they figured out that it was impossible in their eyes.  God had to send back the Israelites to the wilderness for the next thirty-nine years till the unbelieving generation perished, and a new generation of Israelites replaced the old generation.   Then God brought back the new generation to inherit the Promised Land as God promised. 

Yes, God is truly patient and always faithful to God.   God provides His early and latter rain for his people with all kinds of goodness and miracles.   (Our faith in God itself is the biggest miracle in our lives.)   However, our stiff-necked heart is always trying to resist and against God because we know how the world works --- which one work and makes sense, and which one does not work without producing anything, and which one is painful, and which one is not, on and on.    However, God has a greater plan for us – His Promised Land for each one of us.    Fix our eyes on Jesus, and walk into the Promised Land.   Yes, our eyes might see impossibility -- giants, strong people, fortified cities and walls reaching to heaven, but this is the time to hold on tight to Him in faith because the battle is not for us, but God.   This is our faith, and what God wants.  

Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.   (Joel 2:23)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Faith -- My Plan Is To Give You Victory (2)

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

For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Joshua had experienced his failure and sins, which were caused by his own self and ego.   These came to him right after a huge victory, but he did not know, and he failed.   Even during his failure, God was always with him and watche

d over him.  Yes, Joshua suffered, but this was not the end of the story.   God comforted, and  the might hand of God always surrounded  and protected Joshua in the mist of his troubling period.   The goal was not to punish Joshua, but to make Joshua even stronger in faith before God.    In fact, God had a grand plan for Joshua.   It was a part of God’s plan -- letting Joshua experience the failure and the true nature of his ego, which could be bigger than God.   At that time, nobody could match Joshua’s faith, but Joshua failed miserably.   After two big falls inflicted, which was inflicted by himself, Joshua clearly realized the power of his own ego, its sinfulness, and its consequences.   

We all know that Joshua’s huge victory over Jericho was actually given by God.    Yes, Joshua hardly fought against Jericho.  He just circled the Jericho wall for seven days, and shouted and blew the horns in faith.  Then God Himself fought for Joshua and the Israelites.    However, after the huge victory, the faithful Joshua was deceived by himself.   Right after the huge victory, he looked at Ali.   it was much smaller than Jericho.  It looked so easy to take over.  Then without knowing what he was doing, he made a plan by himself how to attack Ai without asking God.  It was the beginning of his fall.  

It must be very difficult for Joshua to ask God first after the huge victory.   Why?  Let’s ask to ourselves.   We think we know, and we want to steer away our own life.   That is, we want to be our own boss, and make our own decision.   In reality, this process actually make us a slave to our own ego and pride, which demands more and more till we are completely exhausted.   On the other hand, being a slave to God actually liberates from falling, failing and sinning before God because we are in His infinitely good hands.    How subtle is the temptation of being our own master?    Joshua, such a faithful person, had failed twice.  Then how vulnerable are we?   

Our failure is God’s opportunity.   In His unfathomable love, God is patiently working hidden behind the scene.   Like a parent who dearly loves, when absolutely needed, God carefully let His children go through falls and failures for us to feel the pains and the terrible after-taste of sins.    God never allows for His children to be completely destroyed, which is not His purpose.   Though the falls and failures, God continue leading us to grow into Him and increase our faith.   Bible tells us, “And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  (1 Corinthian 10:13b).    Yes, God always provides a way out so that we can endure so that we can go through our pains, sins, falls and failures.    Then why we cannot see His hand in the mist of the pains and falls?     When we need most, God seems not there.   A formidable storm hits so hard that everything that we have including relationship, possession, even faith is failing and falling off, but God seems not there and He seems not care.   No, it is not true.  God, who is infinitely good, never has done this to us.  It is just our feeling, and the voice of our own fresh which is in pure desperation, being grinded by God’s mighty hand in order to be shaped properly, and ready and upright before God.   

Then why do we fall ?    Because we were higher than we supposed to be.   If not, no way to fall because we are already at a safe place where we supposedly be or at the bottom.  However, we are fall, and fall again and again in our lives.  This vicious cycle tells the truth that we are at the place that we should not be.  Also our repetitive falls makes us feel miserable.   

However, the first thing that we want to remember is that we should not feel miserable.  Every fall in our lives leads to God, and which in turn make us learn more about God and experience Him.   This is the real truth about our fall behind the scene.  Sure.  At the time of fall, we feel miserable and even desperate.   Don’t be discouraged because God is behind the scene for us.  Thus, we should not be despaired nor disappointed.   Feeling miserable is the first step.    That is an essential ingredient.  If we don’t feel miserable at our fall, then it is a really serious problem.  There is no hope to see God in the misery.  Thus, when we feel miserable, please remember God, who works behind the scene, and give thanks to God for Him to be there with us.   Ironically, it is true that if we don’t fall, we don’t learn.    Our miserable pain is the very power that makes us swim against our nature made of fresh and ego. 

We also need to grow more in God.   A baby does not grow at all is the biggest pain to a parent.   God dearly wants our growth in faith.  We know now no pain, no grow.   If so, in order to grow, we fall in an increasing degree of the pain.    Let say, if we take a same 1st grade’ exam again and again, it is so easy that we will always get 100% mark.   Then the exam is not an exam anymore.   We know exactly what will be asked, and we know exactly how to answer to get 100% mark.   As we all know, exams of the 2nd grade are harder than the exams prepared for 1st graders.   The 3rd grade’s exams are more difficult then those of the 2nd grade.    The 4th grade’s exams are even more difficult, and so on.   Yes, the exams are getting harder as we are getting into a higher grade.   As a result, for students for each grade, exams are always difficult.   This simple observation gives a great insight about how  our God, the Ever-Loving Father works on us to grow in Him.   Our falls are more severe and more painful as we grow in Him.   Let’s remember that our fall is that:
1.      God let us to go into our fall so that God can use it to make us know more about God and go into a deeper relationship with God.
2.      The specific fall is that God has specially designed for us.  Additionally, it is harder and more difficult than anything that we had experienced before.

Mysteriously, our fall is a part of God plan for us to learn and grow in faith.   In need, we inflicted our fall, but God uses it to fulfill His good plan for us.   Our fall and associated pain is not a punishment, but God’s love toward for us.     

Then how to respond to our failure and pain?    Rejoice because it is the very moment that God can freely mold us without any hindrance.    At the fall, we are scared.   Our Ego immediately ran away to hide.  Our God’s loving hands are completely freed so that His hands can work on us by molding and transforming us.  Our painful heart is fully open to God.  This is the best time for God to build us following His plan.    What we dearly value most in our lives might be chipped away by His mighty chisel.   Our mouth might have to swallow a bitter pain.    We may be forced to embrace what we don’t like to embrace.  Yes, nothing is pleasant at that time.   Going thought it alone is literally impossible.  Nobody can endure by own self.  Here is a fantastic news.  This is the time that God’s love manifests most strongly.   God, who dearly loves, stretches His mighty and loving hand, and hold tight us so that we can go through the fall and pain.   Although it comes as a life storm,  we can sail through with Him with the power of the Holy Spirit.  

 If we fail, then please stop and resist our own response from our fresh and ego – making every effort to get out of the fall and pain by our own wisdom and might.    Instead,    
1.      Be still before God
2.      Fully and truly recognize God, who dearly loves us.
“Be still, and know that I am God”  (Psalm 46:10a)

Is it easy to be still, and fully and truly recognize God especially when we are in a life storm?   No.   Absolutely not.   We love to be at the helm of our own life small ship in a huge storm to continue steering away from the storm.  On the contrary, in fact, we are getting deeper into the storm, although we might temporarily feel opposite.  This is the time that releasing absolutely everything in our life to God.  This is the first step.   Then fix our eyes on Him in faith, and trust God, who is infinitely good.  Our fall, failure, pain, disaster, hardship is so severe that there is no word to explain at that time, but God’s love is surer and always.   Why?   We are God’s beloved children.  God will never give up His own children.   God’s unfathomably strong love was already demonstrated at the cross where He scarified Jesus Christ, the only son, for us.   This is the reason why we can rejoice in our fall, failure, pain, desperation and our formidable life storm.   This is the triumphant moment in our lives in faith.  It is, in turn, the unforgettable moment that we have just received our passing grade before God, which God dearly wants for us to have.   

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Plan Is To Give You Victory.

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

For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Joshua had a unique faith that pleased God, and he was able to come back to the Promised Land.   The entire generation, who left the Egypt and walked on dry land through the Red Sea, perished due to their unbelief.   They saw the promised land, but they believed the report of the ten spies who told an impossibility of getting into the land due to the strong people and the terrifying giants in the land rather than God’s promise made generations before.   We easily say why they did not believe the God’s promise?   They saw God’s hand and experience many miracles including parting the Red Sea.   They were able to see the dead bodies of the Egyptian armies floating near the shoreline.   The Egyptian armies were drowned while testing God’s hand.  Why couldn’t they believe?    Did they did not trust God and His promise?  No. They did.    When an impossibility came, they could not resist and give in.   Only believed Joshua and Caleb.   By the way, what is the impossibility? It was originated from the minds of the Israelites.   That was the fear only existed in the hearts of the Israelites despite of God’s promise and His presence. 

Joshua was different.  His faith pleased God.   Even so, Joshua’s faith was not perfect.  He was too competent not to ask God before attacking Ai.    He was under a celebrative mood after the huge victory over Jericho, which was a big and completely fortified city surrounded by a strong wall reaching to the sky.   Ai was much smaller and weaker than Jericho.  Joshua sent spies, and the spies gave a report that matched with his assessment.   Based on his own judgement, Joshua sent a small number of Israel warriors.   Unexpectedly, they easily defeated by Ai.    It was a wakeup call.    Joshua suddenly realized that all things belonged to God, and his fault and sin not asking to God first.   He, then, humbled and asked God.  Before Joshua’s humility, God was able to guide and help Joshua and his armies.   Joshua could conquer Ai because God fought for them.   After this painful experience, Joshua felt that he learned enough.  He would not get into another trap of his own like this. 

Sadly, it was not the case.   Soon Joshua was visited by the Gibeonites.   The Gibeonites, who feared the Israelites, disguised themselves as if they had traveled far.   With flattering words, they presented dry loafs of bread, old wineskins, worn out clothing and sandals.    To the eyes of Joshua and his leaders, all made sense and logical.  Joshua and the Israelites carefully and thoroughly examined all evidences, but they did not consult God.  Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.   Three days after making the treaty, the Israelites reached the towns of Gibeonites.   Then Joshua and his people realized that they were deceived.    Joshua again experienced the consequence of not asking God first.  For this time, the people of Israel grumbled against Joshua and his leaders because of the treaty made out of the deception.   God allowed Joshua to be publicly humiliated.    Joshua learned hard way. 

Why did God make Joshua fall into the traps that made by himself?   God dearly loved Joshua.  Especially, Joshua’s unique faith pleased God.   In fact, God had a grand plan for Joshua, but Joshua was not fully qualified for the God’s grand plan.    God saw the potential of Joshua, and God let Joshua go through faith lessons specifically designed for Joshua.   The goal was neither to make Joshua disappointed nor  to be humiliated, but to have Joshua to acquire the faith that needed for God’s plan.    God’s plan was grandiose and Joshua was also truly great.    After the two painful failures in a row before God and his own people, Joshua got it.    Joshua knew who God was and what God actually would do:  God was infinitely loving and faithful, and He kept His promise no matter what happened.    When the entire generation of the exodus from Egypt was unfit for His promise,  God raised another generation who could possess the Promised Land as promised by God long before.  When Joshua was not fully prepared, God gave him chances to learn through trainings that God specifically prepared for Joshua.   Yes, Joshua was heartbroken before the dead warriors killed by Ai and he was publicly humilated before the entire people, who was much younger than him because the entire new generation of the Israelites was born in the wilderness.  

A failure in our lives is painful.   We powerlessly observe our lives falling off, as it comes into our lives.  We try to avoid it, but in fact, it is not avoidable because it is the very consequences of our failure.   As the pain increases, we desperately pray to God and ask prayers, but nothing changes.  Why?   God dearly loves us.   He wants for us to learn, understand and grow in Him.   We have talked about the impossibility confronted by the Israelites when they tried to enter the Promised Land.   Let’s question about the true nature of the impossibility.   Was it really impossible?    The answer was “yes”  as far as the Israelites concerned.   Why did they think that it was impossible?   Their assumption was to use their own strength to defeat the strong people living in fortified cities surrounded by immense walls, and the terrifying giants.   The generation of unbelief, thus, had to perish with the unbelief in the wilderness.    Forty years later, God brought a new generation, and proved that it was not impossible.    Joshua and the new generation of Israelites believed God’s promised, and they entered the Promised Land in faith.   There was no evidence that the new generation was stronger and more skillful at a battle than the old generation perished.    The military strengths of both generations must have been essentially equal.   Then what’s the difference to make them boldly go into the Promised Land.   Only was the difference whether believing God’s promise or not under an impossibility.     As matter of fact, God fought for the Israelites.   As we know, the first battle against Jericho did not require any military tactics nor strength.   They just followed God’s command while circling around the wall of Jericho for seven day in their absolute faith.   It was sufficient.    The strong wall fell at the sound of the Israelites shouting in faith.   Jericho without the protection of the strong wall was literally nothing.  They were in confusion and chaos, who  were completely destroyed by the unskilled and untrained bunch of the decedents of the Ex-slave.

Is there nn impossibility in our lives?   No.  The impossibility only lives in our distorted minds and heart as fear, which are manufactured by our own eyes and thoughts.  Before God, our impossibility is not an impossibility at all.     “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37) 

Then why, when we pray and even cry out before God, nothing is changed?  Pains and difficulty in our lives continue.  In fact, our life pains are actually specifically designed and prepared by God for each one of us, who are God’s dearly beloved children.   We all believe that God provide the best for His beloved children.   However, it is very difficult to hold on our belief especially  when God’s love is expressed as pains and storms in our lives.   Our natural and usual reaction, of course, is to cry out to God with prayer to remove the hardship and eliminate pains and calm storms.    Yes, God carefully hears our prayer especially as we are in a life pain like an earthly parent who keenly pay attention to children’s cry, and provides a care and comfort.    However, if our children just cry out for pains only while sitting still without growing, then the crying baby become our pain as a parent.   Why do we sometimes introduce pain to our children?   Do we do randomly?   No, we carefully plan with love, and give to our children because we know they could overcome and grow out of the pain.  are they in pain?    We know it is a necessary step needed for our children to grow properly.   The relationship between us and God is not must different.    Yes, God hears our pray out of our pain.    However, if we just pray to remove our pain and simply wait for removal of the pain, then how much will this cause a pain in God’s heart?     God wants for us to grow out of pain because it is the best way to grow in God, and God has specially and specifically prepared for each of us.    What God truly wants is our deeper experience and understanding of Him and His promise in faith with a deepening relationship with Him.    God is our ever-loving Father.   Hope in Him while experiencing our life pain, failure, difficulty in faith.   In Bible, Job was faithful, but he lost his children, his wife, his wealth and his own health.   He expressed his faith, “And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!” (Job 19:26)   This is Job’s triumphant claim over his life pain.  He could endure, which made God pleased.   This is our faith in Him:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  (Romans 8:28)

Here is what Jesus told to His disciples and us:

 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”  (Luke 11:11)

Therefore,  what should we do when we confront with our life pain, disappointment, hardship, and failure?   We need to give thanks to God for His provision of the best although our eyes cannot see and our mind tells the other way due to the pain.   Surely, He knows pains, but He patiently waits for us to grow in Him.  This is our faith, and our praise to God in our life pain.  This is the most precious before God’s eyes and for us.  

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Faith -- Believing God And His Promise Against Impossibility!

Good morning!

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

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrew 11:1)

Joshua was faithful, and heard God first before relying on his own thought, experiences and wisdom.   How is difficult for us not to rely on our knowledge, wisdom and experiences, but God?   Yes, it is very difficult because God is not visible.    However, this is the faith that we believe our God, and hope in Him, who is invisible.  Joshua had a uniquely qualifying faith that pleased God, which the other ten spies did not have.   

Shortly after crossing the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites were able to get to the Promised Land.   God said to Moses, “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”   So Moses did as God commanded him.  He sent out twelve spies chosen from all twelve tribes of Israel.   After exploring the land for forty days, the twelve spies returned and gave reports.   “It is indeed a bountiful country – a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.  But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!” (Numbers 13:27b-29) 

Soon there was a commotion in the crowd.   The people started looked each other.   They could not believe what they heard.   The Promised Land was right before their eyes, but it was of no use because they could not get in.  The Promised Land was already occupied by the powerful people.  Their cities were fortified.   Especially there were the giant descendants of Anak, who were truly fearful and terrifying because all were destroyed by the giants.   Nobody ever defeated.    Practically speaking, it was a suicidal mission to get into the Promised Land.   They would not survive except being completely destroyed by the powerful people and the giants.   All of the hopes and their faith were shattered.  They confronted the harsh reality.   They were powerless, and the Promised Land was untouchable.   They hoped so long time, but it was a just dream.  The entire community was getting filled with confusion, despair and even anger instead of thanksgiving and praises.

However, Joshua and Caleb were different.   They were calm before the harsh reality.  Like the other ten spies, they saw the identical truth in the Promised Land, and they were surrounded by the despair and anger spewed out by the rest of the Israelites in confusion and disbelief.   Even so, they believed God and His promise.    Before the impossibility, they firmly trusted God.    They could not be silent anymore.   They quieted the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30b)

The rest of the ten spies sharply disagreed with their logical rationale.   The people chose the ten spies, and heard their voice instead of Joshua and Caleb.   Nothing could stop the angry crowd.  Then the entire Israelites together complained and protested against Moses and God, who promised the Promised Land.   Nobody tried to calm down and ask to God.   Instead they used their own eyes and eyes, and made a conclusion – the promise was false, and they should have not believed God’s promise anymore.  What a sad moment it was for the entire Israelites!    This made them return to the wilderness, and wandered till the entire unbelieving generation was perished in the wilderness.   In fact, nobody from the unbelieving and rebellious generation made to the promised land except Joshua and Caleb.   Those who got to the Promised Land was a completely new generation born after the unbelieving generation in the wilderness.  

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.  (Hebrew 11:6)

Joshua had a uniquely qualifying faith pleasing God.  He believed God’s promised despite of the impossibility that he confronted with.  Surely, fighting against the strong people who were protected by fortified walls and especially the terrifying giant Anakites was practically speaking suicidal.    Defeating all these people and the giants and occupying the Promised Land was unthinkable.   Who would think that the ex-slave Israelites would subdue the strong people and the terrifying giant Anakites in the Promised Land?   Only was Joshua’s faith in God the answer.  Joshua resisted and hold on tight His promise in faith.   Joshua’s faith transcended all understanding, and made him fix the hope in God while forcefully refusing all doubts in his heart.   Joshua completely trusted Him and believed His promise despite all signs against God’s promise.  

 After the big disappointment of not being able to get into the Promised Land, the entire Israelites wonders the wilderness.   However, Joshua’s faith had not been diminished.    He had never forgotten God’s promise, and he endured.   He waited and waited for God’s promise.  After more than thirty-nine years later, God allowed Joshua to return to the same place where he resisted the temptation of trusting his own eyes and joining the unbelieving majority.   For this time, the biggest difference was Joshua was the leader of the Israelites.   Joshua used to be just one of the twelve voice when being sent by Moses, and now Joshua was at the position to decide and lead the entire Israelites.    Joshua had never forgotten the unfaithfulness of the Israelites about the forty years ago at the same place, and the consequence – wondering and perishing in the wilderness.   Nobody survived except Joshua himself and Caleb, the two faithful spies who trusted God and His promise before the impossibility.

Joshua did not repeat the same mistake again – selecting spies not by faith but by the needs of the twelve tribes to represent each tribe.  Joshua sent only two spies, who truly believed God and His promise.   In fact, Joshua knew exactly the Promised Land because he spied for forty days before.   Thus, for Joshua, the spies’ mission was not exploring the promised land, but confirming God’s promise by the other faithful people’s eyes.   The two spies came down from the Promised Land, crossed the Jordan River, and reported to Joshua all that they saw and experienced.   “The LORD has given us the whole land,” they said, “for all the people in the land are terrified of us.” (Joshua 2:24)   What a different answer that they brought!   They saw the same land and the same people dwelling in the Promised Land.    The people living in the land were mighty and fortified with strong walls, and the terrifying giant Anakites were still there.   Even so, the spies’ report was completely opposite.   Why?    The first twelve spies could not see God’s plan in the midst of the harsh reality of the fortified cities, strong people, and the giants except Joshua and Caleb.   Before the reality, the majority ten spies’ faith was melted.  They could no longer believe God’s promise, which made the entire Israelites lose their faith in God.   The second two spies saw the same harsh reality, but they could come to a completely opposite conclusion: “God has given us the whole land, for all the people in the land are terrified of us.”   They saw the strong people dwelling in the Promised Land, who were protected by the fortified wall reaching to sky, but they were terrified.  Instead through the faith, they found the seemingly strong and invincible people were actually terrified of the Israelites.   On the contrarily, God had already made them terrified before the Israelites for His own beloved children.   

The situation did not change at all, but the spies could see God’s plan and His mighty hand before them.   

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?   (Romans 8:31)

Before God, who will stand?    Nobody.   If God is for us, nobody can against us.   We are continuously bombed by temptations, harsh reality, associated pains and disappointments in us.   Then we constantly adjust, respond and react to things approaching to us every moment.   We see and make a judgement, which is our natural mode of operations.   We all know without knowledge, making a decision is foolish.  However, even more foolish is we don’t believe God and His promise although we say we believe God every Sunday morning.   We all nod.  God is our Ever-Loving Father and the master of the universe.   However, we will know about our faith when there is a conflict between what we see and God and His promise.   

Joshua had a uniquely qualifying faith in Him before God.   In faith, Joshua resisted the temptation of believing what he saw – the strong people, the fortified cities and walls, and especially the terrifyingly giant Anakites.   He could have been terrified like the rest, but he firmly believed God and His promise.    Joshua completely trusted God although his eyes observed the completely different picture.  It was really difficult to speak against the major majority of ten spies giving the report filled with the full of rational reasons and logic and impossibility.   But he spoke out the God’s unchanging promise in faith against the impossibility before the entire people of Israel.

 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.  (Hebrews 11:29)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Faith -- God Fights For Us To Victory!

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

“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.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

God, who loves His children, is always with us, and carefully watching over everything happening in our lives.  

Joshua and the Israelites experienced the loving God many times.   However, their memory was short-lived and they were prone to forget.   Instead, their hearts were quickly filled up with what they wanted and valued most, and especially their own egos.  It was very hard to take off their egos so tightly clinging to them.    Intellectually knowing God was not enough.   Indeed, they had full of knowledge about the God, who freed them from the Egypt, made them walk on dry land through the Red Sea, provided manna in the middle of the wilderness for forty years, made them cross the Jordon river on foot during the harvest season when the water level was the highest, and gave them the huge victory over Jericho by just shouting to the invincible wall of Jericho in faith.    Even so, they repeatedly put themselves before God.   Joshua and his leaders made a treaty with the Gibeonites only by relying on their wisdom and doing their own diligence without asking God.   Where was God in their hearts?

Why not talking to God was a part of their doing diligence?   After all, they saw many miracles and experienced the numerous God’s mighty hands.   Many of us would say even one single miracle of God will guarantee: we will never forget God throughout the rest of our lives.  Always will we be faithful to God no matter what will happens in future.  It seems a really logical statement.   Does it?  

At least, we know that Joshua failed, who was so faithful in faith throughout the forty years of journey in the wilderness during the time of the Exodus.   Even so, Joshua forgot God, and he attacked Ai based on his own wisdom and his spies’ report.  Where was God at that time?    Joshua, after a huge victory over Jericho, (in reality, he did not fight but God fought for him and the Israelites), his heart was completely filled up with himself.   In His heart, there was no room for God.   Only after Joshua completely defeated by the seemingly much weaker Ai than the people of Jericho, Joshua came back to God, and heard Him.   Then Joshua precisely followed what God told to do so, which came from God’s wisdom.   This brought back a victory to Joshua.  It was a huge lesson for Joshua.   However, the lesson was not enough for Joshua.  A few day later, he was visited by Gibeonites, who were looked people from a far distance.   Let’s put ourselves in the Joshua’s shoes.   What would be our first action?   Would we approach to God to ask first?    (Please try to answer this question.   Please remember the visit was made right after the victory over Ai by listening to God and following exactly what God asked to do.)   In fact, Joshua did not.   He forgot about God and what He did for him and the Israelites for a few days ago.   Joshua had to learn another hard lesson, and God rescued Joshua again.   Through the journey with God, Joshua slowly but steadily learned about God by experiencing Him out of both his faithfulness to God and his egocentric sinfulness before God.   Through the ups and downs in his life, Joshua’s faith was strengthened and was able to truly experience God, which was God really wanted.  

There were lots of things to be done in the Promised Land.  God needed a truly faithful leader, and He carved out His faithful leader by letting Joshua going through the ups and downs in his life, which was full of both those victories in God in joy and precious lessons of the painful failures.   (Please note that Joshua’s failures were caused by Joshua himself, but God used the failures to carve out His truly faithful servant.)

The seven kings in the region united in fear of God and Joshua.  After they all agreed to fight against the Israelites to defend their territories, they planned to attach. However, they did not choose to attack the Israelites directly.    Rather they moved all their troops into place to attack Gibeon.   The Gibeonites immediately sent a messenger to Joshua for help.  As soon as getting this message, Joshua did not repeat his previous repeated mistakes, but he ran into God, and asked first.   This really pleased God.  God confirmed that Joshua was truly ready to be His vessel who could lead the Israelites throughout the Promised Land, and settle them.   God answered, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.”    Joshua was encouraged, and in Him, he was ready to fight against the seven kings united against the Israelites.   (Please note that in reality, Joshua did not have to send his troops to help Gibeonites, but he kept his promise made to the Gibeonites.    Joshua was a faithful and trustworthy leader.)  

Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon.  Most of all, God was with Joshua.   Joshua traveled all night from Gilgal and took the Amorite armies by surprise.  God saw what Joshua did faithfully for the Gibeonites.  Yes, it also pleased God.   God did not stand still.  God stretched His arm, and touched the united troops of the seven kings.   His mighty hand threw them into a panic, and the entire united armies were paralyzed.   Ahead of Joshua, God prepared to be defeated.    The armies of the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua slaughtered great numbers of the united armies of the seven kings at Gibeon.  The united armies fled, and the Israelites chased the enemy along the road to Beth-horon, killing them all along the way to Azekah and Makkedah.

As the united army retreated down the road from Beth-horon, God sent a terrible hailstorm from heaven that continued until they reached Azekah, which destroyed the retreating armies.   The hail killed more of the united armies than the Israelites killed with the sword.  This was what God did for Joshua and His people.   Yes, Joshua did all that he could do with his armies.  In reality, God fought for them.  God threw them into a panic before Joshua and his armies, and God also killed more of the enemies with the terrible hailstorm.   This was what God had done for Joshua and the Israelites, when Joshua truly became God’s faithful servant by carefully listening to God and following His command.   To reach this level of faithfulness, Joshua had to go through many pains caused by his sinfulness before God.   After all, Joshua truly learned, and experienced God.  On the day God gave the Israelites victory over the united kings of Amorites. 

Here is what Joshua actually did and how God answered to Joshua.   Joshua and the Israelites slaughtered the enemy.   Even so, the enemy armies were huge, and lots of enemy armies were still there.  The sun was moving west and the shadow was lengthening.    He found there were not enough time to fight.  He needed more light.   If not,  Joshua and the Israelites could not finish up the united armies.

Joshua looked up, and in faith he prayed to God something unthinkable in front of all the people of Israel.  He prayed,

“Let the sun stand still over Gibeon,
and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”  (Joshua 10:12b)

Who could make such a prayer to God in front of a huge number of people?    Yes, Joshua did in faith without any doubt.  God heard his prayer in faith, and answer. 

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. (Joshua 10:13a)

It was truly a miracle.   Only was God able to do.   God did for Joshua, who truly faithful to Him.   Indeed, the sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did move at all till the battle was over.   Upon the extraordinary faith of Joshua, God did respond in an extraordinary way – even stopping the sun.    Bible records that there has never been a day like this one before or since, when the LORD answered such a prayer. Surely the LORD fought for Israel that day!  (Joshua 10:14)

Let’s put ourselves as the Israelites warriors’ shoes, who were in the mist of the battle.   We fought and fought all day long, and the battle had been great.  The Israelites were winning destroying the enemies left and right.   The enemies were fleeing.   When we looked up the sky, we saw the sun that was about to set.   We need more day time to completely destroy the enemies so that there would no more attack in future.  We realized that we were running against the time.   Although we did everything that we could, it was so obvious that we could not finish up the battle.   As the sun set, it would be soon dark.   The enemies would hide.    Then suddenly, Joshua stood up, while looking up heavens, and prayed to God with a loud voice.    Initially we could not believe what he asked to God in his prayer.    He asked to make the sun stand still in the sky.   His face was filled with his faith in God without a single hint of doubt.  His prayer was so bold.  We knew nobody would prayed like Joshua.   Then what did happen next?   The sun actually stopped its movement and stood still in the sky!    What a miracle!   Then we fought and fought until all enemies completely destroyed.    Yes, we literally wiped out the entire united armies of the seven kings.   We won the victory.  Surely God was with the Israelites.   God fought for the Israelites.

The united armies of the seven kings were a formidable threat to the Israelites.   They were much bigger than the armies of Israelites.   Practically speaking, there was no chance to win the battle against the huge enemies.   They were more numerous, more skilled and knew the area much better than the Israelites.   They lived in the area for generations.   They knew every detail of the land, and how to use the area for their advantage to defeat the Israelites, who were just new comers into the region.   In the eyes of both the united armies, and the Israelites, there was no chance that the Israelites would win.  In fact, who did win the battle?   How did the Israelites win the battle against the seven kings’ united armies?    What had God actually done for the Israelites before and during the battle?    What happened to the sun?   Even did the sun stand still in the sky?    Why was the sun standing still in the sky?   Wasn’t there one faithful prayer of Joshua?  

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)