Tuesday, December 29, 2009

in the darkness

Jesus Begins to Preach

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–

14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–

16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

matthew 4

i'm writing this from cordona in san diego. right now it's 7:16 in the morning and i'm reading the bible on the living room couch. there are about 9 kids upstairs who are sleeping. i'm still getting to know them but just listening to their stories already, i know that each and every one of them needs God in their lives. i am helping out with neighborhood ministries. this ministry reaches out to inner city kids and approaches them with a holistic approach in tutoring the kids, hanging out with them, and sharing the Gospel with them. we shared a little bit about our families last night. my heart broke as these teenagers shared in their small groups. these guys and girls have gone through so much. divorces, loneliness, foster homes, sexual abuse. and yet, i have hope. man, when they get together, there's this joy that overcomes the room and a comfort that washes over their faces. God is working and moving here. and it's amazing.

Jesus went to the land of the gentiles. to the land of the people who did not know God. the land of darkness. the land of the shadow of death. He went to galilee. He started his ministry in this place. these people were kept in the dark, they've never known the light of God. so when Jesus came into the picture, there was a great "light that dawned." to kids or even adults that have never heard the Gospel, this news that God loves them and forgives them and wants to take care of them rocks their world. in a world of darkness, of pain and hurt, or broken families and homes, God's light shines so brightly.

*tangent/rant* something i've been taking notice of is that it seems that the people who were truly broken and needed salvation have become the people who are the most on fire for Christ compared to people to a lot of people who seem to have "known" Him a long time. i've been asking myself, "why?" why is it that the majority of these people who have grown up in churches, youth groups, vacation bible schools, and christian conferences are the furthest away from God? i was watching a sermon from matt chandler the other day and he shared something on this. it seems that the American church has its own gospel that it teaches to its people. it teaches kids and adults that if you do the right things, you'll earn God's blessings and favor. not blatantly, of course, but that's what's getting through. we teach our kids that if they don't watch r-rated movies, don't cuss, share, and be kind to others, God will bless us! and the moment something bad happens to us, we break up with "the love of our life," our house is foreclosed, our parent get divorced, we don't get into the schools we wanted to get into, we automatically go straight to God. "God, what's going on?? i did everything right! i did everything you told me to do! and you're going to do this to me??" we've been taught a false gospel. we need to realize and turn our teaching back around. that God is not a genie or some sort of vending machine that grants us anything we want if we do the right things. God is great and good and note this: a father. He disciplines. He doesn't just give because we ask. He teaches lessons because He loves and He knows we won't learn anything unless He puts something in our lives to show us that! no wonder the gospel that we've been teaching isn't shining brightly! no wonder that unbelievers look in and laugh at us! this gospel we've been teaching is fake! the real Gospel is this: God created us. We fell. He sent His son, Jesus, to redeem us by dying on the cross and raising from the dead. Jesus told us to repent of our sins and live the life He showed us how to live. As we wait for the return of the King. note: our part is to repent (turn away from our sins, not just turn, but run the other way) and live life the way He showed us to. to take care of the orphans and widows. to sacrifice our lives as in our time, money, preferences, comfort to serve God. to truly love, and not secretly hate, each other. if we asked american christians these simple things. how many people do you think would actually be doing the things that Jesus asked us to do? honestly. think about it. not a lot. and i'm just as guilty. this is why nonbelievers laugh at us, because we're hypocrites. and it's not that we should feel like we're "ready" to serve God. that we have to get "cleaned up" to serve God. God uses you the moment you accept Him. the Kingdom begins now. what are you going to do about it?

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Temptation of Jesus

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devils came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread." 4 But Jesus told him, "No! The Scriptures say, `People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'s" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple,6 and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, `He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.'s" 7 Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say, `You must not test the LORD your God.'s" 8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.9 "I will give it all to you," he said, "if you will kneel down and worship me." 10 "Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, `You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.'s" 11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4

part 1. this passage took me a while to finally get everything. i wanted to closely examine each temptation and look at the symbolic meanings and practical applications for each. so, diving into the first temptation. the symbolic meaning. satan tells Jesus to turn the stones into bread to eat. Jesus replies that it's not only through bread that man lives, it's by the Word of God. i got this the first morning i was reading this passage, it means for people who live only on material things, such as food, shelter, clothing, and all that extra stuff, they're not really living! they're not really living until they're living by the Word of God, i.e. Jesus! so anyone who is in Jesus is truly living. *note: had a new revelation yesterday. adding onto this. this is the practical application. =] any person who claims that he or she is a Christian and doesn't read or stay in the Bible is spiritually dead. Jesus says it Himself that man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from God! for those of us trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we're spiritually healthy without reading the Word, maybe we should pay closer attention to what Jesus says! to be alive, to be a real Christian, you have to read the Word of God, there's just no way around it! if you don't, you are simply, spiritually dead.

part 2. symbolic meaning of the devil taking Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem to the highest point of the temple. i had to read some commentary for this one. we have to realize here that the devil could have taken Jesus anywhere he wanted to. a mountain or a cliff but he took him to the highest point of a temple. check this out. the temple represents our "spirituality." even when we think we're super spiritual and we know everything there is to know about the Bible and God, we can still be tempted by satan. and he can totally use scripture against us. he misquotes scripture all the time to get us to do things that we shouldn't do! the thing we have to be sure to do is search all the scriptures for reference and back up, Jesus fights back against the devil using scripture! remember, even when you think you're spiritual, satan will still come and tempt you and know your scripture, it'll help fight back against the devil!

practical application. here we see ourselves. spiritual and in close with God. and the devil tempts us. "go ahead! jump! He'll catch you! sin! go ahead! He'll forgive you!" tempting, right? to know that if we just go and sin, God will forgive us. but Jesus responds, "do not test the Lord, your God." don't sin just because you know God will forgive you. don't test Him. why would you want to? why would you want to purposefully fall into sin and fail once again just so He can catch you? He wants you to be strong and maturing from that baby Christian you were. to not fall every time you get tempted. this is something else i learned about sin. that yes, God will forgive you when you sin, so why not just sin? simply because God doesn't want you to. and simply because it's just not beneficial. it's not good for you. how many times in our lives have we truly been joyful that we sinned? have we been truly joyful when we lied, cheated, lusted, were greedy, selfish, unloving? no. it's just simply not good for you. and God doesn't want you contaminated by it.

part 3. the last temptation is pretty straightforward. satan shows Jesus everything He can have if He will just bow down before him. satan gives us this option every single moment we're alive on this earth. satan offers us "the world." "the american dream." he offers us school, career, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, family, friends, cars, houses, sports, tv's, laptops, video games, etc. all to take the place of God. he knows that when we start thinking about these things more than God, we've made them idols. Jesus recognized this as well! that's why He responded with, "You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him." when we become preoccupied with all the things that are attached to this world, we're actually worshipping the world and not God! we're putting the world up higher than God! we don't live for God anymore, we live for the world and sprinkle God on top to make ourselves less guilty!

i love this last part. Jesus waited on God. He would not test the Father. when the devil told him to jump and angels would come and rescue him, Jesus knew that it was not the time and He was not going to test the Lord. when the temptations were over, the angels come swooping in to take care of Jesus. Jesus persevered. He didn't throw in the towel and jump like the devil told him to. He pushed through until the very end and angels came to take care of Him. it's the same way for us. when we persevere, when we push towards God, God will not let us keep going without sending His angels. He will comfort us. He will patch up the wounds and heal the scars. i encourage every believer out there to keep pressing on against sin and temptation. know the Word, and don't just know it, practice it and take it as a whole to see the love story written all throughout, and move God into the center so the world moves to the sides.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

john the baptist

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.14 But John tried to talk him out of it. "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you," he said, "so why are you coming to me?"
15 But Jesus said, "It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.s" So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were openeds and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy."
matthew 3

i've been mulling this over for a couple of days now. i really want to dig deeper into all the people that surrounded Jesus during His time here on earth and started back in matthew. here, i come across john the baptist. what stuck out to me was Jesus wanting to be baptized by John but John denying Him. i read in some other commentaries that john had never met Jesus before and this is the moment that john recognized that this was the Messiah before the Spirit of God descended upon Him. when john says, "'i am the one who needs to be baptized by you,' ... 'so why are you coming to me?'" john had a feeling that this was Jesus. and after Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and settled on Him, this clinched it. this was the Son of God! but check this out, when we turn to matthew 11:1-3.

1 When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.
2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus,3 "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting,s or should we keep looking for someone else?"

some people believe that john sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the Messiah they've been expecting or wait on someone else for his own knowledge and satisfaction. to strengthen his faith. some believe that he sent the disciples so that they can see for themselves Jesus and His miracles. i'm going to go with option c, that john wanted to know for himself and for his disciples that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. john was in jail. and if i was in jail and going through all that he was going through, my faith would be shaken as well. i would be scared out of my mind! i would want to know for sure if Jesus was the Messiah, the person i've been waiting for my entire life! but we can see here a little bit of ourselves. john recognized and knew that he was meeting Jesus the first time He met Him and was sure of it when the Spirit of God descended on Him. weren't we all like that at some point? when we first met Jesus, and our faith was new and strong, we had no doubt that this was the Son of God, the man who would set us free from our old lives. but when times get rough, we start doubting. our faith is shaken. we have to go "send our disciples" to see if Jesus is really who He says He is. we want to be sure again. i see so much of myself in john. at one point, i'm so sure that God is real in my life, and when times are rough, i start questioning and doubting and i need reassurance. but we can rest assured in this. when thomas finally believed that Jesus rose from the dead.

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
john 20

Sunday, November 15, 2009

james 5:13-20

The Power of Prayer

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Restore Wandering Believers

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back,20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

James 5

v.13 what does james say right after, "are any of you suffering hardships?" does he say, try to take care of the problem on your own? does he say, call up a friend and try to figure it out? does he say, exhaust every single option before giving it to God? he says, "you should pray." straight up. if you're going through something, give it to God immediately. but he doesn't just mean say a quick prayer to God and see what happens. he means to fervently pray, pray with all of your heart that God would help you. we have to know that in our time of desperation, our prayers are often times so much more true and brutally honest than when we feel like we don't need prayer. shouldn't our prayers always be like this? shouldn't we always come to God with a heart knowing that nothing else that we do for ourselves is as powerful and effective as what He can do for us? james goes on to say, "are any of you happy?" and we have to see his quick response to this. he doesn't say, go paint the town and celebrate with your friends! he doesn't say, just be content with being happy and thank yourself for your happiness! he says, "you should sing praises!" if God helps you, heals you, or makes something go well in your life, shouldn't that be our first response? to praise?? of course it should! so far, we see james asking rhetorical questions and answering very quickly, what should be done in our times of suffering and in our times of blessing. when you suffer, pray, when you're happy, sing! these are the best responses to those situations! and these are the responses that God wants from us, not to take it all on our own or give the credit to ourselves, but to offer the problems up to the God who can handle anything and thank the God who renews and restores everything!

v. 14 now a little bit of background. in the early church, some of the elders would have specific spiritual gifts and they would use them over whoever needed them. in this case, james is talking about the gift of healing. they would anoint whoever needed prayer and healing with oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit washing over the person. we have to see the importance of this. in Jesus's parable of the good samaritan, what does the samaritan do for the stripped and beaten man? he poured oil and wine on him and then took care of him. the first thing to notice here is that the first thing the elders did was pour oil on the person needing healing and the good samaritan poured oil on the battered man. the second thing we now have to look at in the light of all this is that the oil represents the Holy Spirit. so what do the elders and good samaritan do? they pour oil. they let the Holy Spirit take control of the healing, not themselves. the good samaritan poured the oil and then set the man on his own animal and took him to an inn to take care of him. this verse connects back to verse 13 of letting God take care of it first. the anointing of the oil represents us letting God take control before we even do anything!

v. 15 now james goes on to say that a prayer that is prayed in faith will heal the sick and make us well. back to verse 13, true fervent prayer is required, not half-hearted, shallow prayer. but look at what james says next. "and if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven." isn't it strange that he puts in something about sins when we're talking about physical suffering and sickness? i think that he was trying to make a point. he's not saying because of our sin, we're sick. what we see here is james making comparison between sickness and sin. sickness and sin. have we ever thought about sin like that? that it's a sickness that creeps in when we let our immune system and our defenses down? in some ways, sin is exactly like that. and how often are we tempted to take care of our sin problems on our own?? way too often. in the same light, we need to let the Holy Spirit take control and clean us of sin. we need to pray first when struggling with sin. in the same light as sickness, we will be healed. james says, if you committed any sins, you will be forgiven. i think that's an amazing analogy when we really think about it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

wheat and weeds

24 Here is another story Jesus told: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 "The farmer's workers went to him and said, `Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?'
28 "`An enemy has done this!' the farmer exclaimed.
"`Should we pull out the weeds?' they asked.
29 "`No,' he replied, `you'll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.'"

Matthew 13

this passage has been coming back to me again and again and just yesterday, one of the high schoolers' friends told him that when he looks around and sees wars, famines, hurt, pain, and suffering, and thinks that if there is a God, he's not impressed. i've been thinking about it, and if anything, i am not only impressed when i think about God, but i'm utterly and completely grateful. from creation to the fall to redemption and soon restoration, i am astounded at this God. think about this, our God created the world, the field in the parable. He wanted us to grow and be fruitful, the wheat. but an enemy came in and sowed weeds among the wheat, the devil sowing evil, destruction, suffering. can't He just pull up the weeds from the field? of course He can. He can. but He chooses not to. because if He pulls out the weeds, He pulls out the wheat as well. the weed is so intertwined with the wheat that for Him to kill the weeds, He would end up killing the wheat. of course, at any time, God could remove pain, suffering, and evil from the world, but we're so intertwined and connected to it that if He did, He would have to erase us as well! now we think, how could God let this happen?? how could He let the enemy plant all of this evil in the world? the thing is, He didn't. we let it happen. we said, "ok, give us the apple." and we fell. hard. out of our free will, we let sin take over the world and now we're stuck in this mess. but the story doesn't end there, God not only withholds pulling us all out of the world, but sends His son to save the world so that we can be made right with God! and He continually waits for us to come to Him and experience His love. if you're not impressed by that, i don't know how to impress you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

without love

Love Is the Greatest

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing.3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;s but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languagess and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.s All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

without love, it's all meaningless. if we're just doing things just because we're supposed to, then something is wrong. a really good exercise is this, for verses 4 to 6, replace love with your name. "thien is patient and kind. thien is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. he does not demand his own way..." i don't know about you, but i've already failed in the first three lines of this! this shows us exactly what we need to work on, to really love and show love and be love the way Jesus taught us.