[Living Life 11/01/2017] Amos 1:1-12

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“I will send fire…I will break down…I will destroy…” Amos 1:4-5

Usually the prophets bring news of God’s judgment.  Like an Asian parent, in the Old Testament, God is often addressing/punishing the people for what they are not doing right, instead of noticing and rewarding them for what they are doing right.  I guess if they are doing right, there’s  no need to change their behavior, but if they are not doing right, they need a stern talking to and some consequences.  I don’t know if we understand God like this in modern times, except maybe some fundamentalists who feel like natural disasters are somehow punishments from God for the sins of certain people. I feel like because there was so little understanding of science back in those times, people tended to attribute things to God so that they can make sense of their world, especially the things that were scary or life-threatening.

In every age, there’s a tremendous desire to understand why bad things happen.  Back in Old Testament times, people seemed to think it was because “the gods were angry.”  It’s good that we don’t have those old ways, and that we can look to God’s ultimate revelation of Himself through Jesus who died on a cross to restore our broken relationship and make us new creations in Him.  As to why bad things happen, we can make guesses but I think it’s beyond our comprehension.  We can say that it’s because we live in a fallen world, which is true, but ultimately, like Job, we are not given definitive answers.  We need to hang on to the faith that God is good and holds everything in His hands.  As for us, it would probably be most productive to focus on the areas that we can make a difference rather than trying to come up with a good guess as to why bad things happen.

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[Living Life 10/31/2017] Psalm 60

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“You have rejected us….now restore us.” Psalm 60:1

“With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” Psalm 60:12

Even though King David, today’s psalmist, attributed his difficulties to God being angry, David had confidence that God’s anger would not last.  Because of this belief in the overriding love of God, David knew that the bad times would pass, and he just needed to hold on until the storm was over so he could feel the warmth of God’s love again. I need to remember David’s perspective when I am in the midst of storms in my life, although personally I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to us because He is angry at us.  Bad things happen because we live in a broken world (and it’s broken because we have flaws, despite our being made in the image of God  — it’s just an image, it’s not a perfect image).

The other verse that struck me today is how in old testament times, people were loyal to God because they wanted God’s protection: “With God, we will gain the victory…”  Everyone wants to be on the winning team.  We want to be victorious.  We want that rush.  Actually, I have never been competitive.  I cringe when there has to be a winner and a loser.  My empathy for the loser eliminates all joy I feel for the winner.  Victory is so fleeting…is it so important to be the best, even if it is only for that instant?  Jesus had lots of followers when they thought that he was going to lead them in victory over the Roman oppressors.  After it was clear that Jesus, the man, was not going to be victorious, his followers disappeared and even his closest disciples denied knowing him.  The instinct for self-preservation is that strong.  Jesus said that if you want to gain life you must be willing to lose it.  It’s so contrary to our human nature; only with something more powerful than human nature — God’s spirit within us — can we overcome our basic instincts and walk the narrow path, which seems to be the way of losers but is really the only path that leads to life overflowing.

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[Living Life 10/30/2017] Psalm 59

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“You are my strength. I sing praise to you.”  Psalm 59:17

The psalmist declares that God is his strength.  What is our source of strength today? As Christians, we are well aware of this idea of God being our strength, but I know I don’t behave as if this is true.  My strength — the thing which gives me security and keeps me from worrying — is my version of reality (i.e., my tendency to analyze what has happened in the past in order to predict what will happen in the future and what needs to be adjusted if I want to have a different outcome than what happened in the past).  I run all sorts of programs and scenarios in my mind, based on the past, and then come to a place of comfort about what action needs to be taken.  That is my strength.

Learning from the past is a core part of learning.  We make mistakes and we learn from them so we don’t repeat them.  However, when I go through past scenarios, I don’t know why I don’t pick up how God is a wildcard.  If you are a gambler, you count cards in order to predict what cards are most likely to come up next.  This works fine well, but God is not predictable.  Perhaps God is like the weather, you can try to predict it but you can never get 100% accuracy.  So, does this mean you should not try to predict the weather?  No, there is a place for prediction, but you should also build in a chance for something unexpected — whether good or bad.

The unexpectedness of life makes it spicy and keeps it interesting.  I don’t think that I would exchange a happy life for one filled with ups and downs.  So, when the turbulent times come, my source of strength should not be my ability to assess my chances for escaping the danger (nor should it necessarily be in the hope that Jesus will pull a rabbit out of the hat); instead, my source of strength should be the constant awareness that God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, has chosen to dwell in me and that whatever happens, nothing can separate me from God.

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[Living Life 10/27/2017] Psalm 56

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“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”  Psalm 56:3

“I will trust in you.”  What does that mean? How does that translate in behavior?

Exactly what are we trusting that God will do?  Are we trusting that God will make it all work out?  Ho w much should we “help” …and if we help, are we trusting?

It reminds me of Bush era double-think policy, “Trust but verify”:  Trust, but still act as if you don’t trust.

The psalmist says, “I will trust and I will not be afraid.”  So, the action that trust inspires is to help overcome fear.  When you trust, you reduce your fear and you shift your focus.  You still do the best you can to help yourself out of the situation, but you do so with calmness.  David, the psalmist, even shifted his focus to the point that he could thank God for all the situations that God delivered him from before.  So, you are not trusting in a particular outcome; instead, you are trusting that this will not be the end of you.

As I contemplate a career change, I have lots of fear.  I can’t really think of specific times that God has delivered me from hazardous situations, other than the fact that I’m still alive today to write this post.  I don’t think I’ve ever done anything riskyt that goes against reasonableness and safety/sensibility.  This would be the first, if I do it.  Maybe trust in God gives you the freedom to pursue what you really want without fear, even if it turns out later that you don’t want what you think you wanted.  I do trust that God wants us to live our lives to the full; it’s our only live on earth and He wants us to experiment with new things so that we can be our best selves in this one life.

Living our best lives doesn’t mean there will not be days (or weeks?) filled with frustration, despair or discouragement.  I think these negative experiences and emotions are signs that we are entering a season of growth — a time to clarify our values and cleanse us of what is not essential.  Sometimes growth hurts, tearing us down in order that we may grow up strong — like when you have to re-breaks a bone so that it can heal properly.  What makes the pain bearable is trust.

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[Living Life 9/13/2017] Isaiah 20:1-6

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God ordered Isaiah to go around stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush. It was for a warning to Israel which kept relying on Egypt and Cush instead of relying on God and repenting their sins. However, what about integrity of Isaiah? Going around stripped and barefoot? For three years? Why did he have to do that for three years? It was because God wanted Israel to be sure to recognize this sign. Even today, if there was a man who has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, everyone would have heard about his story. God used his servant Isaiah humiliating him to give certain warning to Israel for them to turn back to God. However, Israelites did not listen and even they complained later when the country fell why God forsook them. They did not remember how much God had shown them numerous warnings humiliating and sacrificing his servants. How about us? Does God keep sending us signs and warnings to live differently? Don’t we simply ignore them until we really face the consequence of ways we live? Let’s see signs and warnings God keeps sending us. Let’s recognize them and take them seriously to change our life before it is too late. Maybe, our catastrophe is not God’s judgment or punishment but simply the consequence of what we have done. God is merciful, so sends numerous signs for us to understand and to change our life. It is us who ignore those signs disobediently and obstinately and stick to our way to end up misfortune of our life. God keeps telling us and teaching us sacrificing his servants and even his only son, but it is useless if we do not pay attention to them.

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[Living Life 8/6/2017] Psalms 46:1-11

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 Psalm 46:7 & 11  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 46:10   10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When things are not going well or when bad things happen, we feel that we need to do something. Sometimes, we feel urgency, so we make certain actions to fix the things. Feeling urgency is not always bad. We need to understand that our life is not good enough and far away from the glory of God. We should have urgency for our sinful status and with this urgency, we must come back to God with all our efforts. However, people do not usually feel urgency for going back to God but for their worldly situations. When things are not going well, we feel urgency and try to do something. However, the Bible keeps telling us that the LORD Almighty is with us. There is no situation we have to feel urgency. In the middle of storms in our life, we should find that the LORD Almighty, our heavenly Father who gave even his only begotten Son, Jesus, for us is with us. We need to be still and know that the one whom we trust is God. Urgency is not for this worldly situation. We can be still before God in whatever situation. However, if we are not with God now, then we must have urgency to go back to God.

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[Living Life 7/15/2017] Numbers 29:1-11

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I have struggled for a long time due to God’s contradictory characters in the OT and the NT or God’s strictness and God’s mercy. Today’s Living Life article talks about it well as follows:

The strictness of Go is seen in the perfection of His holiness; it creates a frame for His power and sovereignty. The kindness of God is experienced in His loving mercy; it is the conduit by which He draws us into relationship with Him. The pivotal point where these two seemingly opposite characteristics merge is at the cross of Jesus Christ. The strictness of God’ Law demands justice for our sins, and he kindness of His mercy extends love and forgiveness of sins through the atoning blood of His Son.

For us who live on this side of the cross, forgiven and free, God’s strictness and kindness guide us as we walk with Him. Sometimes God interacts with us in a very specific and direct way; He tells us exactly what He wants us to do, and it pleases Him to see us follow His commands in obedience. There are other times when He offers us a number of good choices, and it pleases Him to give us the freedom to choose, like a parent who experiences joy in watching their child choose their favorite color of flavor. God sets fixed boundaries within which we are to live and sometimes gives us a very specific mission to accomplish, but He also enjoys seeing His children express their individuality and follow their desires as they navigate the many good opportunities that He offers them. – Living Life, July 15.

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