Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hear God's Invitation, and Make Highway In Heart For Him.

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

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”  (Matt 3:3b)

The three wise men worshiped the newborn king, the Messiah, Our Savior, who was in the manger.  It was not the place for any newborn kings.   The three wise men offered the three gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.    The gifts foretold the life of the newborn king, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.   The newborn king was truly the king of kings.   His kingship is not just of this earthly world, but His true identity was His Divinity of God.    Jesus was in fact God in flesh.   Although the people in the land of Judea did not notice the coming of the newborn king, Jesus Christ, the three wise men from a far country knew His coming as a newborn king.   

He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'  (Isaiah 6:9b)

 However, the three wise men and the Shepherd searched out and found the newborn king, the Messiah.   How did they know the birth of the Messiah?   God revealed this Good News to them through the prophesy and the angel appeared with the heavenly hosts.   Yes, the same prophesy was given to the people of Israel long time ago also.   However, their eyes were blind to the truth, and their ears were deaf to the Good News.   Indeed, King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard that the true king, the Messiah was born in the land of Judea, as was everyone in Jerusalem.  They were in fear of the newborn king, the Messiah.

How about us?   Are our eyes blind and our eyes deaf to the Good News?   Are we truly ready for receiving the King, Our Savior, Jesus Christ?    Or are we in fear of losing our kingship of our lives due to the birth of the True King?    If our hopes and desires are only of this world, the answer is so obvious.   We will be terrified in fear of the newborn king like King Herod.  King Herod tried to kill the newborn king, and he enticed the three wise men by telling, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”   Every word by word, it came out from the mouth of King Herod with a pure evil intention of getting rid of the newborn king, even though it sounded good to the ears of those without the knowledge of King Herod’s true intent.   Of course, the three wise men did not know the evil intent, and they acknowledge to the king.  Then they continued following the star.  They met the newborn king, Our Lord, the Messiah, and truly rejoiced.  Their faith led to the Messiah.   First, they gave the gift of gold to signify His true kingship over all.

The second gift was frankincense.    Frankincense is a white resin. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the resin to flow out.  It requires intentional hurting of a tree, not just harvesting from branches like fruits.   Because of the piercing incisions, a tree gives out precious frankincense.  When frankincense is burned, it produces an aroma, while it is being reduced to nothing.   At that time, frankincense was offered as a pleasing aroma to God.   The second gift, frankincense foretold the life of the newborn king, who would be offered like frankincense by being reduced to nothing (i.e., being crucified and killed) before God.    

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."  (Mark 10:45)

Jesus Christ came to this world not to be served, but to serve those who are in pain and suffering, and searching for salvation from the pains and sufferings.   The world is full of pains and suffering, which nobody can deny.   Numerous people (in fact everyone ever lived) have made all kinds of effort to avoid or get rid of this world’s pains and sufferings.    Nobody has ever succeeded.   Pains and sufferings have been always with us, and as long as we are on earth, they will live with us forever.  This is the cold reality.  Out of love, God gave hope.  The three wise men saw the star of the hope, and they followed.  They went through wilderness, deserts, mounts and valleys, and King Herod.   But they were not deterred.  They continued their journey for the hope to see the Messiah, and finally they could see the newborn king, the Messiah.  In fact, the newborn king was not an ordinary king, but God in flesh, who came down to earth in order to offer Himself as a random for many.   This is the love of God.   The newborn baby was the marvelous sign and the greatest gift to all mankind ever from the Most High, God, Our Ever-Loving Father.    Through Him, the hope of salvation came true, and those who believe this Good News are saved.

Yes, this Good News is truly marvelous.   Why?   There is a saying, “there is no free lunch.”   In other words, nothing is free.   There is always something attached, although a thing is offered free.   Thus, if somebody comes up to us and offer a thing free, then we immediately think why, and we feel suspicious about the motive of the person.   This self-protection and preservation reflect the cold reality on earth.  However, there is one exception: the birth of the newborn King.   The newborn King came to freely offer Himself to save us from all our sins and the world of pains and sufferings.   This is truly marvelous, and a completely new love of God toward us was revealed.   The newborn King, Jesus Christ, came to serve, not to rule over us.  Instead He gave Himself as a sacrificial ram carrying all our sins and transgressions and offered up to be burned.    Have we heard about an earthly king serving his people and offering Himself as a sacrifice for his people?

The third gift was myrrh.   It is also produced for a tree in the same manner as frankincense.   Thus, it is not naturally produced like fruits on a tree.   An incision on the bark of a tree allows the myrrh to flow out.  It was a spice used in embalming.   The taste of the myrrh is also bitter.    The offering of myrrh to the newborn king predicted the suffering of the newborn king, Jesus Christ.   The life of Jesus Christ from the birth was not easy.   He was laid in a manger.  (Have any of us laid in a manger right after birth?)  

Soon Jesus Christ had to fled to Egypt by the hands of Joseph and Mary.   The three wise men returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.   After the wise men were gone, an angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”   That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.   

Soon King Herod realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He was furious, and sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem.   God protected the newborn king, Mary and Joseph, and the three wise men from the brutal hands of King Herod.

After the death of King Herod, Jesus Christ returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph.  He grew up not in a wealth family, but a poor carpenter family.  At age thirty, when Jesus Christ started his own ministry, He first approached those who were poor, mourn, were humble, hunger for justice, and were persecuted.   For Himself, He had nothing on earth.

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Mane has no place even to lay his head.”   (Matthew 8:20)

When the teachers of religious law, who said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,”, Jesus reply with the above.  Jesus ministered those people suffering, and healed the sick, and gave the hope with His twelve disciples for three years.   At the end of his three-year ministry, as prophesied, He determined to drink His bitter cup, the death on cross to crucify the sins of His people with Him.  As Jesus was captured, all fled including Peter who used to boldly declare, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you." (Matthew 26:33b)

Soon Peter denied Jesus three times.  Jesus looked at Peter’s eyes, and Peter saw Jesus also, who was silent while he was denying Jesus, his own teacher and friend, who dearly loved him for the last three years.   What a pain it was for Jesus!   However, the heartbreaking moment was a just start.   Jesus was whipped, despised and crucified.  Even when he was on the cross, the people gathered mocked Him.  Jesus was endured all to give the hope and salvation for all, who are in pains and sufferings of the world and sins.   The gruesome crucifixion was His ultimate mission on earth and the victorious moment over all sins, pains, sufferings of this world.   Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrificial ram to forgive the sins of the world including the denials of His disciples, the crucifixion of the Roman soldiers and the mocking and insulting of the Israel people beneath the cross, and all our sins.   The gruesome pain and suffering of HIs body, soul and spirit continued until his death on the cross.   This is the price of the sins to be paid.   Then Jesus bold declared  “It is finished!"  Then He bowed His head and released His spirit.  (John 19:30b)

His bitter life of myrrh was finished at the cross.   However, His bitterness was our blessings.   Our salvation was completed at the cross because the one who did not have sin at for all our sins was sacrificed for us.  

A voice of one calling: "In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  (Isiah 40:3)

 God is continuously giving out invitations to all, which leads to His Salvation freely given through Jesus Christ, Our Savior, the Messiah.   What we need is to just accept the free gift.    Here is how to receive the free gift of the salvation from God, Our Loving Father.   First, we clean up our heart to prepare room for Jesus, the Messiah and Savior.  Nobody is immune to the world.  The world continuously makes our heart into a wilderness, in which we are wandering.    The Israelites saw the Promised Land, but their unbelieving hearts made them back to the wilderness and wandering for the next forty years till the first Exodus-generation perished on the wilderness.  They could not see nor touch the Promised Land again.   Second, we ought to make a straight highway in our heart for Our God so that He dwell in us.   Yes, Jesus came to us to serve and offer His life for us.  This marvelously Good News often lives in our head only as knowledge, which will not lead us to a true joy of salvation and the eternal hope.   Our hearts need to be cleaned, and give Him the kingship of our lives completely and fully.  This is our way to make a straight highway for our God.   Do we continue living in the wilderness, where no true life exists -- wandering to eventual death?    Only comes from God the true life and peace with God, which is the gift from God.

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.  (John 14:27)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Advent -- Our Savior Is Born For Us! Give Our Highest Adoration.

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

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  (Luke 2:10b-11)

During the reign of King Herod, three wise men from eastern lands came to Jerusalem.    They watched over stars years, and saw a star that they waited for years according to the prophecy of birth of the King of the Jews, the Messiah.  As soon as they saw the saw, they joyfully left their country to follow the star.    The star led them through hills, mountains, wilderness, and deserts.   It was not an easy journey.   They had to fight against fears of the darkness of those deep nights, and endured harsh weathers that they met.   However, their eyes were fixated on the star leading ahead of them.

They went through unknown towns and peoples of strange tongue and languages.  They felt multiple times danger while passing through those towns.   However, some town people came out and welcome them kindly to provide water and food.  They even offered place to stay overnight, which made them refreshed through their journey.    In turn, they expressed thankfulness by sharing their small gifts before leaving the town.   Then again, they followed the star.    Their journey was full of ups and downs, but their minds were firmly set on the star while expecting to meet the new King, the Messiah as prophesied long ago.   Their joy and hope to see the new King were always greater than their hardship, toils and fears along the journey of following the long-waited star.

As they were getting closer to Jerusalem, from far, they could see the walls surrounding Jerusalem, and the buildings in the city.  They were excited, and their hearts were filled with joy.   Finally, they found the destiny.   They thought that they could find the new born king in Jerusalem.     As they heard about Jerusalem, it was a huge city where many kings ruled from.   As getting closer to Jerusalem, they quickly realized that it was not so easy to find the newborn King.    Jerusalem was really big, and it was very easy to get lost.   They were just strangers, who had no idea even how to go to see the newborn king.    

They hold of one passersby asked where they should go to meet the Messiah, the newborn king, while expecting that anyone in Jerusalem would know the answer.   Surprisingly, nobody was able to answer their question.  Although they themselves were foreigners from a far country, they knew the birth of Messiah and came to worship the newborn King.   They were really frustrated.   They made a tremendous effort to meet the new born King to Jerusalem but the local people even did not have any ideas about the birth of the Messiah.   They essentially got lost in the middle of the city.   Suddenly, one resident in the city approached to them, and suggested to go to the palace, where King Herod, priests

and teachers of laws were, but he also cautioned that King Herod was not a good king, but a notoriously ruthless tyrant.   

The three wise men set down and discussed, “Would it be a good idea to ask King Herod about a newborn king of the Jews?    Isn’t King Herod the current king, who rules over the Jews?     If we ask a newborn king of the Jews, how would the current king respond?    Should his son succeed his kingship?   In King Herod’s point of view, there should be only one king, himself, and his son would be the future king succeeding him.    Apparently, there is no newborn son in King Herod’s family.   Then it means the newborn king of the Jews is the one not of his bloodline.   Is it a good idea to ask about a newborn king of the Jews?   It will certainly upset the king.  We were also told that King Herod is a notoriously ruthless tyrant.”    Then they looked each other’s eyes.   A dead silence fell.   It took quite a time before breaking the silence.  

One of the wise men stood up, and said, “We made a long journey to here Jerusalem following the star to meet and worship the newborn king of the Jews.   Therefore, the newborn Messiah should be close to where we are now.  We are very close to our destination.   Indeed, the last thing between us and our meeting of the newborn king is our fear of King Herod.    Asking about the newborn king, who is other than his own son, would certainly put us in a big trouble.   However, let’s think back.  How many times have we gone through dangers of people and fears of nights during our journey?   Numerous.  Sometime, we thought that we were doomed, but in fact we were not destroyed.  Instead, we were protected by the divine power.  This is the reason why we are here now.   Don’t we not see the pattern that the divine guidance and protection throughout our journey?   God must be with us.   Why are we in fear of King Herod?    Our journey to meet the newborn king will be surely accomplished.   After all, our journey to Messiah is not our own idea, but the prophesy of God.  God has taken us to here in Jerusalem, and He will continue guide us to the newborn king.   I am sure we will see the newborn king of the Jews, the Messiah, the Savior.”    The other two were attentively hearing this, and then they nodded.     

The following morning, the three wise men arrived at the palace where King Herod was.  The palace was impressive and overwhelming.   As approaching to the palace, they were spotted by the soldiers guarding the palace.   The soldiers looked them, and they quickly thought that they must have had been the noble from another country.   They immediately brought the three wise men to King Herod, which was a surprise to the three wise men.  They felt God was with them.    As soon as they saw King Herod, they gave a homage.   The king was pleased.  The king politely asked them what he could do for them.     Again, it was another surprise to the three wise men.   The king offered his kindness even before asking.   As they discussed prior night, without hesitation, they asked directly to King Herod, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews, the Messiah? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this.   However, he could not show his emotion because he was surrounded by his nobles and solider and he first offered his kindness.    He, then, excused the three wise men to leave the room.   Then the king called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”    He did not even want to use the phrase sued by the strange visitors, “the newborn king”, which directly conflicted with him and his kingship.  Instead, he used only “the Messiah” in his question.

The leading priests and teachers of religious law were all very knowledgeable about this matter.   In unison, they replied, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
     are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
     who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:6)

King Herod was even more disturbed.  He decided to go down to the bottom of this matter.  King Herod silently talked to himself, “there is only one king of the Jews, and there should be no other king in the land of Judea.”   He investigated carefully by listening the story of the three wise men.  He was determined to eliminate the newborn king of the Jews before being a threat to his kingship.   King Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.   Then King Herod cunningly told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

The evil was really closely chasing the birth of the newborn king of the Jews, the Messiah.   However, God continuously guided and protected the three wise men’s journey, and the newborn king of the Jews, the Messiah and the Savior.

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem.  (Bethlehem is about 9 Km [about 6 miles] south of Jerusalem.)  The star went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the baby wrapped and laying in the manger.  Mary and Joseph were with the baby and surrounded by the shepherds and animals in the stable.  

Finally, they met the newborn king of the Jews, the Messiah and the Savior in the manger.   The newborn king was not in the palace, where King Herod was.   The newborn king, the Messiah was in the manger as a humble king.  The three wise men saw this stark contrast between the palace King Herod surround by gold and silver and the humble king, the Messiah in the manger with straws, shepherds, and animals.   Then the three wise men humbly bowed down and worshiped the newborn king in the manger.   They just gave some respect to King Herod, but they truly implored themselves before the newborn king.   They offered their deepest adoration to the newborn king, the Messiah.  Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Their minds were quickly passed by their vivid memories of the past events of protecting these precious gifts from the thieves and robbers while risking their lives.   However, God was with them, and God protected their lives and the precious gifts.   Yes, finally, they saw the newborn king in the manger, and the precious gifts were with the newborn king, the Messiah and the Savior.   Their hearts were truly filled with joy and adoration, which could not be compared with anything else.

On the way out of the stable, they heard from the shepherds about the angel’s announcement of the birth of the newborn king, the Messiah,

 “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  (Luke 2:10b-11)

and the praise of the vast host of the heavenly hosts,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  (Luke 2:14)

Yes, it was a really good news, and it brought a great joy to all.   Finally, the salvation promised long ago came.   The long journey of the three wise men was ended when they saw the newborn king, the Messiah and Savior.   Our long journey for deliverance and salvation also has ended because of the newborn king -- our Savior and Messiah, who deliver us from our misery and sins.    Be glad and joyful!    Our King, the Messiah was born for us.  He is our Savior and the LORD!   Give praise Him forever and more!  Praise Him!

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Advent -- Rejoice! Our Savior Is Born As The Humble King.

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

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
               and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.  As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Zechariah, initially, did not believe what was told by the angel, and said, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!  But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”    Zechariah couldn’t speak since then, and soon Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, became pregnant.   The baby became later John the Baptist as prophesized by the Book of Isaiah:

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
       the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
       a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
       every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
       the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
      and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  (Isaiah 40:3-5)

John the Baptist indeed prepared the hearts of the people suffering and in hunger for justice under the Roman’s occupation, and gave hope of Messiah and the kingdom of heaven to the people gathered around him in the wilderness.   

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John the Baptist, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.  Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary believed what was told by the angel, and responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38a)  Her faith pleased the angle, and the angel left her.  

Upon hearing the news about the pregnancy of Mary’s relative Elizabeth in her old age, she hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.   At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Mary responded with her song of praise, which is known as “The Magnificent.”   Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.  

Before the marriage took place, Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, realized that she was pregnant.  Joseph,
Mary’s fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.    As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   (Isaiah 7:14)

When Joseph woke up, he believed.   Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her. (Immanuel means “God is with us.”)

When the baby, our Lord, Jesus Christ, was almost due, the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant because the baby was almost due.   

When the family arrived in Bethlehem, all of the inns were full.   They could not find a room, but the found a place where animals were.   Because the time came for her baby to be born, they stayed night in the stable.   She gave birth to her first child, a son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.   She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.

Our Lord, the King of kings, was laid in a manger instead of the comfortable crib at a palace.   Our Lord, Jesus Christ, came as a humble king.  He came to serve, not being served and give Himself as a ransom for the sins of those who believe in Him.   The world was quiet, and nobody knew the birth of our Savior in the land of Judea. 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ came to the world as a humble king, not as kings that we usually know of on earth.   Our Savior came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.   This is the Good News, especially for those who believe in Him!    Let’s come to the Lord, and praise with the loudest voice “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD!  Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”  (Luke 19:38)   Praise Him!  Give thanks to Him!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Advent -- Emmanuel! God Is With Us Always.

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

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.  (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

Prophet Isaiah was in the temple.  King Uzziah died, who reigned the kingdom of Judah for 52 years.  King Uzziah was wonderfully intelligent and innovative king, under whom the state of Judah prospered.  He was used by God to defeat the Philistines and Arabs, he built fortified towers and strengthened the armies of Judah, and he commissioned skilled men to create devices that could shoot arrows and large stones at enemies from the city walls. He also built up the land, and the Bible says he “loved the soil”. The Ammonites paid tribute to King Uzziah, and his fame spread all over the ancient world, as far as the border of Egypt.   The people of Judah were prosperous, and their lives were good.   Then King Uzziah died, and his son Jotham governed the people in his place.   The kingdom of Judah was no longer used to be.   The people felt insecurity.   Prophet Isaiah came to God where he was able to find peace, although the world was in turmoil. 

Suddenly, Isaiah saw God, who was sitting on a sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.  Then he heard God asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me.”   Isaiah was overwhelmed by the glory of God.  God commissioned Isaiah to the people of Judah, who were stressed and in fear after the death of King Uzziah.  God gave hope,

But as a terebinth or oak tree leaves a stump when it is cut down,
so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.” (Isaiah 6:13b)

Although the people of Judah were like an oak tree stump being cut down, God promised.  God would make the stump a holy seed and grow to a new holy tree again.  The people of Judah heard the message of God, and they were comforted.   

The comfort and peace did not last.  When Ahaz, grandson of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Syriaa and Pekah, the king of Israel, set out to attack Jerusalem.  The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.   Then God appeared, and comforted Isaiah.   Then He sent Isaiah to carry His word:

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.'"   (Isaiah 7:9b)

God told to stand firm in faith, no matter what happened.   The king, and the people saw the huge armies of Syria and the northern kingdom, but God asked not to fear, because God was with them.   The King and the people together heard God would protect them, but they could not stand firm in faith.   They saw the huge armies surrounding them, but they could not see God with their naked eyes in fear of what they saw.

God, who was merciful and full of love, still loved them, and He exactly knew their inability to believe because of the huge armies surrounding them.   God sent a message through Isaiah to King Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”

The stone-cold hearted king did not believe what was told.   He refused and said, “No, I will no test God like that.”   What an excuse!  It looked great and even Biblical, because “do not test God” was one of the ten commandments.  However, in the King’s heart, it was a passive aggression against God.    God gave a chance to ask anything even if something was impossible in the King’s eyes.    King Ahaz did not ask God.

Why?  Did King Ahaz act like as above?    King Ahaz and his people had been in a difficult time being surround by the huge enemy.   Also they waited long for the promise of God given through Isaiah.   Nothing happened.  After a long wait, they excepted a good thing.  Instead, two countries, who did not believe God, invaded.   What a disappointment!    They found that the God’s promise was far, and the fearful reality was imminent.

How many times in our lives do you feel like King Ahaz and his people?     We believe God and His promise, and waited long.   Nothing happens.   Instead, a fearful reality is quickly approaching to us like a running train heading straight toward us.   No!  There is absolutely no way out.  We feel like our bodies are tied on the track of the rapidly approaching train.   There was no strength nor a desire to ask God because we were completely worn out.   We have waited and waited long for His promise without seeing His promise.    Has God forgotten us or is He ignoring us?   No.  God has never forgotten us or He is ignoring us like a mother who never forgets her baby from her womb.  

 Through the mouth of Isaiah, the merciful God gave His comfort, peace and hope again,

“Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well?  All right then, God himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).  (Isaiah 7:13-14)

God again gave the promise and the sign to the unbelieving King Ahaz and his people because God loved them.  There was no reason that God love them, but God’s love was one-sided.  Nobody believed, and even refused to ask God.   By that time, they were completely worn out by the harshness of the world, and a disaster followed -- the attacking armies of two countries.   Yes, it was a truly fearful moment freezing their hearts and minds.  Their faith was completely drained.  Even so, God did not blame them nor punished them.    God promised a sign:  “The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son.  Not just an oridnary son, but the son, whose name would be Immanuel (“God is with us.”)”

King Ahaz and his people were not worthy for the Son, Immanuel.   They refused God, but God gave a promise for the Son, Immanuel as the sign of comfort and peace for the people in fear, pains and hardship.   God also protected them.   The allied armies of Syria and the northern kingdom could not enter in Jerusalem.   Although King Ahaz and his people completely gave up, God saved them as He promised.  

God is always faithful to His promise especially to His children.   God’s faithfulness never changes.   God loves His children even as you read this devotion because He loves us, as He did to King Ahaz and his people.   We all suffer on earth, which is not a news.    As long as we are in this world while making journey to our Eternal Home, we will never feel at home.   We all know this truth, but it is not easy to continue being in faith especially with our own might only.   Often than not, our faith seems like a seed landed on a rocky soil or among thorn bushes.   Although we try to make our faith deeply root into the soil, rocks are in the way.   We try to grow our faith into Him, but the world does not let us alone.  Our faith soon withers due to worldly burdens, distractions and pains.   We experience again and again that it is impossible to make our faith deeply root into the soil and grow into Him with our own might and effort.    We always fail.  We always fall short of His glory, which is sadly sin.   Yes, sin.  We are in sin whenever we fail before God or just fall short of His glory.

Nobody. Yes, nobody can do.   It is impossible to be whole before God, because God is holy, and nobody is holy.    However, God knows.   Our lives are not easy.   We are worn out daily in the world.   God knows exactly how much we are suffering and wearing out.   God is merciful.   God simply forgives all our sins.   He asks only one thing:  come back to God as sinners, not the righteous, and ask His forgives.    To forgive and save all sinners (especially, for those who morn for their own sins before God), God promised the Son, Emmanuel.  He will be with us forever.  We cannot be with the God, because God is holy and we are sinful.   God, who is holy, reconciled us by sending his own Son and sacrificed on the cross, which is the sign given to all of us.  The forgiveness is given to us not just for our past sins, but all sins from past, now, future, and forever. 

Emmanuel, the Son of God on the cross, is the sign for all.   Emmanuel.   We are no longer alone nor separated from God.   Emmanuel, God is with us. God is with us forever.  Emmanuel, this is the promise of God that we are His forever children.    Emmanuel, God is with us at this very moment and forever.    Emmanuel, God is with us.  Give the highest praise God, who is always with us from now and forever.    We are His beloved children, forever!

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.   (Isaiah 11:3b-5, 9)