Weakness to Strength

One of my favorite examples of people in the Bible whose weakness became their strength was Moses and his lack of eloquence in speech. It’s hard to believe that Moses—the liaison, the messenger, in between God and the Israelites– ever had a weakness. He was almost fearless at times in his confrontations towards the Israelites. These people were not always easy to approach let alone please. But only because of God was Moses able to be what the Lord wanted him to be.

I have also struggled with speech, specifically public speaking. And although many people have told me that I don’t look like I am nervous speaking in front of others, I can 100% admit that it is an ongoing fear of mine. I’ve come to God about my fears and weaknesses and have expressed to Him my desire to overcome. I’ve also had multiple conversations with friends and family about how our fears and weaknesses hold us back from doing the will of God. For example, I know of someone who has the desire to travel to a certain country which I believe will influence her to see what God could potentially have planned for her in the future, but she fears she will stand out too much and doesn’t want to go through the process of not being able to communicate with the people knowing that they don’t speak the same language as she. Unfortunately, when we allow our weaknesses to consume us, we miss out on the opportunity to see God’s glory and power and how He can help us not only seek Him but even overcome.

As I have been reading through Exodus, I related to Moses’ weakness. And so I wondered as I was reading through his life, when did he reach the point of fearlessness? I can see clearly how an amazing leader Moses was by God’s glory. But how did he reach that point? When did he realize that God really would be there for him?

When reading Moses’ life, we must keep in mind that God choosing Moses as the representative of the Israelites means that God knew who Moses would become even though Moses himself did not know at the time he was asked. When Moses was called, he gave typical human answers. As the conversation goes on, Moses says to God, “’O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue’” (Exodus 4:10 NIV). And of course God responds with a mighty answer: “’Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’” (Exodus 4:11-12).

When we are called to do something, God is fully away of our weaknesses, and so He will help us. But sometimes, it’s not always easy for us to think that we can reach the point of where Moses ended up. Eventually, Moses pleaded with God to send someone else to speak on behalf of God. So the Lord sent Moses’ older brother Aaron to do the speaking (Exodus 4:13-17). For some time, it was Moses and Aaron confronting Pharaoh. Later, I realized that Moses did begin his part of the speaking. In Chapter 8, it seems to be the first encounter recorded where Moses was doing the speaking, and from then on, he was unstoppable!

In 2 Corinthians 12:10, it says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV). Our human nature leaves the door open for a multitude of weaknesses. Some of us struggle with speech, others with money, and so on. We all have things that prevent us from getting stronger. But reaching a point of strength is not from our own work but from God. Moses couldn’t do anything without God except obey. And with His reassurance, encouragement, and strength, Moses was able to reach the highest point necessary to glorify God.

As I continue to almost daily speak in front of my students, each day, I must remind myself that it is not only time and practice that is assisting me in overcoming my weakness but it is God. For Christ’s sake I can delight in my weakness. There is no reason to pity myself or think that there is no way the Lord can use me. No! The Lord can use anyone regardless of what weakness they have because He will give us strength to overcome.

“Come to Me”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden us light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Not too long ago, my sister and I were talking about the stresses that come up now that we are adults. A few years ago, school was our stress. Now it’s jobs and money. My sister shared that just when one problem goes away, another one shows up and so she has no rest. And that’s true. That’s what life is like. I don’t like the feeling of always having stresses one after the other, but we will constantly have things thrown at us whether they’re temptations, financial situations, relationship problems, etc. Always. God knows this. He always knows what we are going through. And He doesn’t want us to make these as burdens and to have us carry them alone.

Lately, I’ve been into watching videos of missionary families and what life is like for them as missionaries. I was shocked to learn that the stresses that I deal with do not compare with what they deal with almost every day. Many missionaries, if not all, go as volunteers and so they must depend on God for money. Schools are not always available for the children of missionary families and so they must depend on God for the education of the children. Safety. Food. Clothing. Life-threatening diseases. The difference between them and I is that they depend on God for all those things. They come to God so that God will take on their burdens and lighten their load. And when they speak of their experiences and how God has been faithful all the way, there is a noticeable calmness about their stature. They seemed so relaxed. At first, it might seem like they have never experienced any stresses, but in reality, they have suffered and gone through so much that they had to look to God, and so they have allowed God to be the source of everything. As a result, they radiate peace.

Matthew 11:28-30 is not only about God giving us rest. The act of coming to the Lord is us depending on Him and trusting in Him. We should be free to go to the Lord, and Him calling us is an invitation. The reason for this invitation is then so we can find rest amidst all the stresses, and burdens, and hurt, and pain, and suffering in life. It is possible.

David, a man who freely shared his burdens and stresses documented them in the book of Psalms. Many of his writings share how distressed he was in certain times. He vents and goes into great poetic detail of his current situations. But something unique about David is that he always brought it back to the Lord and gave Him praise. David has had people attack him (Psalm 54:3), he has had sorrow in his heart as his enemy triumphs over him (Psalm 13:2), his enemies have increased and so he is greatly distressed (Psalm 25:18-19), and much more. However, with all that he is struggling with, he comes to God and reveals His nature. God is his refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), his rock (Psalm 28:1), his light and salvation (27:1), and the stronghold of his life (Psalm 27:1). And these are only a few of the many struggles he shares and the attributes of God.

For when we come to God and allow Him to take on our burdens, we will not be disappointed. Our Creator knows us best, and so He has invited us to come to Him.

Do Not Worry

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” ~ Matthew 6:26 NIV

Matthew 6:25-34 in my Bible is literally titled Do Not Worry. That is something I always here continuously and sadly, it often times sounds cliché. It’s undeniable that we humans have many worries: the world, money, housing, jobs, families, etc. Countless worries that keep us up at night. Bigger worries influence smaller worries like what to wear, what to eat, what to order at Starbucks©. We end up worrying over things that need no thought. Therefore, we end up finding easier routes and/or solutions so we don’t have to worry. We store food for the week; no need to worry about food. We work more so we can make more money so we can afford more things; no need to worry about money. I can go on and on, but basically, what I am trying to say is that in this life, things that worry us are inevitable no matter how much we do to avoid it.

What Jesus is saying is plain and clear: do not worry. Why? Because our Heavenly Father not only feeds the birds but us too (Matthew 6:26). In other words, God provides. God gives, God restores, it is all in His hands. And bluntly speaking, the world worries about meaningless things. I do agree that clothes are important, food is important, a house, a car, family…all of that is greatly important. But when that becomes an idol, then we’re not really trusting in God. God created food, so why can’t we trust that He will provide that for us? There are more important things at stake than our careless, worldly worries.

Why is it so hard not to worry? Well for many of us, maybe we lack faith. Jesus says bluntly in Matthew 6:30, “’Oh you of little faith’” (NIV). We shouldn’t worry because we should believe that God will supply all our needs and that He is in control. On the other hand, if you struggle with worrying like I do, I recommend reading Philippians 4:6 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

When we “present our requests to God” for our worries, we are seeking Him which is what He wants. But what He doesn’t want from us is us imagining a planned response from Him. Meaning, we cannot expect God to do what we want. He does as He pleases. As we come to Him in prayer for our anxiousness, He gives peace, and that is what we need at the moment of our worrying.

Hiding in the Dark

“’Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.’” ~ John 3:20 NIV

The last couple of months, my church has been doing a sermon series on freedom. Throughout the Sundays, we have had people come up and share a short testimony about how the Lord has set them free from their sins. At first, it was really inspiring to hear the stories of people from the congregation. Lately, the testimonies have been more openly honest. The deep dark secrets of people have been coming out. Not only have they been hard to hear and sad, but I have grown to love them even more.

As a sinner, I hate knowing and revealing my sin. It is so shameful and crude knowing I am such a sinner. When I was a child, I was innocent when I sinned because I did not know what I was doing wrong. And now, I do things that I know are wrong. I still do them. But when I hear of the testimonies of the people from my church, I see such joy, peace, and confidence. They shine! And they declare their freedom.

Being in the dark is convenient. No one knows of our dark secrets and sometimes it’s nice because no one will treat us differently if they knew. However, one can only dwell in the darkness for so long. It is not only wrong to be in darkness but it is also not healthy emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. When Jesus came to earth, He saw the people suffering, and He did not hesitate to bring people and sin out of the darkness. He brought hope.

Ephesians 5:8-14 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteous and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (NIV). So much information is packed in these verses. But they speak truth. If we can dwell in our sin for as long as we want but it will never last. Eventually, it will become visible.

The verses above encourage us that we don’t have to stay in darkness all our lives. Either way, the Lord will expose all evil. And even if we feel ashamed, that is why God sent His son to die for us. He came to bring light and to bring us out of our hiding place. This does not mean we will never sin; we need to remind ourselves that we are not perfect. But we should not be slaves to sin either. Through the power of God, we are free because we can overcome!

Water thy Fire

“I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.’ But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue…” ~ Psalm 39:1-3 NIV

Years ago I encountered a newly Christian with a passionate desire to serve and speak of God. The fire he had within was very expressive. A friend and I enjoyed conversations we would have with him, and God used him to reveal to us a passion in serving God. Growing up in a Christian environment can sometimes make my Christian faith stay in a luke-warm path because of the same teachings I hear and my lack of motivation. But after getting to know this friend, I got excited about God for some reason. It was a new passion.

Well, it didn’t last. My fire for God died down when I returned to the States after studying in South Korea for a semester. It didn’t happen instantly. It took time. When I had come back, I searched for ways to serve God, to speak of my experience abroad, and just to speak of the Lord. I guess not many people were excited as I was, and that affected me to the point that my fire eventually distinguished. I became somewhat silenced which led to frustration which led to anger which led to judgments and an attitude to the place and people that were around me.

There are dangers into having our fire for God distinguished. We can run into an apathetic approach towards reading the Word, praying, etc. A judgmental attitude of both believers and nonbelievers can arise. Fear! Fear is a big one. Even the lack of motivation. Some people might not understand our fire for God and almost deny its power, or in other words, God’s power. Fortunately, the Lord instills in us a passion so great that not even silence can contain it. Jeremiah, who dealt with persecution, describes his passion in chapter 20 verse 9, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (NIV). The fire can stem from injustice, our love for God, our anger towards sin, from the Holy Spirit. And it cannot be contained. No matter how much we are silenced, we cannot remain silent.

Acts 4:20 says, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (NIV). My friend whom I mentioned above was a fairly new Christian when I met him. And I could tell that what the Lord had revealed to Him gave him a fire that he could just not keep to himself. He had to share about God no matter what. Even for David in the verses mentioned above, he talks about his time of silence. He tried it, and he just couldn’t do it.

Whether we have been silenced about our faith or have chosen to remain quiet, we cannot let our fire be distinguished. What’s wrong with us wanting the fire to grow stronger and stronger? Nothing! That is what God wants. We must feed the fire with the Word, with prayer, with anything that is of God. Just as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I will say it to you: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (NIV).

Righteous Anger

“In the temple courts he [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” ~ John 2:14-15 NIV

During my adolescence, I remember struggling a lot with anger and my temper. I found it wrong of me and of others to be feeling angered over the little things. I wanted to so desperately act like Christ, being patient and kind and gentle but it was so difficult under all the frustration. I mostly based my feelings on anger from what Ephesians 4:26-27 says: “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while your are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV). Yes, it is very risky to be angry because Satan can use that anger to lead us to sin. Think of when Cain killed his brother Abel; Cain was angry when he did it (Genesis 4:5-8).

For many years, my misconception of anger continued. I had in mind that God was the angry one. In Exodus 32:9-12, God was speaking to Moses about his anger towards the “stiff-necked people” or in other words, the Israelites. He even wanted to destroy them! However, Moses persuaded God and reminded Him that it was His people whom He brought out of Egypt. God had a reason to be angry, but even then, one would think that God being perfect wouldn’t get angry, right?

So if God is the angry one, then we must find someone who can mediate between us and God. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (NIV). Thankfully we have one! Jesus, the one who can keep us from God’s anger. And because Jesus is perfect, He would also not get angry, right?

John 2:14-15 actually displays a human response from Jesus. Jesus was angry. Shocking! Being angry might not seem as shocking, but the fact that Jesus went on a rampage was more so. And what made Him angry was, in His words, “’How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (NIV) Notice that He was so angry, He made a “whip out of cords” (John 2:15). Now, this was a side of Jesus I could not picture. He succumbed to anger and did what no one would have expected. It was definitely something a human would do, if they were angry. But Jesus? Inconceivable! In reality, the way Jesus responded was perfectly acceptable. Why? Because unlike our anger in most situations, Jesus was righteously angry. How dare people change the purpose of the house of God. It is not right to treat the house of God like that. Sin was the goal in the temple and that angered Jesus. Moreover, what angers God angers Jesus.

The anger that Jesus and God displayed in the two situations above is righteous anger. When you know that someone is doing wrong, it brings out natural emotions. There is a reason why anger sparks. On the other hand, our anger is a risk because we are human. We already know in Ephesians that anger can lead to sin. James also touches on anger in chapter one verses nineteen through twenty: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (NIV). The phrase “man’s anger” can be translated to “human’s anger.” There is a huge difference between human’s anger and righteous anger. Our anger is flawed, imperfect, and can be sinful. But the anger of God, the anger of Jesus, is a response to the sin and injustice in this world. They are right to be angry. Furthermore, knowing that they are perfect, they cannot sin in anger like we can.

Anger is not an evil emotion. Let us use anger in a response to the sin around the world, the injustice and the evil. Let it be an emotion to open our eyes over how we treat our Heavenly Father. And let it become a drive or motivation to get us on the right path.

The Lord knows how to speak to you.

“Then I [Daniel] heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.” ~ Daniel 10:9 NIV

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who found it frustrating communicating with someone who wasn’t fluent in English. They had a lot of miscommunication that resulted in a lot of problems at work. Although I can understand my friend and her situation, I find it difficult to understand when two people who speak the same language still manage to miscommunicate or misunderstand each other. We each have our own language and that encompasses speech, behavior, emotions, and the heart. There is not a single person on this earth that can communicate with us 100%. The only one who can penetrate our complicated language barrier is God. He does it in a way that strikes deeply into the heart. And we may respond with pure joy, in tears, or just suddenly feel peace.

Just recently, I was searching for verses about the response of people when the Lord spoke to them. What I noticed was that He spoke to every person in different ways. A burning bush for Moses. Through Samuel the prophet for David. A blinding light for Paul. God doesn’t always use words to speak to us because He knows what kind of communication we need. Daniel, for example, was approached by God through visions. The impact of the speaker’s words in one particular vision, left Daniel with his face to the ground (Daniel 10:9). What kind of person leaves us in that position? No person, just God.

As Daniel narrates this vision he is in, he says in Daniel 10:10, “A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling” (NIV). The man in the vision continues to explain to Daniel of things that happened and things to come. Yet, Daniel was still in an awe and couldn’t speak.

Then, Daniel says about his vision, “Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, ‘I am overcome with anguish because of my vision, my lord, and I am helpless. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe” (Daniel 10:16-17 NIV). Wow, to be speechless before the Lord. Now, I know this case does not occur for everyone. Like I said, God speaks to us in many ways. And with Daniel in this situation, this was an effective method.

When we are spoken to in such a way, we are not sure how or able to respond. In that case, God will and already has provided the means to communicate with Him. We have prayer, we have His Word, and we have His Son. Even more so, He grants us what we need. For example, He gave Daniel strength to go on and hear the vision (Daniel 10:19). God is not like us; He is not difficult to communicate with. He is a relationship God and desires to have a relationship with us. Of course He can communicate with us. He created us.

What should we look like?

“He [Jesus] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” ~ Isaiah 53:2 NIV

After a year living in South Korea, I had become overly concerned about my appearance. Not that I didn’t care much about it before, but after living in a different culture for so long—a culture of fashion, money, and materialistic wealth—my mentality about what I looked like began to change. I was battling with how I wanted to look versus how I wanted people to treat me. Being casual or being respected. And at the time, I thought the appearance was the only way. Being so concerned about what I looked like didn’t leave room for me to wonder what God was thinking, what He thought about the thoughts of myself.

When I think of what Jesus looked like…I don’t think He cared about His appearance the way many of us do. I think His appearance was one of the last things on His mind. He had plenty of other things to worry about: His disciples, His ministry, the world! The Bible never mentions if He ever cared about His appearance. And yet, I’m sure the way He wanted people to treat Him would never be consistent. Imagine if He was a king. Would He get the respect He deserved? Well, the verse that comes after the verse mentioned above sadly portrays the truth: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (NIV).

For many of us, the concentration on our appearance might be because of our desire to please people. Others like to look good in the eyes of people. For others, we are influenced by society and what magazines, commercials, and even movies tell us of our image. Regardless of all that, we focus so much on the outside, on what we see. It’s not bad to look good. It’s not a sin to wear makeup. But there comes a point where we need to ask ourselves why are we trying so hard on our appearance. Ultimately, to God, He doesn’t care what we look like.

When Samuel was in search for a king of Israel, he passed all of David’s older brothers until Samuel laid eyes on the young David. Imagine a line of us, all polished and well-put together. Imagine Samuel going down the line basically rejecting every single one of us until he come to someone least unexpected: one who is more concerned about what the Lord thinks rather than man. Imagine the words that Samuel would say. They would be the same words he uttered in 1 Samuel 16:7, “’The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (NIV). We can put so much time on the outside appearance, but for what? To please people’s eyes?

Korea has taught me to look professional and being professional is not wrong. But I have made it an effort to remind myself why I want to look professional. In the beginning, I was very concerned about my appearance especially because I don’t look Korean at all. But there is no need to fear about what people think of our appearance. God’s opinion is more important. His own Son knew what it was like, and He suffered greatly.

Why put so much effort on the outer image when all of that will eventually go to waste. Eventually we will wrinkle, gain or loss weight, end up with a bad memory. The outer image won’t last. Although we should take care of ourselves for the body we were given we must take care of. But while taking care of our body, we must remember that eventually it will come to an end.

Our Focus

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” ~ Colossians 3:2 NIV

For the last year, the topic that comes into mind quite often among my friends and I is when pursuing a job/career or the next step in our lives, are we keeping in mind that our desires and society have influenced our decisions to be more worldly or to be attentive to the direction that the Lord could be potentially leading us to. That is a long sentence and I am aware of its complexity but I could not think of a simpler way to put the situation we are in into words. The verse mentioned above in Colossians is a simpler answer to our complex situation.

For example, one worldly desire and need that influences a lot of my friends’ and my decisions is money. We have left jobs that did not financially support us in the amount we wanted and have been without a job for some time because we refused to apply for a job that would not pay enough. Initially, our intentions were not of greed and selfishness. We were only thinking ahead—able to pay off loans and bills, save money for when we have a family of our own—which is why most of us went to college. But as time goes on, we no longer have eternity in mind but instead allow the pressures of society and our own negative thinking to become the main priorities in our lives.

Setting our minds on things above opens up so many possibilities and gives us hope when we need it. But when our minds are on earthly things…well…my friends and I are already struggling with a lot of stress right now and it seems like there is no end. We continue to listen to advice that can potentially lead us into trusting man more than God. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (NIV). In other words, we run.

Whatever cloud of earthy things that has trapped our minds and our thinking, we must throw it off. Whether it is our desires, media, even the people around us, we must overcome its affect on our lack of focus. How? Hebrews 12:2 provides the answer: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” This verse coincides perfectly with the verse in Colossians. Moreover, Hebrews 3:1 also repeats a similar message: “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus.” In other words, our eyes, our thoughts, everything, we must fix it on Jesus!

When we focus everything on Jesus, the earthly things will not affect us like they do now. If my friends and I would just look to the Lord—trusting in Him—we could see so much more and experience so much more: hope, joy, peace, trust, faithfulness from the Lord. So much more! Therefore, what we focus on can greatly impact our lives and our walk with Christ.