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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

S. Sudan Update - as of 5:00 pm Dec 25

Dear Msn Isaac Kim,

 

Thank you for your calling last night with great concern about our leaders in South Sudan which is in the midst of civil war. I am so sorry that I cannot say to our brothers and sisters in South Sudan, “Merry Christmas” because of the current terrible situation.

 

Dr. Oyor Moses who is a Malakal UBF chapter director is in Juba, the capital of South Sudan now. He went there in order to go to Rwanda for his university workshop. But now his schedule was cancelled and also was not able to go back to Malakal because there is no airplane. Forces loyal to a rebel leader have reportedly captured Malakal, the capital of the oil rich Upper Nile state last night.Some said heavy fighting erupted in the morning hours of Tuesday and by evening the rebels took full control of Malakal town. Despite of the situation, our leaders in Malakal center held Christmas worship service with twenty sheep last Sunday. Shepherd Peter Angelo delivered a Christmas message instead of Dr. Oyor Moses who is bound in Juba.

 

Shepherd Padiet Deng and all our brothers and sisters in Juba are safe now. I pray that God may protect all our brothers and sisters as well as all innocent civilians from the violence. I pray that love and peace of our King Jesus come upon the nation.



Andrew Kim

Merry Christmas from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hi Msn Isaac

We just want to wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year for 2014, for you and Msn Rebekah.
Here, we are doing well. Victoria is growing well. She is 9 months and 2 weeks now. Now is already cruising, using walls and sofa.
I don’t know if Msn Philip told you, but I am going to go back to study at university. I already competed for to enter to a public university. The major I chose is computer engineering.
We are praying that God may let enter in this university. And that it is like a new beginning for me, in my new life in Brazil.
I hope everybody is doing well, in Downey.
This is a picture we did after Sunday worship Service.
Thank you everything.
We pray that God may continue to bless your ministry and use you in 2014.
God's grace may poured out is grace in 2014. Emmanuel.

Ataiena, Nathan, Victoria.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Urgent Prayer Request for S. Sudan


4 hours ago (Dec. 22) Msn. Andrew Kim of S. Sudan sent me an email asking for your prayer support for S. Sudan:

Dear prayer co-workers,

Thanks for your prayer for South Sudanese leaders. I want to request your prayer continually for South Sudan. The civil war has spread into the several areas in South Sudan since violence erupted in Juba on Sunday after clashes between rival factions of the presidential guard. More than 500 are estimated to have been killed and More than sixty thousands people are fleeing their home to seek refuge. Thousands of civilians, mostly from the Dinka ethnic group shepherd Padiet Deng belongs to, are fleeing the capital Juba every day, crossing into Uganda, as rumors suggest that forces loyal to a rebel leader may attack the capital any time soon to take it from government forces. Reports say Juba airport is also congested with thousands of people wanting to get into planes and leave. Many foreigners have been leaving under their own governments’ support. Please pray continually for our leaders’ safety and peace in South Sudan.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joy to the World, the Lord is born




John 1:14 NIV
[14] The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This year I did not catch a cold. Last week I became a little bold did work outside knocking down with a chainsaw rotten tree trunks without wearing a mask thus breathing into lungs lots of unhealthy dust. That evening I started coughing immensely and felt a cold coming down on me. This evening the cold is still raging in my body. Although I put on winter cothes like thick jacket, still I felt chilly with all of my body aching, realizing how weak a man's body is!

I was reminded (most realistically so far for the last 65 years of life in the body) of the grace of the Lord born in a manger! 

Yes! The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!

Now I am under the blanket with my body tugged in snuggly in the bed withdrawing some comfort from the coziness of the wrap. 

But right before I walked into the bedroom around 4 pm today I saw my Cat Morgan sleeping on my bed! When and how did she sneak in?! I always wanted to keep her inside but my wife says "No, no, no"! Once my wife finds this out Morgan is in big trouble! 

Then I thought about the grace of the Lord born in a manger! Why does Morgan want to sleep "inside"? The answer is obvious! Her body is made up of flesh! Although she has nice coat made of fur still she prefers inside rather than chilly outside. Yet our Lord Jesus was born in a manger! 

Then after offering himself as an atoning sacrifice he rose again giving hope of resurrected life for us the mortals!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

UBF Seminary

Front note - 

Exodus 25:40 NIV
[40] See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

online dictionary defines the word seminary to meannoun, plural sem·i·nar·ies.
  1. a special school providing education in theology, religious history, etc., primarily to prepare students for the priesthood, ministry, or rabbinate.
  2. a school, especially one of higher grade.
  3. a school of secondary or higher level for young women.
  4. seminar (def 1).
  5. a place of origin and propagation: a seminary of discontent.
Related forms
sem·i·nar·i·al, adjective 
pre·sem·i·nar·y, adjective, noun, pluralpre·sem·i·nar·ies.

A fee minutes ago while I was at the Washington Dullas Airport in transition to Albany New York, Missionary Paul Chung sent me a book report. His report underscores the need to build UBF Seminary. Please read his report and pray that the Lord would grant us a leadership training institute.
Here is the report: 
 For the last year, I began to read a series of books on Roman history (15 books, average 400 pages) written by a Japanese author, Nanami Shiono. In the past, I had read about the rise and fall of ancient Rome written by Gibson and a few other authors. But I was so overwhelmed by the many events and stories that I finished each book without a deep understanding of the history of ancient Rome. However, Nanami writes in such a way that I could picture ancient Rome’s history chronologically and could describe almost every event even after reading about it for the first time. Furthermore, when I studied early Christian history in my theology studies, I had a hard time understanding it because I did not know the historical background. After reading the series by Shiomi for the second time, however, I could connect each event in Roman history to the way Christian history was shaped.
Anyone who reads these books, would gain more insight and knowledge than me. But I would like to talk about what I learned through the history of the Roman Empire which lasted more than 1,200 years. As you know, Rome was born as one of the city states in B.C. 753.  At that time, there were hundreds of city states established by the Greeks, Etruria (early central and northern Italy) and Carthage.  Although the Greeks established hundreds of city states in the southern part of Italy, Asia Minor (presently day Turkey) and France, neither the Greeks nor Etruria or even Carthage were interested in Rome because of its surrounding terrain – Rome had neither sea to become a port city or high mountains to provide protection. However, this small city became the largest city state and later on, an Empire that lasted 1,229 years (BC 753--AD476) while the other “better” city states dwindled and then disappeared.
According to legends, Romulus and Remus founded Rome in B. C. 753. Initially, Rome was monarchic until B.C. 509. One of the Senators, Lucius Junius Brutus cast out King Tarqunius and made Rome into a Republic until Caesar Augustine became the first Emperor of Rome in B.C. 28. I want to point out that this Lucius Junius Brutus is not the man who killed Julius Caesar.  After establishing the Republic, Rome chose three senators to send to Greece for a full year in B.C. 503. There were about 150 city states in Greece alone and these three senators visited almost all of them including the best city states such as Athens and Spartacus. After visiting many of these city states, they get together with the other senators and made the Twelve Tables, which described how to rule the state. Interestingly, although Rome adopted the merits of the Greek city states, the Senators of Rome decided not to adopt the specific merits of Athens or Spartacus. The issue was not that they despised Greek culture or thought less of those cities. The Senators knew that Greece bore many historically famous people such as Thales, the father of philosophy, Herodotus, the father of history, and Hippocrates, the father of medicine. They also witnessed how Greece had pioneered and conquered many city states and accumulated great wealth. The main issue that the Senators of Rome had was that Greece, particularly Athens and Spartacus, was very exclusive. Even though Athens was a republic, the city state used such practices as ostracism and denying citizenship to anyone who only had one parent as an Athenian citizen. In addition, citizenship was never given to any foreigners, not even Aristotle. These practices were similar in nature in Spartacus. These may seem like small matters but eventually, the Athenian practice of citizenship became so serious that it caused the nation to crumble. Among the Athenians, there were about 30,000 to 40,000 male adult citizens who could go to war. Spartacus had about 10,000. In contrast, Rome had 260,000 war-capable adult male citizens before the first Punic War in the first century B.C. because she was very generous in giving citizenship to foreigners. Even slaves could get citizenship if certain conditions were met. With such a large population and potential army, Rome could offer citizens safety and economic stability fulfilling “Pax Romana.” 
However, the true strength and power of Rome did not only come from the large population. There were many other factors that I will describe very, very briefly here.
 First, the leaders of Rome had a healthy common sense. They did not blindly oppose each other for the sake of fighting their opponents. 
Second, the Romans had a spirit of community. Rome governed 18 states (nations) in the time of Julius Caesar(100-44B.C) and 32 states (nations) in Marcus Aurelius(121-180A.D)  but they did not think of each state as separate entities. They thought that all the people of Rome were one family permeated in the minds’ of each citizen. 
Third, Romans in general were excellent adaptors and learned from other people constantly. 
Fourth, as a constitutional state, Romans were governed by the principle of working hard. Most emperors until fourth century A.D. died with fatigue because of their overworking.  
Fifth, Romans were studious historians. Whenever a new emperor came into power, the emperor read and studied the entire Roman history and found his ruling direction based on this history. They say that the wise learned from history, but the foolish learned from experience. 
Sixth, they had a deep relation with other. They called it “clients.”  With this relationship, they helped, protected and supported each other. 
Seventh, Romans had assurance of their future. In exchange for a citizen’s “sacrifice,” they would receive “reward” and “care”. Julius Caesar gave all Roman soldiers excellent salaries with retirement funds. Citizens had no problem to sacrifice to the state because the government cared for their future.  
Eighth, even if they lost wars, they learned something from those wars. Therefore, they never punished the commanders who had lost the war. 
Ninth, the Concordia. Romans seemed to like war but on the contrary, they loved harmony and reconciliation. So after war, they always visited “Aedes Concordiae” temple in the Rome and gave hermitage. 
Tenth, the Romans thought of “public interest” or Rex republica as very important and shared the common view of sacrificing for common needs. In return, leaders were devoted in taking care of their citizens.
Most importantly, the ruling group in the Senator included young people and junior leaders who could be trained to be capable leaders in the next generation. When young potentials were chosen, they were put in public services. Then they were raised up step by step. First they became a commissioner of audit, then finance inspector, praetor and finally a consul. After becoming a consul, they were granted the position of governor of a state for a year. Through these training, they were equipped with civil and military functionaries.  When an emperor gave a speech to the Senate, he always started his speech, “Fathers and rookies (new members)” because there were many new members in the Senate. In essence, young blood was continuously supplied and circulated in leadership positions throughout the nation. Because of this, there were numerous able leaders were raised and the Roman Empire lasted more than twelve thousand years.
The famous Christian historian and professor at Emory Justo Gonzalez  says, “Without understanding [the] past, we are unable to understand ourselves, for in a sense the past still lives in us and influences who we are and how we live…” God has been with UBF and blessed world mission ministry. What God has done within us is beyond our imagination. We are so proud of being members of UBF. We live and sacrifice for expanding God’s kingdom.
When we look at present UBF, however there is something that we can improve. Many coworkers say that there are a majority of seniors and young people, but a lack of junior leadership and hardly given leadership tasks to junior. If we think about the future of UBF, we should think about how we can raise and circulate junior leaders to gain the experience and training necessary to take on leadership roles. Without them, I believe that we will face difficulties in the future.  If we are serious about the future of UBF, we should consider carefully raising leaders in every age. 
In the last 2,000 years, many historians have come to their own conclusion about the fall of Roman Empire. Some historians say that it was because of the invasion by the barbarian Germanic people and the Hun tribe. Some say that it was because of tolerance and intolerance, especially the author of the Day of Empire, Amy Chua. (She is a law-professor at Yale.) I have heard even some UBF people say that it was because of immorality. But in my opinion, I believe that the fall of Rome was caused by the broken community spirit.
Romans saw Rome and other states as a family. They knew how to sacrifice for their community. Rich people offered their wealth to build the infrastructure. Even the Empire gave huge amounts of his personal money to the states for his people and soldiers as bonuses. But from the middle of 4th century, the sense of community spirit became weakened and interest toward the state and individual was broken.  When the Hun, Goths, and Vandals invaded the Romans could not fight against them because there was no community spirit.
From England to the boarder of Persia to Northern Africa, Iberia Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), Gaul (France and Western Germany), Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor (Turkey), Syria and Egypt, all peoples wanted to be Roman citizens. But when the community spirit was broken, Rome was defeated at the hands of barbarians and wane the beautiful empire.
 Have wonderful Christmas Season!

Love in Christ,
Paul Chung 

Joy to the world, the Savior is born! [Mexico UBF Christmas Worship]



Mexico City UBF 2013 Christmas Worship Service Report                       
by Sh. Roberto Solano
On December 15, 2013 we celebrated a joyful united Christmas worship service in Mexico City. We praise our Lord for working powerfully to bring all our guests. Our prayer topic was to have 500 attendants but our Lord marvelously sent a total of 562 all together including UBF Cuautitlán (15), UBF IPN (14), UBF Morelia (9), UBF Santo Tomás (8), and UBF Querétaro (6). We feel so thankful and amazed to see how much God wants this world to be saved by receiving Baby Jesus in a manger.
The first part of the program was aimed to prepare the environment through prayer, sing along worship and a special performance by the CU chorus team singing Bach's "Halleluya". The message was delivered by Shepherd Raúl Muños with the title  “A Savior Has Been Born” (Luke 2:1-20). The main focus of the message was to show that God so loved the world that He sacrificed His one and only Son Jesus Christ to be born in a manger to latter die on the cross to save the world. This sacrifice and humbleness of little  Baby Jesus melted our hearts and made us realize how pure and deep His love is to us. Nowadays we can only hear bad news everywhere, but the Good News of salvation made us feel joy and hope living in this corrupted and hopeless world. Jesus, our Savior, was born; that is the best of the best news we can hear. To conclude the first part of the program Shps. Mónica from UBF Morelia delighted us with her beautiful voice singing "Oh, Holy Night."   
Being filled with such a great joy for having the gospel's good news we celebrated Jesus with special programs from the united Mexico City orchestra playing "Christmas Carol", a colorful dance performance by the sisters of CU, and a meaningful and fun drama performed by CU team with the same title and content of the message that emphasized the fulfillment of God's promise to send a Savior to the lost world no matter what.
Glory to God in the highest! He sent us a Savior to bring back the hearts of the Mexican young people to God. May the Lord continually bless the wonderful work of salvation in our beloved Mexico.
A Savior Has Been Born!!
Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Prayer Request for S. Sudan



M. Andrew Kim wrote on Dec. 17, 2013:

Dear precious prayer co-workers,

I want to request you to pray for South Sudan. Heavy gunfire is still in Juba, the capital of South Sudan since a rebel group of soldiers attacked the army headquarters near Juba University, attempting coupon Sunday evening. More than twenty people have reportedly been killed and hundreds of civilians are fleeing their home to seek refuge, UN said. All the offices and markets have been closed and the curfew is in operation in the city during night. Telephone lines and Internet are down now.


Please pray for our leaders(Juba: shp Padiet Deng and Malakal: Dr. Oyor Moses) safety. Please pray for shp Padiet Deng to get an entry visa of South Africa and purchase an air ticket without any problem so that he may attend the upcoming New Year Director Conference in Botswana.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Immanuel - Matthew 1:22-23 (Children Worship Message dated Dec. 8, -13)


The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23



How can we know that Jesus is the true Savior?



First,  the trademark - virgin birth



In one of the Sunday school classes, a teacher said to the class, "God made everything." Then one student raised his hand, and said, "No. Everything is made in China."



Then the teacher said, "Son, God made even China."



Then the student understood that God is the maker of all.



The same is true with the Savior. God so loved the world, that He sent us a Savior." Question is, How do we know that Jesus is the only true Savior? In the passage, Matthew presents one evidence, a trademark if you will, that is, virgin birth. About 700 years before his birth, God promised to send the Savior Jesus, by granting a virgin to be with child and give birth to a son. 700 years is a long time. Yet, even after this long period of time, God did not forget his promise. He kept his promise by sending Jesus to be born of virgin Mary, as we read in Matthew 1:18-25 this morning. No savior has ever and will ever be born of virgin. It is only Jesus who was born of virgin. Mary the Mother of Jesus can testify about this, and Joseph the legal father of Jesus can verify this as true. Jesus is indeed the Savior made in heaven. He alone is the true Savior.



Second, the work - saving people from their sins



What does the Savior do for men? Matthew says Jesus is the Savior because he saves his people from their sins. All wrongdoing is sin. So God sent Jesus to save men from all wrongdoings. He keeps you and I from doing what is wrong. A lot of people want to do what is right, but is unable, so they despair. God knows this, so He sent Jesus to save us from all wrongdoings and empower us, not just not to do what is wrong but also to do what is right.



Third, the fruit - God with  us



Sin causes man to be separated from God. But God sent Jesus to save his people from their sins, so that He would have fellowship with his people, and his people with Him.



Matthew knew the goodness of the life in Jesus whose name is God with us. Before he met Jesus he was a loner. No one wanted to play with him. But God sent Jesus called him saying, "Follow me." Then he experienced joy of salvation from his sins, and the fellowship with God coming with heavenly joys. Later he discovered that this is what the Lord God had promised to do through the Prophet Isaiah of long time ago. So quoting Isaiah Matthew says, "They will call him Immanuel - which means God with us."

Knowing this we too say "Our God! You are good all the time; all the time you are good."

In conclusion, we learn that Jesus is true Savior for he was born of virgin as the Lord had long ago promised. We also learn that Jesus is the true Savior for He not only saves his people from doing what is wrong, but also empowers his children to do what is right. Lastly we learned that Jesus is the true Savior for in Jesus we can have fellowship with God the Father all the time,  so we live as God's children with each of us becoming a source of blessing for others.



One word: Immanuel


Thursday, December 5, 2013

True Revolutionaries of the Post Modern Era


At 7:30 pm on Dec 5 (Thursday), 2012 at the main sanctuary of Kiev UBF Bible Center, an engagement ceremony between Andrew Cuevas of LAUBF and Natasha of Kiev UBF took place. In conducting the ceremony Dr. Peter Kim made a speech which I entitle "True Revolutionaries in Post Modern Era".

Because he spoke in Russian I could not understand what he was talking about, but later as he was giving me a ride back home, I asked him about it and he expalined.  

Here is the summary:

"God's kingdom work began when The Lord God called one person Abraham. 

God's kingdom has thee components: 
1) The Lord's Sovereignty
2) Citizens
3) Lands

When there is a problem with sovereignty revolution takes place. Nowadays Ukraine goes through a turmoil. People began to stand up against the corruption of the government. At the Independence Square, revolutionaries gatered in revolt against the regime.

God's kingdom stands and thrives by and among those who live by faith in The Lord Almighty - the Soverign Ruler. In his soverign will and plan he calls his children  living by faith, builds his family, and thereby expands his territory in and through those who live by faith.

Satan, the ruler of the air, works against God's rule by seducing people to live NOT by faith but by sight. 

In the post modern era where humanists and materialists dominate, Andrew and Natasha stood up against the wicked generation. By faith in God's soverign rule, they made a decision to marry by faith, and build a  house church. 

Indeed they are true revolutionaries, revolting against the ruler of the air, sounding a trumpet call, loud and clear, the call to join the life that lives by faith in the Sovereign Lord, just as it is written: the Righteous shall live by faith from first to last. Romans 1:16-17

In his speech Dr. Peter Kim called Andrew and Natasha "Two revolutionaries". He then cheered them up by asking the congregation to celebrate the two young revolutionaries joining together building a house church for God's kingdom work!

No longer two but one!

Welcome to the blessed occasion to build a house church.

Let us bow our heads and pray to The Lord. 

Our Heavenly Father, thank  you for bringing us together to witness the blessed couple coming together and offering you the pledge of marriage building a house church in your blessed name. Please be with us and bless the couple. In Jesus' name.

On this blessed occasion I would like to share with you one word from Genesis 2:24, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they became one flesh." 

In LA UBF there is a saying "Whoever cleans the bathroom faithfully gets married a beautiful woman. The longer you do this the more beautiful woman you end up getting married." 

You know cleaning a bathroom once or twice might be okay but doing it all the time is challenging. After sunday worship, the bathrooms get messy. There is 9:00 hbf worship service, then 11 ubf service, then lunch, then 1:30 children service. Then there are other activities such as choir practice. And by 9 pm or so people are all gone. Then close to midnight a man shows up. That is andrew. He goes to the bathroom area. He cleans the bathroom - both man's room and woman's, mopping the floors refilling the supplies, etc. And he did so for so long.

The night before his departure to kiev Andew was seen cleaning the center as well. So during the flight from LA to armsterdam I said to  him, "After getting married you may wish to stop doing this." And guess what he said. "Missionary Isaac, I want to continue to do this, Perhaps with Natasha." I was so surprised, so I asked, "Why?" He said, "I want to break the record." Now I understand. What he meant was "I want to marry the most beautiful woman in the whole world." Tonight his dream has come true. Look at the woman seated right next to him!

Now let us go back to the Bible. Right before coming to Kiev, we had a fall bible conference. The first night shepherd Andrew served the opening message. His message was on Genesis 1. He spoke of man's origin, man's identity, and man's purpose. He testified on the blassed task of bearing fruit in The Lord. In Genesis 2, The Lord God provided for man's perfect happiness by making a prefeect environment, giving him blessed work to to, blessed command to obey, and to top it off, the blessed companionship. So the  Bible reads, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found." So what did The Lord do? Let us read Genesis 2:21-25 NIV
 [21] So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. [22] Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. [23] The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man. ” [24] That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. [25] Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

Look at v. 24 again. "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." Notice the word 'one'. 

Referring to this passage our Lord Jesus says, "and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

Tonight upon this couple exchanging before The Lord an oath they will be joined into one: they are no longer two but one flesh!

One word: no longer two but one!
Let us pray. Our Heavenly Father! Thank you for bringing the couple together and building a house church between them. Please accept this union into your presence as one. Please be with them with your hands of protection and provion. In Jesus' name.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving - Here I am, Lord to say "Thank you so much for all you have done for me!"


Where are the other nine? Jesus asked. Luke 17:17

In the U.S. Thanksgiving originated from the U.S. coming out of the bloody civil war. They could enjoy life together between North and South, West and East. This victory came from the leadership such as Abraham Lincoln putting trust in the Lord.

For this victory we the Americans can travel with ease 50 states as our homeland without having to present passports.

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for the freedom Jesus purchased, freedom from the power of sin and death.

I remember the times of my life as a leper a sinful man. But Jesus set me free through his blood sacrifice.

Jesus said, "Where are the other nine?" To this I say, "Here I am Lord! Thank you so much for all you have done for me."

This year I also thank the Lord for granting a sixth grand-daughter to our family. May this daughter grow live a life praising the Lord all the days of her life.

Thank you Lord again! I know you have so many children! And Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Isaac and Rebekah Downey California


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Digesting Psalms in 5 minutes


The Beauty of the Lord

Psalm 1:1-150:6
Key Verse 27:4

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

Welcome to the study of the book of Psalms. Many describe the book of Psalms as a song book, a collection of Jewish poetry, the soul's cry for help, a diary of human struggles, or the anatomy of the human soul. Of these listed, the observation that states that the Psalms represents the anatomy of the human soul is particularly appealing. If the book of Psalms is a song book, the song is the song of the soul. If it is poetry, it is the soul that expresses its voice in poetic form. The one who cries out for help is the soul thirsting after its Creator. And it is the soul which struggles to do the will of the one who sent it.

Therefore, as we study the book of Psalms we can better understand the inner workings of the human soul. So we come to the book of Psalms with the expectation to learn how the human soul operates. The correct understanding of the way in which the human soul fares is very important because unlike the needs of human body (such as food for the stomach), the needs of a soul go largely unnoticed and unappreciated; as they go unattended, many end up crying out, not knowing why. Yet, it is the soul which constitutes the essence of a man. Man's body is merely a vessel, a housing for the soul. If a man is happy it is first the soul that is happy. If a man is downcast, it is first the soul inside that feels downcast. One of the psalmists cries out, repeatedly, "Why are you downcast, O my soul?" (42:5,11; 43:5). Furthermore, when one is saved, it is first the soul that is saved. Our body will perish, but the man in his soul survives the physical death (Job 14:10,14; John 5:25-28; 14:43). Speaking of the same truth our Lord Jesus says, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). So it is imperative for us to secure a good understanding of the affairs of the human soul.  

In the book of Psalms then the Lord has provided us with good resources to help us secure a better understanding of human souls - what it desires, why it suffers, how it should be nurtured, and, most importantly, what the Lord has provided for its well-being. In Psalm 27, I believe the Lord has neatly put together through King David all that are essential to the well-being of our souls in the Lord. Now let us read this chapter.
  
Part I. The Lord is my light, my salvation, and my stronghold.

Look at verse 1. "The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" In this passage the psalter says that the Lord is his light, his salvation and his stronghold. This characterization shows us that the Lord himself is the source of all one needs for the well-being of his soul. The three categories represent the steps of the Lord's provision for the human soul, that is, the light that leads man to salvation and the salvation prompting the need for its care (that is, nurturing and preserving), which results in the soul growing strong.  

The author's declaration of the Lord sheds light on the characteristics of the human soul. By declaring that the Lord is his light, the author admits that there is no light within him. By the same token, by confessing that the Lord is his salvation he recognizes the reality that there is no salvation in him. He admits that he used to be lost. And it is only thanks to the Lord that he is saved, and remains saved.

Practically, then, how is one saved? What is it like to be saved? The answers to these questions rest in the Lord. Since the Lord is the light of man, in order for one to have the light that enlightens man to know the way of salvation, what one must secure is "the Lord" himself. When one does not know the Lord and have him, one does not have the light. Then, no matter how intelligent or learned a man might be, he is still in darkness.

In the same way, since the Lord is our salvation, when we do not have the Lord, we do NOT have salvation. Salvation comes and goes as the Lord comes and goes. As the sun rises and shines on us, all living beings thrive. When the sun is removed no life can grow. Without the sun it is impossible for any living creature to sustain life. So is the case with the Lord and our salvation.

What then is it like to be saved? It is like the one who "knows" the Lord and secures a meaningful relationship with him. The Apostle John expressed the same concept when he said in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." For this purpose, and at the outset of his gospel, he says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Notice the word "gave". Why did God give the Son? Or "What should we do with what God has given?" The answer is this: we must "receive" him, so that we must literally "own" him. Well, the Lord is greater than the entire universe and everything in it. I am merely a speck of dust. How can I, a mere speck of dust, own the Lord? How can what is partial take possession of what is whole? Am I greater than the Lord? Well, God is spirit. He made us to be spiritual. And the spirit is not limited to space and time. The Lord designed us in such a way that we can come to the Lord and establish unity with him. In John 14:20, Jesus explained the same concept when he said, "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."  

How can we maintain the status quo as the saved? We find the answer in what King David says of the Lord: “The Lord is my stronghold!” By confessing that the Lord is his stronghold, the psalmist testifies to the world that he is a weak person. He knows full well that the world is filled with strong enemies that war against him. And he knows that he is no match for these enemies. He is a “weak-hold,” so to speak, as compared with the Lord who is his "stronghold".

A "stronghold" reminds us of a bunker that is built securely and houses soldiers inside to protect them from on-coming assaults, such as air-raids. The protective cover made of cement or even steel will keep the ones inside safe and sound no matter how severe the attacks might be. But once the soldier abandons the stronghold, the soldier cannot "hold" himself safe. Once he gets out of the bunker, the only cover he has is his tender skin. Bombs will explode, bullets will strike, and his tender flesh will be torn into bits and pieces. Yet, for those who remain in the Lord, the Lord keeps them safe and sound. Thus, placing ourselves in the hands of the Lord is the key to maintaining salvation.

Part II. War breaks out against me.

In verses 2-13 the author shares an insight on what we ought to do in view of what the Lord has provided us with, that is,  we need to be aware of the enemies and guard ourselves against them.

Regarding the enemies that war against the soul, the author adopts some vivid expressions:

"[E]vil men advance against me to devour my flesh..."
"[M]y enemies and my foes attack me..."
"[A]n army besiege me..."
"[W]ar breaks out against me."

Advance, devour, attack, besiege and war! At the outset of the book The Art of War, Sun Tzu says, "War is a matter of the gravest importance of a nation: it is the way of existence and extinction; one cannot afford to not investigate it." So let us stop for a moment and think about the solemn reality called "war". In the case of David, he understood what life in Canaan was like. The land of Canaan was the land of idolatry. Tons of enemies were entrenched in the land. And he went through battle after battle against idol worshiping nations. Eventually, through David, the Lord established the rule of God amidst idol worshiping nations.  

But all the psalms, especially the ones penned by David, clearly testify that the war that rages inside of a man is by far harder to win. We all know the story of David's affair with Bathsheba. We know the murder he committed. We know of all of the problems he had to go through within his family and nation, such as rape among his children, Absalom's rebellion, and civil war rocking the nation all stemmed from David losing the inner war - the war against sinful desires that in turn war against the soul. Therefore, in regard to the inner war, the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." After winning so many battles, King David lost control over sinful desires, which warred against his soul and sustained so many damages. Through tears of repentance crying out many nights he was able to win the inner war. In many of the 73 psalms penned by him, we can find how he waged the battle against his sinful nature.  

By the time King Solomon came to power, the kingdom seemed to be enjoying solidarity, on the surface. But sinful desires warring against his soul persisted and eventually took control over Solomon. Eventually, he turned the royal palace into the new IHOP - the International House of Prostitution. Soon the kingdom was divided into two. And after some time the Lord kicked the Israelites out of the Promised Land. The Lord sent them into exile in Babylon.

The Bible is replete with war stories. The first war story is in Genesis 3. And we have all other wars recorded in the Bible, such as the wars David underwent. In our generation the war continues.

It is one thing to say, "The Lord is my stronghold," and it is another to intentionally expose oneself into harm's way. When one lowers his guard and indulges himself in what seems good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom (Gen 2:9), the Lord will not protect the man as his stronghold. So we need to understand the reality, and guard ourselves against the enemies. Since each person is his worst enemy, Moses had to warn his flock saying, "Watch yourselves very carefully" (Deuteronomy 4:15).

Part III. One thing I ask of the Lord.

Guarding ourselves against enemies, however, is only half the battle. In order for the soul to thrive it must feed itself from the house of the Lord. Look at v. 4. "One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." Two words stand out and demand our attention: "one" and "all".

"One thing I ask of the Lord." The word "one" tells us that for its well being the soul needs only one thing, and that is to seek the Lord.

And it needs to seek the Lord not one or two days but "all" the days of his life. The expression, "dwell in the house of the Lord," also alludes to the soul's need for a life-long commitment, for dwelling infers establishing a permanent address so one could live there for good.

The house of the Lord refers to the Lord's temple. In our generation the Lord himself established his temple inside of a believer. So the author's prayer to dwell in the house of the Lord exhorts us to secure the fellowship with the Lord all the days of our life. Humanly speaking, this commitment is like a husband and wife living together under the same roof, sharing everything together - home phone number, bank account, eating table, living-room, everything.

The fellowship with the Lord should not be superficial; it should not be half-hearted, for of all the persons the Lord himself is the only one who is truly beautiful altogether. His beauty is perfection itself. Let us think about what he did and how he did what he did, while he walked on the planet earth: the miracles he performed attest to the true beauty of the Lord. When a man covered with leprosy came to him, asking for Jesus' mercy, Jesus reached out his hand, and touched him. Then he said, "I am willing. Be clean." What happened? Immediately, the leprosy left. It was a complete miracle. The Lord whose beauty is perfection made an ugly sinner into a beautiful child of God. This Lord went to the cross, shed his blood, and died for the sins of the world. The Lord then rose again from the dead. After rising from the dead, he works with his disciples, confirming his word by the signs that accompany it.

Look at verses 5-6. "For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD." Even today this is how the Lord blesses those who come to him. For those who choose to come to live under his wings, the Lord becomes their stronghold. Even though war rages outside, as the Lord rules within, peace within will roll like a river. Then God's children will shout for the joy of salvation.

But after gaining some victories one might become proud and commit sins. Then the Lord disciplines his children by hiding his face. Thus, the author prays, "Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me." With a repentant heart, he comes back to Bible studies asking the Lord to teach him the way of the Lord (11). He even asks the Lord not to turn him over to enemies, such as false witnesses (12). Although he went astray for a while, as he comes back to the Lord he is still confident of this: “I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (13).

In conclusion, we learn that the soul needs the Lord as the source of provision, protection, and prosperity. When one seeks the Lord, the soul thrives so that shouts of joy arise within him. Then he can sing praises of the Lord. He can write many songs of praises, like the great psalmists, such as King David.

One word: The beauty of the Lord


Class Exercise:

1. The book of Psalms has __________ Psalms.

2. In the book of Psalms the word "soul" is repeated _______ times.

3. In the book of Psalms the phrase, "O my soul," is repeated ______ times.

4. Who wrote the most number of Psalms? ____________

5. The longest psalm is _____ and it has ______ verses.

6. Which psalm prophesies about people dividing the garments of Jesus (on the cross) by casting lots? _________

7. Which psalm foresees the members of the church (Christian soldiers) surrounded by enemies willing to fight for the Lord's battle? _______


The end.