Joshua: REMEMBER

This week, we are going to observe what God emphasizes after all the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. After Moses had died, and after all the people of the generation – who got away from Egypt’s oppressive time, experienced the wonders and great power of God in Egypt and in the wilderness, and who still complained about what they did not have, for what they feared to experience, and for what they thought they had – had died, Joshua leads the people of Israel into the land which God had promised to give. The book closes with how the Israelites inherit the land and how God’s promise was kept faithfully. It seems like a happy ending to their story and the history of Israel. However, we will NOT stop our reading just there. Through the story of Joshua, we are going to observe how God reveals who He is, how faithful He is to those who fear and worship Him, and what God wants us to keep in mind beyond the reading.

First, God is God. I say this because He claims so. When Joshua encounters an angel/messenger from God, he throws a question “are you for us? or against us?” The messenger – who speaks what God has to tell Joshua – says that God does not fall under one nation or a group of people even when that group is what He had chosen to be His. When Joshua hears that God is not bound to his people, he realizes that it is his turn to submit himself to God. His response, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” shows that Joshua is telling God that he is submitting to God and is willing to follow any of His commands. That is what we should do. Many times, we misunderstand that God is on our side if we are faithful Christian. In fact, we declare that we are on His side when we become a faithful Christian. It is a true blessing when we stand with God and be on His side. We will share the victory that follows His authority and incomparable joy that follows His faithfulness to His people. God is good and He truly is faithful.

Second, our experiences and worldly standards don’t hold against God’s will and His power. Israelites won their battle against Jerico through a very interesting strategy that God had planned. Their victory seemed like it was gained without any of their own wisdom or power of their army. However, their first victory does not guarantee the second one. War strategies come from experiences. More experiences one has, better strategies one will be able to come up with. That is what the world tells you. That is how things are usually done. That is what we call “normal.” Sure. The more experience you have, the better you become. However, when God is leading the plan, it is not necessarily. Israelites were defeated in their second war against Ai. Was Ai stronger than Jerico? If you read the Bible, it says, before the war, they even decreased the number of soldiers thinking that Ai has fewer people and will be much easier to defeat. Being shocked at the result, Joshua prays to God. And God provides the answer why they were defeated: Israel sinned against God. Do not forget. God is holy. When the Israelites stole the things from God, they themselves “became accursed,” and God had left them. That is why they were defeated. This emphasizes the first point, that God is neither for you or your enemies, but He is who He is.

Lastly, the Bible emphasizes one thing through the first 5 books of the Bible as well as the book of Joshua. REMEMBER. The book of Joshua ends by Joshua giving teaching/sermons to the people of Israel. It recites all the events that happened to the people of Israel. We have read this story once while reading Exodus, twice while Moses gave teaching before his death, and again when Joshua gave teaching before his death. Why did the big figures of the Bible repeated the history of their ancestors before their death? Because they knew that it is IMPORTANT, CRITICAL, ESSENTIAL, and CRUCIAL to remember who God is. Through remembering who He is, we correct our behaviors in front of God. We stay away from sin. We stay on God’s side. We share His victory, see His glory, and inevitably praise His name above all things.

It comes naturally to have joy in Him and to praise His name, when we decide and determine to stay on His side. When God approaches you and askes you “who’s side are you on?” I pray that the blessing of faith and courage is on you – youth group members – to say “I am on Your side, God.”

Easter – what happened on that day?

Read: Matthew chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, Luke chapter 24, & John chapters 20-21

Responses of the women, guards, religious leaders, disciples, Peter

The women in the Bible find out about Jesus’ resurrection. They are worried (Luke), they witness the angel speaking about Jesus’ resurrection, and they tell the disciples who have a hard time believing their words. Disciples heard from Jesus multiple times that He will live in three days, but the fear and disappointment overwhelmed their faith. Until Jesus visited them, the disciples were hiding away from the authority not knowing what their future is going to be. When Peter had a chance to sit and have a one-on-one conversation with Jesus, it was highlighted with the questions that Jesus threw at Peter. “Do you love Me?” He asks three times. Peter answers three times. Despite Peter’s coward actions when Jesus was suffering innocently, Jesus touches and heals the shame and guilt that Peter might have had. Since this day of conversation, Peter becomes a strong preacher of the Gospel.

The guards in the Bible also find out about Jesus’ resurrection (or at least the disappearance of His body) and become like dead men. Experiencing God’s power and being a witness can bring us fear. Facing God is a fearful event as He is great and His glory and power overwhelm us so greatly. Eventually, the guards head to the religious leaders about the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Religious leaders respond to the news in a very ill way.  This is highly disappointing. The leaders are presumed as Godly by the laymen. Their actions and decisions influence the laypeople so greatly that it can jeopardize the people’s faith and belief in God. In the story of Jesus’ resurrection, the leaders give money and promote spreading false news. The sin is greater on the leaders and the guards as they KNOW that they are making up stories to protect their power and to save themselves from the accusal of crucifying Jesus.

What Easter means to me, and all of you

We celebrate Easter every year. It is festive, white and bright, happy and fun; that is a combination of good feelings and greetings. We enjoy a good meal after a week of “darkness,” egg hunt, bunnies, and warm and fuzziness blend just as well into the picture with the spring weather. It is a celebration of a one-time event that happened in the past. We decided when to celebrate by approximating the time and the date. Therefore, celebrating it annually does make sense.

Regardless, remember. the resurrection is NOT to be celebrated once a year. It is something we must celebrate every moment. Here is why. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, we discussed how He went to the temple and cleaned/condemned the people and the temple. We also made a comparison that it is what likely happens when we/people have the first encounter with Jesus. Now, this is the extension of that previous discussion. When we confront Jesus with our sins, instead of accepting Him, we are confronting His attempt to clean the temple – which is ourselves. We are His holy temples. Because of our sinful nature, habits, and stubbornness, we refuse to clean up the temple. Instead, we kill Jesus from our heart. Instead of letting Him cleanse us, we get rid of Him. He dies on the cross every moment we refuse Him.

And, this is not the end of the story. Here comes the reason why we should celebrate Easter. The very sin that we allowed in us, the sin which made us kill Jesus, the sin that grounded us so that we cannot reconcile with God has no power over God. God raised Jesus from the dead. Winning against all the sins. Whoever believes in Him shall be saved. Whoever does not, and turns his face away from the glory of God which was revealed in the resurrection of Jesus, will perish. That is the whole story. This is why Easter – a joyful Sunday with lots of decorations and bright faces – should be remembered every moment in our lives. As strong as the power of our sin over us, the joy of the victory grows to those who confess and believe.

 

 

Jonah: a rebellious prophet

The situation told by God: “Nineveh’s wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)

  • Nineveh was a city of Assyria. Assyrian people were, first of all, gentiles, and they were enemies of Hebrews. Given that they had bitter historical relationships, the people of Nineveh were not someone that Jonah would be compassionate as a default.

Jonah’s response to God’s word: “Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish.” (Jonah 1:3)

  • There is not much explanation why (except some “excuses” that Jonah provides at the and of the book), but Jonah definitely rebelled against God’s command. While it is a considerable factor that Nineveh is not a place that Jonah had the heart to deliver God’s words, Jonah’s characteristics which are shown throughout the book are something that we should also keep in mind.

You can never ever run away from God physically.

  • Jonah runs away to a different city – Tarshish. How can he think that he could run away from God? Remember that you really cannot. God does not stay inside a church. God teaches that fact by the storm that struck the boat which Jonah was in. God is “of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” Jonah knows/realizes that, too. (Jonah 1:9)

We are easily deceived that death will end our frustrations from the responsibility and the burden. Most importantly, death and life are in God’s hands.

  • If God wills, you cannot run away from His command by death. (Jonah 1:17)
  • Jonah says this many times. “Kill me.” (Jonah 1:12, 4:3, 4:8, 4:9) Death does not end our responsibilities. When Jonah tells God to “kill him,” it is hard to not think that his request is actually a rebel against God. Instead of actually killing himself, Jonah insists God to kill him. We know that God will not kill him; and probably Jonah knew, too. As much as God loved people of Nineveh, God loves Jonah, too.
  • Jonah is rebelling against God by saying “I will not do what You tell me to do (or accept what You say You are going to do), and I will stake my life for it. If You wish to continue to do what I don’t approve, I’d rather die.” This is disrespectful and even blasphemous.

Nineveh’s response was actually dramatic and unexpected. From the Bible, it describes how large Nineveh was: “an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk.” (Jonah 3:3) with “120,000” (Jonah 4:11) people. When they heard Jonah saying “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4) the whole city repents like dominos falling. Jonah did not even walk through the whole city since he spoke as he “went through the city one day’s walk.” (Jonah3:4)

  • People believed in God; they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)
  • King arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. (Jonah 3:6) King also issued “a proclamation to call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.” (Jonah 3:7-8)

As a result, God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. This seems like a happy ending, but not for Jonah.

Jonah became angry. He sarcastically speaks to God about His characters: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. He does not want to accept God’s decision to save those people which Jonah did not like from the beginning. God used Jonah to be a passage of His salvation to those whom Jonah wished to die. He is so sure of his opinion that he cries at God saying “I AM RIGHT OR KILL ME.”

God teaches Jonah about His care of people through one episode of a plant and a worm. We do not know how Jonah responded to this teaching because the book is concluded with God’s comments. In God’s point of view, we are all those who do not know the difference between our right and left hand. This is His love. If we are self-righteous, we will tend to see sins of others. Sometimes that will cause us to think that we are different from them. However, our role is not to separate ourselves from them by grouping who is righteous and who is not. God, at some point, will tell us to do things that we do not want to do because we hate certain aspects of it. God will tell us to be a passage of His blessing to those whom we wish were less fortunate than us. God will tell us the good news to those whom, we think, deserve punishment. Stronger self-righteous we are, stronger we hate, stronger we detach ourselves from them, we will hate to do what God tells us to do to an extent that we would rather die than do what He tells us to do.

As a Christian, our perspective grows to encompass more and more of God’s point of view. It should be that way. When we realize that we are sinners, we cannot be angry at God’s salvation for our enemies – or those whom we hate. As a person with emotions, prejudice, and limited experiences, it is simply impossible to have the heart of God. However, the more we find ourselves honestly standing in front of God, the more we will humbly accept our role as His prophets that deliver the miracle that God wanted us to see. The miracle of salvation – a change of heart – that whoever hears God’s words and believes in it will be saved.

Daniel: Fear God and only God

Who is Daniel? Who is God? Who am I? These are the questions we will continue to ask while reading the book of Daniel.

Who is Daniel

  1. Daniel lives according to God’s words (Daniel 1:8, 6:10)
  2. Daniel gives all the glory to God (Daniel 2:19) and proclaims it without fear (Daniel 2:28, 4:27, 5:22)
  3. Through Daniel, the world (the king) praises God’s greatness (Daniel 2:47, 6:26-27)

There are many characters of Daniel (and Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) that we should see in our lives. First, he lives according to God’s words. He does what God says to do and he does not do what God says not to do. When he (and his friends) was captured by Babylon, he decided to not take the food that was provided to the captives because the food provided was defiled according to God’s command. This could have ended risking their lives as well as the commanders. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) refused to serve king’s gods or the golden image which resulted in being cast into a furnace of blazing fire. Daniel did not worship the image of the king but continued kneeling to God which resulted in being cast into the lions’ den. Regardless of these consequences, Daniel (and his friends) knew whose words he should listen to. They were eventually saved from death; yet, it was not because they were saved or they knew they will be saved that they continued to serve God and no one else. It was only because they knew exactly who God is. (Daniel 3:16-18)

Second, Daniel remembers to give all the glory to God. When the king Nebuchadnezzar ordered to kill all the wise men for there was no one who can tell him what he dreamt and its meaning, Daniel (and his friends) prayed to God. God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. Daniel praises God and gives thanks to Him. Also, he states clearly that the interpretation comes from God. Through these events, God is glorified by the king of Babylon. The king who serves many gods and whose pride reaches high praises God because of Daniel. Also when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were about to be cast into the furnace, they stated clearly about God. So when they were unharmed,  the king of Babylon again praises God. When Daniel survived the night in the lions’ den, the king Darius, knowing who Daniel is and God Daniel worships, praises God.

Lastly, Daniel does not fear whom he speaks to when delivering God’s words. When he was speaking to the kings that he served throughout his life, he sometimes had to speak of things that are unpleasant to the ears of the kings. Sometimes, his life was at stake. Even then, he spoke of it without fearing the kings. Daniel was not afraid of consequences that came from the kings. The only fear he had is fear of God. We should take these characters of Daniel seriously. Do we frequently compromise the determinations that we made in faith because of external forces? Do we deliberately not speak of God because it feels awkward to say it even when we know that God deserves to be glorified? Do we fear other people more than we fear God? We should stop, evaluate, and make adjustments. If we are living with a direction not given by God, we can never reach the place that God prepared for us. From Daniel, let’s remind ourselves to find a right direction of our daily choices.

Who is God

  1. God provides. (Daniel 1:9, 1:17, 2:19, ch 7-12)
  2. God delivers. (Daniel 3:25, 6:21-22)
  3. God punishes the evil and takes the praise that he rightfully deserves. (Daniel 4:30-33, 5:5-30, ch 7-12)

It is important to learn about Daniel and learn from him. However, let’s not forget that God is the one who led the life of Daniel. Daniel had characteristics that fit well to serve God, but he is not greater than God. First, God provides. From the beginning, God grants Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander. When Daniel wished not to defile himself, it was possible because the commander allowed the favors asked by him. When Daniel was to be killed with other wise men of Babylon, God revealed the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation. It could have never been known by any human skills. Later, Daniel sees visions which God provided.

Secondly, God delivers. Daniel and his friends faced death so many times. How God delivered them was something no person on earth could do. The friends of Daniel survived blazing furnace which was so hot that it burnt those men who carried them up. Daniel survived the lions’ den overnight with the lions that crushed those men who had maliciously accused Daniel even before they reached the bottom. The power and authority of God are so high that His ways of deliverance are beyond our thoughts.

Lastly, God is just. He punishes the evil and puts everything in the place where it should be. If a man takes the glory that God deserves, He will not let it happen. When the king Nebuchadnezzar said to himself ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty,’ the prophecy of punishment was fulfilled immediately. Until the day the king recognized God, he suffered living like a beast. Belshazzar, who did not humble his heart before God even after knowing what had happened to the previous king, was punished with death. Unless we remember that the glory should be returned to God, our lives will be like that of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.

QT Training

For three consecutive weeks from 2/11 through 2/25, Sprinklers will provide its student members a training for carrying out quite time (devotional time) in daily lives. We will use QT books from Duranno. Living Life will be used for grade 6 and up.

During training, the students will learn how to properly use the book, experience a session of quite time, and share their reflections/understanding/insights as a group. Students will, on their own, read the Bible according to the suggested plan, and memorize weekly verses.

After the training, students will be encouraged to keep a QT diary for more independent and consistent practice of quite time.

You can find more information about Duranno QT books here: http://www.duranno.com/livinglife/

Esther: Your community, your people, your mission 

Individual prayer with topics 1. Friday night service and 2. spiritual growth that will prepare us for the changes in our lives – such as college and other changes in the environment. Weiting read the prayer selected from the book, “Praying in the Word of God” by Kathleen G. Grant. Ella lead the praise songs and closed the praise with a prayer.

Dearest heavenly Father,

We exalt You as our God and praise Your holy name for all the marvelous things that You have done. You are our God and the God of all who have trusted in You, whom You have saved. We rejoice in our salvation, and we are filled with gladness!

Convict me of the terrible sin of not loving You, the Lord, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. Reveal to me whether I have put anything ahead of You. Enable me to obey Your command to offer my body to You as sa living sacrifice, which is my spiritual act of worship. Show me if I have never done this. Show me if, having done so, I have failed to take up my cross everyday to follow You.

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and You, our Father who loved us and by Your grace gave us eternal, encouragement and good hope, encourage our hearts and strengthen us in every good deed and word.

Just as You hsaved us because of Your mercy, save our loved ones. Forgive us, those who already believe, for self-righteousness. For we were once jus4t like the lost, and it was Your mercy, not our righteousness, that saved us.

Worthy are You, the Lamb of God, because You were slain for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. We desire that You receive all power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Thank you for Your blood, which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

With all my devotion, Amen.

The book of Esther shows a very interesting story. It has definite storyline that leads to a clear climax and a happy ending. It even makes us laugh at how the evil Haman ends up being killed when Esther and Mordecai are raised high by the king and the people of Israel are saved from what could have been a disasterous massive killing. The book is consisted of many accidental events one after another which later fits into the picture like a perfect peice of a puzzle. While reading the book, one can only say that God had planned all details of the story and made everything happen. Yet, God and His work is never mentioned in the book.

From reading Esther, we can first see how God protects His people. The story takes place during their time of exile from Jerusalem in the period of being unfaithful nation toward God. Esther is a Jewish woman who married to a Persian King, the King is a violent man who does not show a sane way of making decisions – decision for previous queen, killing Jews, killing Haman, etc. Even in the midst of all these factors that God does not aprove, God shows how He is faithful to His chosen people. What started by one man’s pride (Haman deciding to kill the Jews by seeing Mordecai not honoring him) led to God’s people praising God and remembering how He is faithful.

Before finishing the discussion about the book, I’d like to point one thing we can think from our perspectives and apply in our lives. When we think of Esther, we see a woman with great courage. What she said is often quoted: “if I perish, I perish.” Yet, in the story, we see a slight hesitation that Esther showed when Mordecai revealed what is going to happen to the Jews.

Esther, our protagonist, is a jew. However, she hides her identity during the process of being selected as a new queen. When Mordecai informs Esther what is going on with Haman and the Jew, Esther tells her uncle Mordecai that if she tries to take an action her life will be over. It sounds like she is appealing using her life and death situation if she decides to take an action about it. Upon hearing this, Mordecai reminds her of her identity. He tells Esther the truth – if you are found to be a Jew, your life will not be guaranteed. This definitely makes Esther decide to approach the king even if that can kill her.

I’d like to mention that we must know our identity and our community – where we came from, who we are, who I relate with. There is a reason – a big reason – why God had put you in where you are. You may see each other and think that we are from the same background (since our youth group is mainly consist of Asians, teenagers, Korean/Chinese, etc). However, that is not usually the case. When we take a look into our lives specifically, we come from unique environment. That environment, that identity, that community is our mission field where God had sent us to. You must care to know what your community needs, what it is suffering from, what it celebrates, etc. By knowing more and more about your identity, you will begin to have a dream for your community. You will see what it needs, and you will want to fill in the need.

Just like how Matthew – tax collector – brought all the sinners to the dinner with Jesus, only you can invite the people from your community. They will listen to you, and they will be influenced by your care and interest. The sincerety will be counted genuine. You will be the gate to God’s grace to them. With that said, (when you are ready in your hearts) when you pray, pray like Jabez: “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border.” Then you will have a courage which you never had before, your courage will prove God’s good will and His plan, and your people will hear God and rejoice in Him.