Thank you for the sharing. In light of the sharing, why don’t we just spend a minute praying for Michael and Abraham’s mother to be saved? Let’s pray for sister Sarah’s mom to be assured of salvation. Let’s pray for any of our loved ones who haven’t met the Lord yet. Let’s pray for salvation for them. Let’s pray for our hearts so that all of us can meet Jesus during this service.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, it is our earnest prayer that all of us in this room, all of our loved ones, our parent’s generation, our generation, our children’s generation, the next generation, Father, we pray that every man, woman and child living on earth today, especially those who are connected to us, our loved ones, I pray that every single one of us would be saved. I pray we would meet Jesus. Even today may You would meet us. I pray that You would save us.
I pray that we can give you our whole hearts. Anything that is not right in our hearts, we pray that you expose it so that we may repent of it, so that You can redeem our hearts. Thank you, Lord. We pray that you speak to us now in this time. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.
It’s been one of my privileges in the last few years that I’ve had an opportunity to have a weekly Bible study with my brother. We didn’t have a chance to be together for many years. For about 20 years or so, I prayed for us to have a chance to be together, and then God gave us a chance when he was doing his cardiology fellowship at UCLA. We had a chance to gather together at our church. God started softening his heart and years later we’re still meeting and talking about Jesus. And so what a privilege that is. It is one of the greatest privileges that God has given to me.
And I’m so grateful for Brother Michael, for your example, to lead a Bible study with your own mother. What a privilege. That would be a dream come true for me to have a chance to share Jesus with my parents. And I know the Lord, He’s going to give me that chance someday. So praise the Lord. Thank you for all the testimonies.
God woke me up this week around 5:45. I’m not a morning person, although I have tried hard to become one, but I haven’t been successful – so waking up at 5:45 was very unusual for me. I read a large section of Scripture, including Nehemiah, Zechariah and Haggai, who were contemporaries of one another. Nehemiah is famous for being a cup bearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes.
It is interesting how God’s will unfolded in this scenario, as He had been preparing for many decades, even centuries. Jeremiah preached about the Babylonian exile and Isaiah had a prophecy about king Cyrus in Isaiah 45 and 44, a hundred years before he was even born.
As a result of not listening to the warnings of Jeremiah and other prophets, Israel went into captivity under Babylon. Persia then took over and had a different international policy – they wanted to keep somewhat of a better relationship with the countries they captured, allowing them to stay in their native homeland while under their control.
It is debatable whether Cyrus was a believer or not, but amazingly he allowed the Israelites to return to their native homeland. Nehemiah, a secular politician and cup bearer, was part of this process – you wonder how this is even possible, for someone who is not even Persian to be a cup bearer to the king. A Jewish man. How is it even possible for him to be in that position, except for God’s will.
Nehemiah is not a pastor, prophet, or priest, but God calls him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. Ezra, a priest, and Haggai, a prophet, come on the scene to encourage the rebuilding. Zechariah and other people come together to accomplish this mighty work of God.
This was the first message the Lord showed me. And as you know, we’ve been praying for a new worship location. Whatever God has planned for us must come from Him and be a vision that He gives. A vision will not come just to me, but also to others among us – Nehemiah-like people working at normal jobs – all of us coming alongside of God’s vision. Something great could happen in this place in 2023.
But before getting ahead of myself, the Lord gave me Psalm 127:1 – Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it…
He reminded me that unless He builds it, all our efforts will be in vain. I started reading about what happened prior to Nehemiah. And the Lord brought me to 2 Chronicles, chapter 16 verse 9 – 9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
Today, I want to talk about having a heart that is blameless, wholehearted, and wholly devoted to God. Many in the Bible, such as Nehemiah, Zechariah, Haggai, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, had this kind of heart and experienced God’s plan unfolding through them. For some this meant building a wall, while others only prophesied of destruction or rebuilding.
For us to experience a God-sized work, first we must undergo a God-sized thing in our hearts – to become wholehearted. We may have our own plans for 2023, but God has plans of His own and whether we get to participate in His pans depends on the state of our hearts. In 2023, God is looking for people who are wholehearted and devoted to Him, who put aside their own plans and preferences and ask, “Is my heart right with you? What’s wrong with my heart?”
Sadly, God looks everywhere but finds few who meet this criteria. He is looking for Jesus fanatics who love Him for who He is, obey Him, and are wholly surrendered to Him.
King Asa was an interesting king, and though his father and grandfather were not godly kings, somehow God did a new thing in King Asa’s heart. His reign as king of the nation of Judah was, for the most part, a godly one and the people experienced a peaceful season of prosperity. King Asa performed a lot of reforms, such as banning male prostitution in the shrines and cutting down Asherah poles. Even his own grandmother from her position as queen mother due to her Asherah worship, and the practice of that worship was removed from the land. This godly king Asa led to a period of peace for the nation of Judah.
When a threat of enemies came, such as the Cushites (Ethiopians), King Asa knew to call on the name of the Lord and ask for help. The Lord brought a mighty deliverance, showing that it was not King Asa’s military strategy or the size of his army that won the battle, but rather his reliance on the Lord. King Asa’s lesson is clear – unless we ask the Lord, we cannot win.
In Chapter 15 of 2 Chronicles, the Lord brought peace and King Asa brought the people back to the temple to sacrifice and worship. Things were going so well until Chapter 16, where things started to turn for the worse.
This is when we read that famous verse, 2 Chronicles 16:9. It was the 36th year of Asa’s reign. Although he had been devoted to the Lord for many years and turned to Him in times of danger in the past, this time, when faced with a threat from the King of Israel, Asa panicked and did not consult the Lord. He didn’t pray. Instead, he handled the situation like a normal secular king would and made a treaty with the neighboring king of Aram (Syria), which displeased the Lord.
Asa was a godly king who was wholehearted and previously turned to the Lord when faced with panic from other nations. However, God was not pleased when Asa decided to partner with other nations in this instance because he felt threatened.
In an effort to warn Asa, God sent Hanani, a seer, to him in verse 7. Hanani reminded Asa that it was because of God that he was able to defeat the King of Syria, despite not having an army as big as the Ethiopians and the Libyans. Hanani warned Asa that since he had not relied on the Lord, he would have wars in the future.
Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, and also inflicted cruelties upon some of the people.
In the 39th year of his reign, Asa was diseased in his feet and his disease became severe, but instead of seeking the Lord, he sought help from physicians. Asa died in the 41st year of his reign, having not relied on the Lord even in his final moments when he was diseased. And tragically, he passed away.
God is looking for people with a whole heart. And to start this year, we had several verses to commit to memory.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you and for me.”
Last week, God spoke to us again, through Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always; Again, I will say, rejoice!”
How’s it been going? Have you been rejoicing in Jesus always, in all situations, every circumstance? Have we been praying continually and giving Jesus our burdens, stresses, and anxieties? Have we been abiding in Christ? And have we been giving thanks in all circumstances, whether it’s a time of blessing and God showing us favor, or when we are in a quiet season of preparation?
Before we get ahead of ourselves and think about possible building projects in 2023, we need to check in with the Lord again: Are we giving Him our hearts, our whole hearts?
God is looking for people whose hearts are wholly devoted to Him, and He will give strong support to those who are. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, it says that if you are that kind of person, the Lord will give you strongt support. It is not our own commitment or determination that will build the wall; it will be the Lord who will support us and give us strength.
To understand what it looks like to have a heart devoted to the Lord, we can look to Psalm 25.
1 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. 4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. 5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.
We can ask the Lord to make us know His ways, and He will reveal them to us. The gap between His ways and ours is too great for us to understand on our own. We must rely on Him to reveal them to us. And that just takes time. And so, this first beginning commandment of rejoice always, we’re just in His presence rejoicing, quietly and silently at times, sometimes just listening. And then, in a moment, God reveals something and He teaches you His ways.
I praise God that He taught me one thing this week: this is the kind of heart, Ray, I want you to have. I want you to be wholehearted. Don’t worry about the future, don’t worry about the building projects, don’t worry about Hill Community, don’t worry about the worship location — these will come. Just bring your heart before me, let me teach you My ways. Start by giving me your heart. I want you to be wholehearted.
So, that’s what the Lord has been doing. I’ve been asking, Oh Lord, teach me your paths. I need to know where to go this year, teach me Lord, show it to me. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation, for I will wait all the day long. I wish it didn’t have to be this way — I wish the moment you pray, within 30 seconds, the answer is given.
As we rejoice, as we pray throughout the day and give thanks, we should remain in a posture of listening. We can ask the Lord, ‘What is your heart for me?’, ‘What do you want for me today?’ We can take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 16:9, and not be like Asa, who had a good run but stumbled towards the end. Instead, we should strive to be wholehearted and trust in Jesus, believing in Him and holding on to Him all the way to the end.
This requires a heart that is free of idols and selfish ambitions. A life that is surrendered. This is what the Lord is looking for. And this takes time and effort, such as waking up early and reading many chapters in His presence. Then, as He did with me, the Lord highlights a specific verse and get the heart right first. The hands, feet and actions will come when God supports us, strengthens us.
When He does His thing, it is evident. We can work hard and accomplish something impressive in the world’s eyes, but only with God’s strong support.
In the end, if we are feeling exhausted, stressed, and tired, we might ask ourselves if we did it or if the Lord did it. Without joy, it can be hard to tell. But when the Lord does it, the joy of the Lord is our strength, and it is amazing to see the magnitude of the work He can do. It takes the work of many people and sometimes even generations to accomplish a God-sized work, and in many cases, it is even prophesied before it happens.
We need to surrender and give our whole hearts to the Lord so He can do His work in our lives and in this church. In 2023, may He do something that far exceeds our imaginations and plans. We acknowledge that the Lord is searching for people whose hearts are devoted to Him and that even a godly person can stumble if they take their eyes off of Jesus.
Father, we admit that like Asa, we’re easily distracted, stressed, and burdened. And our joy quickly fades away. Lord, this is the state of our hearts. So, we humbly ask You to help us rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. We look to You to reveal yourself and teach us Your ways, while providing us with the assignment of the day, week, or year.
At the start of this year, you have invited us to check our hearts. Are we wholly devoted, half-hearted, distracted, or worshiping idols? Do we desire the praise of man?
We recognize there are many forces competing for our attention, so we bring our hearts in whatever state they are in to You. We pray that you will expose these issues, convict us with the Holy Spirit, and redeem our hearts. We surrender ourselves completely to You and desire to do Your will only when our hearts are right.
As we close this service, we thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross and allowing Your body to be broken and Your blood to be shed. We pray that You will minister to us and meet us as we close this service.
Please redeem our hearts. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen.
(after personal prayer time)
The Lord just corrected me on something I mentioned earlier. I was too hard on king Asa. Asa was a godly king for the most part who stumbled towards the end because he got consumed by the problem in front of him.
It is a common thing to stumble because you and I are consumed with whatever is in front of us. How often do we have moments of being wholehearted in spurts, like during our morning devotion time, but as soon as we start our day, we get consumed by the issue of our day. Asa’s problem is a human problem.
The Lord wants us to pray continually, and practice being in the presence of God. This means, in the midst of your work, we can choose to be consumed by it, or we can choose to pray continually and invite the presence of the Lord while working. If you wait on Him, He can surprisingly show up in your workplace and family when you least expect it.
Lord, we wait all day, longing to experience Your presence. We invite You to be with us in our daily lives, to help us notice You more and to pray continually.
Father, we thank You for Your grace and gentleness. You are not a taskmaster but a loving Father. Help us to understand who You are and to enjoy our relationship with You.
Help us to invite You into our lives and to wait for You to show up and speak. We ask for a heart surgery. We bring our hearts before You and we repent, surrender and worship You. This year, we will follow the three commandments You gave us to rejoice, to pray continually, and to give thanks. We thank you for inviting us to become wholehearted Jesus followers in 2023. In Jesus Name, Amen.