The Silent God.

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In the initial steps of receiving Christ into one’s life, the most fundamental dilemma is the question of prayer. “If God does exist and He is Almighty, then He can surely answer everything I ask for couldn’t He?” This prayer stems from the most innocent hearts filled with desperation. Then whenever that deep wishful prayer isn’t answered, it leads to the next step in confusion. “If God has the power to answer all prayers, then why didn’t He answer mine? Did I not wish hard enough? Did I not express my heart truly and fully to Him?”

A spiritually young heart will kneel and pray again and again, asking for that one key that will open all doors. When the prayer is still not answered, other bubbles of questions arise: “Is God even there? Perhaps I am nothing to Him?”

The Silent God.

As we learn more and more about God, we begin to face the Silent God; the One who remains calm and passive to the tumultuous events in our lives. Where is God when I need Him most? Where was the Active God who spoke to Abraham, telling him where to go? Where was this active God who held up the moon and sun so that the Israelites could win their battle? Where was this active God who showed His people both His wrath and love with all the signs of the world?

Say we learn somewhere along our spiritual journey that all we do must lead to God’s glory. So you begin to pray not in just a wishful begging, but with a purpose. You promise God that all your success is for His glory, and that if this one key was to be given, all the doors that would thereby open would be His and for Him only.

Even after that, you may find yourself facing a hard locked door. What then? You begin to bargain with God, giving more and taking away bit by bit what you asked for. When you parse away enough of what you are asking for, you then realize this isn’t really praying at all.

How many of us have gone through these stages? I sure have, and still am. The only thing is that now, I have come to know the Silent God a little better, only just a little, and this has made all the difference in my spiritual life.

C.S. Lewis has once said:

“There is no question whether an event has happened because of your prayer. When the event you prayed for occurs your prayer has always contributed to it. When the opposite event occurs your prayer has never been ignored; it has been considered and refused, for your ultimate good and the good of the whole universe.”

It took one thing to understand what praying really meant, and why certain prayers are never answered. What it took was faith. Faith is the belief that God is Almighty. He is not Almighty because He answers your prayers and not because He has all the keys to unlock the doors on heaven and earth. His omnipotence is not conditional on what He can do with his omnipotence. It is because He can that He can also choose not to, and when you have the faith to know that God is good, then you can also believe that when God can but chooses not to, there is a divine reason for it; a reason that is good in His eyes.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The Silent God is not a passive God. While we sleep, He is at work. Though God works in mysterious ways we cannot understand, it is by faith alone we are saved, not just on the large scale of salvation but from all our day to day concerns and frustrations in life.

Wherever God leads you, remember that He will raise you up and lead you to the door of righteousness. That door you are knocking on may not be the door God wants you to walk through, and it may be for several reasons but whatever that divine reason is, have the faith to let go if it isn’t right, trust God, and keep walking. Praying is not just about telling God what you want, but also about listening to what He thinks of your prayers. Listen to His small voice, and have faith to lead a life of righteousness.

Remember, God is good.

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The importance of Habit

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People tend to overlook the importance of habit when it comes to pursuing activities; the notion of habit is associated with thoughtless mechanism and as a result, insincerity. What exactly is habit, then? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, habit is a usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated wayAttempting any sort of activities—from writing to playing musical instruments—requires reinforcement to get better, and living a life of faith is really not much different. When people think about praying, they commonly think that praying is only necessary when you need something, or simply want something. But that is a very elementary way of thinking about God, one that reduces the role of God to a mere genie in a lamp. God wants us to pray to Him regardless of whether we are happy or sad; whether we want something or are simply grateful for all that he has given us.

Just look at the Bible. You’ll see countless instances of Bible characters habitually praying to God. Out of many, two comes to my mind immediately. One is Daniel; in the Book of Daniel:

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

– Daniel 6:10 (KJV)

To give a bit of a context to the passage, there was a law issued in Persia that no gods were to be worshiped other than King Darius himself. According to the passage, Daniel knew that the writing was signed, yet he “kneeled upon his knees…prayed, and gave thanks before his God.” Perhaps the most important part of this passage is the word “aforetime.” Daniel had a habit of kneeling before God and praying towards Jerusalem three times a day. He knew that his life would be at stake for praying to God, but he still prayed as he did “aforetime.” The result, as many of you know, was that Daniel was saved from the lion’s den by God, and instead his political rivals were thrown into the den and eaten alive by the lions.

The other example is Jesus. Jesus also had a habit of praying, as stated in the Scripture:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed Him.

– Luke 22:39 (NIV)

This was right before Jesus was crucified. Despite knowing that he would inevitably be crucified, he went to the Mount of Olives as usual to pray. As we can see, both Daniel and Jesus went to pray as they always did regardless of whatever was to happen to them. Both were faced with the threat of death, (and Jesus indeed dies from cross, and resurrects) yet did not skip their daily routine of praying because of grief and worries. From this we realize that praying to God shouldn’t be something we do impulsively out of worries or other surge of emotions, but something we do routinely to connect ourselves spiritually with God. Hopefully, the importance of habit in living a life of faith is somewhat clear now.

Though seemingly mechanic and methodical, our adherence to such habits becomes an important indicator of our own faith. The examples I gave above were in ancient times, where believing in God was potentially life-threatening. At ancient times people were crucified or tortured or burned alivefor their beliefs. Nowadays, these threats no longer exist. We seem to be living in a world where there is a freedom of religion. But the capitalistic society that we live in requires us to deviate from our daily habits of faith and focus on building careers, money and family by not wasting any time. If we have some spare time to pray, we might as well spend those time to expand our businesses, improve our personal skills, or catch up with old friends; we can’t go to church on Sunday—we attract the most customers that day! These subtle obstructions to our faith is our era’s test of martyrdom, because these things are hard to notice, like molecules that can only be seen when one scrutinizes its details through a powerful microscope. These microscopic obstacles to our faith creates a powerful momentum, like a splitting nucleus emitting a neutron which then clashes with other nucleus, ultimately creating a massive nuclear fission. It is so important to never be swayed from obstructions that prevent us from pursuing our daily habit of faith.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle

The truth is, developing a habit is hard. It requires discipline. This habit of praying can be especially hard, because it is not what people commonly think when they think of praying. It is not the same as looking up to God when you need Him (although you would need Him every second of your life); it is devoting your time to Him even when you feel like everything is swell and you don’t really need to pray to Him. The same applies in situations where you just can’t help but brood over your deepest worries; you need to make it your habit to pray to Him. It should be difficult at first, but we should devote our time to Him.

So, how about it? Let’s start slow. At any time of the day, spare at least a few minutes of your time to pray. Pray for whatever crosses your mind; the things you’re grateful for, the things you want God to listen to, your problems, your dreams, your plans, your family, friends, the world, everything. Do not let your mind filter what you wish to say to God, rather open yourself so that the Holy Spirit can consume you.

Good Luck! Let us know how you are doing by posting on the comment below!

– A.K.

Sources:

1. Reverend Goshen Choi (sermons)

2. TAC (Meetings)

3. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit )

I Put my Life Your Hands because I Trust You

In my younger years of youthful ambition or rather, greed, I looked upon the Bible character of Isaac and felt only questions and frustration. I’ve always only made a personal liking to the characters who at the end of their journey made an evident victory over their evildoers or at least were pronounced and expressive intellectuals who in various periods of their lives were able to battle and win in the name of Jesus Christ. Someone like Paul the Apostle.

But Isaac? Who was he but a son who willingly and quietly laid on an altar of firewood so that he may be made a sacrifice to the Lord? Besides the story of complete obedience shown so clearly on that altar, what else do people remember him for?

Perhaps some of you will remember the story of Isaac successfully digging wells everywhere he went, only for those wells to be stolen by nomads or villagers in that area.

Some of you may also remember that Isaac too, like his father Abraham, told Pharaoh that his wife was his sister so that he may be saved. Ah, and perhaps also the story of how Isaac married the woman chosen by his father’s servant!

But besides these few, his story, though unquestionably a major part, never quite seemed anything like the elaborate and intense narrative of the other more “vivid” characters in the Bible.

It was only until my arms were completely chained and my feet shackled that I remembered the story of Isaac. My chains were already choking my neck, and the pain was unbearable. Life or death, it was. Nothing in between. All doors in my life seemed closed shut. Darkness enveloped my life and a form like death seeped into my bones.

Yet, like a sudden gust of wind, the story of Isaac knocked a door in my tight-closed chest. It was as if a dust-covered book suddenly came to life and before me was a wisdom I was not, until now, ready to learn.

Was I kneeling before the Lord, praying like Jesus did before the Cross, that God’s will be done? If I truly say I believe in the Lord, in Jesus Christ, have I submitted completely and have retained not even a little, not even an ounce of myself? Or have I conceitedly applied the Almighty God to the schemes of my desires instead of submitting to His great and Good will?

And therefore, what was repentance all along if I had only asked God for grace for the chance to sin again? Have I  asked for heaven when within me I retained that little bit of hell?

Then, I remembered the story of Isaac, that righteous humility to leave everything up to God. Like a lamb, he quietly followed the path to his cross, without once putting forth his greed for life on earth. To every land he invested his work and discovered prosperity (the wells), it was stolen by thieves who steal the work of others and make it their own. And like a mute, he did not fight back. He was able to let go of “possession”, made his by his work and sweat. He did not question God and ask, “God, why give me the opportunity to find, to dig, to build, to invest my work only to take it away from me?” Tell me, what brave and faithful person can let go of something they treasure so much? A well, water, signifies a source of life. If I were to be cut off from my source of life today, the source that feeds me day to day and what I believe I need in my life, could I faithfully let go of it when God takes it away and believe that God has prepared a new way for me?

I stopped and looked at my hands, holding on to the chains and shackles of my greed. My desires. My wants. My belief that I knew what was best for me. I repented for the obvious sins I sinned, not knowing the underlying sin of trying to play God in my own life.

I ask you today, do you really trust In God that He has truly prepared a better way for you? Even if that path is not necessarily the path of your dreams and desires? Can you let go of things you think you need in life when God says to, believing that He has prepared a better way? Or will you be like the rich man that asks Jesus, “what can I do to receive salvation” and walks away from the truth when Jesus says:

“go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

To give up the self and to follow Jesus… this was what Isaac had done. C.S. Lewis says:

“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Mere Christianity

Now, I ask myself, who was the wiser man? The one who constantly battled with the Lord to finally submit to His will? The man who began as a persecutor of believers and than was struck blind so that he may learn of the true God?

They are all wiser than anyone can judge, but it is now I understand Isaac a little bit more and why God was pleased in him.

The story of Isaac does not show much drama, and in his complete submissiveness to the Lord, his life seemed to me all too boring to make any human connection to. Of course I understood the teachings and the theological importance his story had to my faith. But in developing any further reason to declare I wanted to be more like Isaac, it was not so.

But how blind I was! In my struggles I have come to face again a fraction of the whole Truth that even in its small comparison to the Whole, is ever so monumental. And how blind I was because all along, the Truth was right there. Never moved. Never changed.

Let me leave this post with a quote by C.S. Lewis about what it means to truly trust God:

“…handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already.” – Mere Christianity

May we all trust in God.

The Humble Reflection

So as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.”

– Hebrews 3:7-8

The Bible should not be considered an allegory, but it can certainly be considered a holy text full of parables that teach us more than what is on the face of it. It is so often said that there are no questions that have not been answered in the Bible. If we do not see it, it is merely because we do not understand  the meaning behind the words we read, or we are not prepared to take to heart what Holy Spirit wishes us to obey. A simple line can have more meaning and application than a thousand hours of self-help lectures. If we just think about that, we can imagine how profound the Bible is.

By learning and loving the Word of GOD, we learn to become more like Him and understand His will. But through the Bible, we are also given the chance to really look into ourselves. It is constantly said in the Bible that the word of GOD is like a double-edged sword because of how exacting His words can apply to our lives. Sometimes His words cut us open so that the walls of our conceit and obstinance fall down and we can finally see ourselves clearly in the mirror, that is the Word. It is then we confess with great humiliation that we were so blind to the sins we were committing.

This time of humble reflection is a time of pain because the double-edged sword of the Word cuts us open, however it does not end with just pain. It is also a gift of God’s grace. It is grace because by the wounds of our sins being torn away, we are made new. We learn from our sins and begin to walk in the righteous path of the Lord again. We stop justifying the wrongs in our life and we come to accept that we have wronged and it is time to make it right before the Lord.

I found this verse from the Book of Hebrew. [So as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.”]

God speaks through us through so many ways. There is always the Holy Bible that lays somewhere in our room. The Word is always waiting for us. But there is also sermons at church, the prayers of our fellow congregation members, and even our friends. There are times we hear God’s words through signs in the day and night. Whatever the medium, when God speaks to you today at this very moment, let us not turn our heads away in the other direction. Let the double-edged sword pierce through us and make us know that it is time for a humble reflection. It is pain but it is also what makes us right again; not only internally but when all things stand right before the Lord, the rest of our lives fall through.

Have you had time for this humble reflection through the Word?