Today during sharing there was a topic written on the white board, the words that are written on it is used as the title of this blog entry.

The Two Opposing View About Pestilences and Famine

View No 1: These are Judgement From God

Generally the message shared can be summarised like this

God is love, at the same time he is also judgment. Therefore there are many things that are example of judgement from God.

1. Aids is an example of punishment to the sexually immoral
2. God has used pestilences as punishment (Deut 28:58-61, Lev 26:16-15 )
         a. King Jehoram (2 Chron 21) is used as an example of this punishment
3. God uses the judgement as a way to turn people back (Rev 16:7-11, 2 Chron 7:14)
4. God did not use it as a way to make life difficult, but for one to turn back (Tit 3:5)

According to him, makes use of many forms of disasters as punishment against people who sin against him  (EG : Fire and Brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah , the great flood at the times of Noah ,  the 7 bowls of wrath poured during revelations)

View No 2: That’s is Life

At the same time, I remember another discussion we have with a CG group of a church where there are people who thinks that bad things happens to people simply because “That is life”. The concept of man having to suffer for the wrong for sin is because of our “Asian Upbringing” (AKA Karma in Buddhism and Hinduism) .. and in fact God of the bible does not do that

The Initial Thoughts

Since the beginning of Mankind, man had often encounters ups and down, good things and bad things. The question of why Bad things happen had been a topic of discussion for thousands of years. In order to tackle that question, mankind had came up with numerous religions and philosophy, they discuss about the existence of God and the reason for sufferings. For me, I would like to look at this from a Christian perspective.

As we see in view 1 and 2, even Christians had differing views about why misfortune befall on man. Hence it is important for us to take a look at what the bible says about Suffering.

The Truth Behind View No 1

As Christians we read the bible often, and it is undeniable that God indeed uses difficulties such as famine and pestilences to call back the children of Israel. This is evident throughout the period of judges and all the way to the period of the kings.

At the same time, we cannot deny the fact that God indeed sent 10 plagues to Egypt, overthrow the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, ordered the killing of the Amalekites and the Canaanites. God even make use of the Babylonians as his instrument to punish the Israelites when they disobeyed him (Jer 25:8-9)

Indeed, many a times God make use of difficulties as a way to turn the children of Israel back to him. At the same time, during the New Testament, the apostolic church is made to undergo much sufferings and it resulted to them having a stronger faith at the end.

It is important for Christians to consider when encountering tough time, and see if God was trying to teach them something, it is important for them to repent and return to the Lord. 

This view, however is incomplete. For it does not answer many difficult questions that people encounter. Take for example

1. Assuming that Aids is a pestilences from God, and it is meant to punish the sexually immoral (Which i do not agree completely) . How about the people who encounter the disease through no fault on their own? (Blood transfusion, Children born from Parents suffering from Aids)

Is it fair for us to therefore judge and say that it is a “punishment from God”?

Does God Uses Famines , Earthquakes and Pestilences For Punishment Only?

It would be very simple to just say yes when one is not suffering. We can see these words spoken the friends of Job

“Remember now, who ever
  perished being innocent?
  Or where were the upright
  ever cut off? ”- Eliphaz (Job 4 : 7-9)

“Behold, God will not cast away
  the blameless, Nor will He uphold
   the evildoers.”- Bildad (Job 8:20)

“ If he (God)  comes along and confines you in prison
   and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
   Surely he recognizes deceivers;
  and when he sees evil, does he
  not take note?”- Zophar (Job 11:10-11)

It looks as if their points was full of righteousness. That the sickness and suffering that Job encountered was the result of his sin But what was God’s response to their speech?

“My wrath is aroused against you
  and your two friends, for you have
  not spoken of Me what is right, as
  My servant Job has.”- YHWH (Job 42:7)

Sometimes when we encounter difficulties and troubles, and when we often think that it is a result of sin. Just like the time when the disciples encounter a blind man in the book of John

(Jn 9:2-3)
Disciples :“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or
                     his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus :“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, 
               but that the works of God should be 
               revealed in him.

Whenever we witness a disaster and something bad, we too often think that the cities that are suffering from it deserved it and it is because of sin. But Jesus had something to say about that too.

A Christian Response To Calamity And News Of Misfortune

Luke 13 records of a time where there were some people who came to Jesus with some of the news  of their time. There was some Galileans who was killed by Pilate .  Jesus asked them.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans
  were worse sinners than all other
  Galileans, because they suffered
  such things?  I tell you, no; but
  unless you repent you will all
  likewise perish

  Or those eighteen on whom the
  tower in Siloam fell and killed them,
  do you think that they were worse 
  sinners than all other men who dwelt
  in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless
  you repent you will all likewise perish.”- Jesus (Lk 13:2-4)

Over here Jesus taught us how Christians should react to this news. Let us not be too quick to judge and say that calamities are a result of the sins of others. But rather Let us be reminded that God has given us one more day to live and one more day to repent and return to him.

Concluding Words

so far, in our discussed we can conclude the following points.

1. God does use disasters such as famine, pestilences and earthquakes as punishment
            a. When it happens, let us take the chance and repent quickly
2. However, it would be unfair to say that whenever it happens, its a punishment
       a. For there are times where troubles came as a lesson from God 
3. Let us not suppose that we are better then those who were suffering

Let us know that whatever events that happen, be it good or be it bad all came from God. Sometimes God give us trials so that we would be able to return back to him just as what the Psalmist once said

“Before I was afflicted I went astray,
  But now I keep Your word. ……
  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
  That I may learn Your statutes.” – Psalmist (Ps 119:67-71)

Sometimes he does that to help us know him better. Just as what Job says at the end of the suffering.

“I have heard of You by the
  hearing of the ear,
  But now my eye sees You.”-Job (Job 42:5)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to find out the reason behind our suffering. But if one were to maintain his faith and rely on Gods guidance. He may be able to see the beautiful will of God behind what that has happen.

“And we know that all things work
  together for good to those who love God,
  to those who are the called according to
  His purpose” – Paul (Rom 8:28)

That is why Christians ought to adopt the right attitude when faced with difficulties and calamities. As a conclusion, let us take a look at the words of King Solomon as a reminder for the lessons learnt today.

“In the day of prosperity be joyful,
  But in the day of adversity consider:
  Surely God has appointed the one as
  well as the other,So that man can find
  out nothing that will come after him.” – Solomon (Eccl 7:14)

Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  but these
  are written that you may believe that
  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
  that believing you may have life
  in His name.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

John tells us that there are many miracles performed by Jesus which were not recorded in the gospel. But He had specially chosen 7 for us to read. He did that so that we can believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ and we can have life through his name.

So far we have taken a look at his first miracle

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1 , Part 2)

now lets continue and take a look at the second miracle recorded by John

Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s Son

Jn 4:46-54. We had all read that the first miracle perform by Jesus was in Cana, but this time, he pass by Cana in Galilee once again.

In this miracle, he cured the son of a nobleman, the boy was gravely ill in the city of Capernaum. I have managed to find a map that could give everyone an idea how far apart they are.

The distance is about 33 KM and this map featured the areas around the sea of Galilee. The town of Nazareth (Jesus’s hometown) is in the left hand bottom and Cana is slightly north of there beyond Sepphoris. Capernaum is found near the sea of Galilee

It takes around 8 hours to walk that distance on foot from Capernaum to Cana. But when Jesus told the nobleman that his sons lives, Jesus did not need to travel that distance to heal his son.

As the result, the noble man believed in Jesus, and his entire household believed as well.

The Chinese had a saying that goes 远水救不了近火 translated “A Faraway spring cannot put out a nearby fire”. Man devises such saying because they knew that they are unable to work around the limitation of time and space. The power to transcend time and space belongs exclusively to God.

This miracles testify that Jesus is indeed God who came in the form of flesh, he is the messiah, the anointed saviour sent by God to save  us. From this miracle, we can see the grow in the faith of the nobleman. That is a quality that Christian should strive after as well.  Let us look at the lessons that he had learnt

Lesson 1 : He Learnt To Stop Relying On Himself And To Rely on Jesus 

We know that the nobleman is one with power , authority and riches. He would have many man under his command and servants that obey him. It will not be surprising if he had used his power and riches to deal with the problems he encountered in life.

But today we see him helpless trying to save his dying son. I am sure he must have used all his wealth to get the best doctor one could get for him, but it seems that it cannot solve his problem.

I believe that is is then when he realise that his wealth and authority is limited, even though he can provide the best environment for his son to grow up in, but he unable to provide life to his son. If the boy were to pass away, everything that the noble man prepared would have been in vain.

Only God has the power to grant life to a person, and Jesus could do this because he is God who came in the form of flesh. Just as he once said

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears
  My word and believes in Him who sent Me
  has everlasting life, and shall not come into
  judgment, but has passed from death into life.” – Jesus(Jn 5:25)

Jesus told us that those who believe in him will have eternal life, he will pass from death to life and his soul could enter into everlasting life in heaven. We know that it is appointed for man to die once and after that to face judgement.

We may be healthy now but we all know that one day we will pass away, therefore we need to understand that we need eternal life. Only Jesus can give us this eternal life he had said it to us plainly and he had used his power to testify of it. 

We learn of how Jesus demonstrated his power to create, how he turn water into wine. That is an ability that belongs to God, the nobleman must have heard of the miracles he  performed  in Cana. When he heard that Jesus is going to Cana again, he seize the opportunity to ask Jesus to heal his son.

He learn to put aside his wealth , power and status to come before Jesus. He humbly admit to his limitation and asked Jesus to heal his son. The result of his action is great, he brought healing to his son and he also witness how Jesus transcended between time and space.

That is why he choose to believe , to stop relying on himself and to begin trusting Jesus . Are we able to learn from this nobleman and to admit our limitation? We need to learn from him to seize the opportunity to rely in Jesus.

Lesson 2 : He Learnt To Approach Jesus In Person  

The nobleman turn from sending his servant to find Jesus on his behalf to  coming to Jesus personally. For we read of how he came from Capernaum to Cana just to meet Jesus.

We know that a man of his status can easily send his workers to look for Jesus, I believe that he must have done that for many of the doctors that he invited to his house. But he knew that Jesus is no ordinary man, for he had an authority that no other doctors had. For Jesus had the power to cast out demons as well as to heal the sick.

He is able to recognise that Jesus is God coming in the form of flesh, since he believe that Jesus had all the power and authority, he chose to come down to Cana personally to plead with Jesus to help him.

A  person with true faith is  someone that can make supplication and request by themselves. He will never rely on the help of others to bring your supplications before God. Indeed there are some instances where it is inconvenient for us to come before God, but most of the time the problem lies with us not having the faith to come before Jesus.

Lets take a look at an example 

An Example from Mark Chapter 9

Mk 99:17-19, 23-24

Man : “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 
               And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he 
               foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes
               rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should 
               cast it out, but they could not.”

Jesus : “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?
                How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”
               “If you can believe, all things are possible to him 
                who believes.”

Man : “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Here we read of a father who had a demon possessed son. He brought the son to the disciples, but yet there was no miracles. So in the end they brought him before Jesus.

Jesus called our generation a faithless generation and indeed it is true. For our generation claims that they have no religion but yet they are full of superstitions, they choose not to ask God for help yet they wish for miracles.  They choose not to fear God but yet are afraid of ghost and spirits. They choose not to believe in God but yet they blame God for every calamity that befall them.

The same thing goes for this man with a demon process son. He did not believe in Jesus yet he wanted to bring his son before the disciples. He did not ask for a miracle, he merely hoped that it happens. He came with a heart of unbelief and he just wanted to test Jesus. He wants to know if Jesus could heal his son or not. His action is not a display of faith, but a test , he would only believe when he see his son healed. He wanted to test water before diving in.

In the eyes of man that is reasonable, but in the eyes of God that is unacceptable.

Assuming today we meet a martial arts master and we think that he had the skill. Will you now send him to defeat your champion before believing that he is a master? Now if we were to think from another perspective, if you are an expert in your field, will you accept a challenge just to prove your own skills.

A true master will not need to prove his skill before anyone, and if this applies to man, the same principle should apply to God.

That is why when the main claim that “Your disciples cannot heal him” Jesus was quick to point out that the problem lies with him and not his disciples. For the disciples are just humans, but the only difference was that they choose to believe in Jesus

That is why Jesus conclude by saying “All things are possible for those who believe”

Faith is one that does not doubt, and the man realise his mistake and he understood what Jesus was telling him. He responded by saying “Lord I believe, help my unbelief“. Jesus being full of mercy, helped him, he cured his son and the evil spirit left the child.

True faith is not about getting others to plead to God on your behalf, for we must plead with God personally.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
  Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

We have discussed that there are many  things Christians ought to learn during their walk of faith.  So far we had covered the following lessons.

Lesson 1 : Learning To Fear God
Lesson 2: To Learn Righteousness

Let us continue to look at the 3rd Lesson

Lesson 3: Learning To Be A Good Samaritan

Jesus: “So which of these three do you
               think was neighbour to him who 
               fell among the thieves?”

Lawyer: “He who showed mercy on him.”

Jesus: “Go and do likewise.”

The Samaritan encountered something that we would encounter often. Perhaps our encounter is less dramatic, but we do encounter people in trouble. When we encounter them will we choose to feel indignant and just do nothing? Or will we choose to be like the Samaritan to be moved with compassion to help?

Usually when we read the parable, we push the blame onto the Levites and the priest. We pointed out that they are people who understood the law of God yet they did not practice what they preach. For they saw a person in need and they pretended that he does not exist and they pass him by.

But if we were the ones at the scene, will we choose to do nothing just like the Levites and the priest? Therefore instead of being angry at them, let us learn to be moved by compassion just like the good Samaritan

Lk 10:33 tells us that the Samaritan is moved by compassion to help. He did not know the man and he is well aware that by helping the man he will need to delay his journey by at least a day. He is a on a trip and he is in a hurry to get to his destination.

Did the bible indicate that he is in a hurry?

In Lk 10:35 he left the man under the care of the innkeeper and went on his way. He could have left the man and declare “I have done all i can to help him” .  But he told the innkeeper

“Take care of him; and whatever more
  you spend, when I come again, I will
  repay you. “ Samaritan (Lk 10:35)

He did not perform this deed to get an award, but he did it out of his compassion for the man. When he witness an unfortunate event, and there was no one to help the man. He did not blame the others for their inaction, but rather he offered his help automatically.

That is why Jesus concluded the parable by saying “Go and Do Likewise”

A Story To Share

There was a shop that put up an advertisement saying “Puppies For Sale” There was a kid who went into the store and wanted to buy a puppy. So the shop keeper whistled and out came the puppies who came alongside with her mother.

Four of the puppies ran very fast, and there was one who lagged behind at the back.

The shopkeeper being a good businessman immediately said “He had been sent to the the vet, he is crippled and he will be lame for the rest of his life.”

but the child replied “I wanted that puppy”. The shopkeeper was surprised and he said
“You can have him for free”.  But the boy was angry, he said “I do not want him for free, this puppy is like any other, he is worth every penny” So he gave him 5 dollars and replied “I will pay up the remaining 5 dollars every week until I have paid up in full.”

The boss replied “That is not what i meant, I did not have a bad intention, it is just that the puppy cannot run with you and play with you. I meant well”

That is when the kid rolled up his trousers. it revealed an artificial limb. He replied. “I bought him because he cannot play like the other puppy, and I understand how he feels. He need someone who can understand and care for him”

This time, the shopkeeper with tears in his eyes said “I wish every dog would have a owner like you.”

Conclusion

The good Samaritan is just like this boy, he had compassion to empathise with others, he will always show compassion regardless of gender and race, he will help anyone who are in trouble.

For those who experience the love of God ,, we will know that he loved even those who are unworthy of his love. He continue to love us today, it is that love that move us.

Let us love each other with the same love that Jesus give us, let us not say that there is someone undeserving of our love and respect. Let us give them a chance of repent and help them change.

For if we are unwilling to do so, one day we will face the judgement of God. Jesus will ask  us “You have heard the story of the good Samaritan, have you understood what i am trying to say? I did not tell you the story to let you know that he is good, but I said “Go and do likewise”

Let us learn from the good Samaritan and let us show this love of God.

We had look at the purpose of Jesus performing miracles in the previous post. We have looked at the glory of God that is manifested in that miracle.

Now let us consider another  question that some of us may be wondering about the First Miracle Performed by Jesus in Canna

What can we learn from this miracle >

Let us consider the dialog between the Lord and Mary

Mary:  “They have no wine.”
Jesus : “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?
                My hour has not yet come.”
Mary: “Whatever he says to you, do it”

Running Out Of Wine

This is important for one day, our own wine will deplete as well

We know that wine is an important drink during wedding feast, I am sure that the master must have prepare a lot of wine, but yet there were so many guest. As the result, they finish up all the wine that was prepared. Most of us will find it disappointing

The same thing can happen to our lives as well. There are times where we enjoy peace and joy, and accidents occur. We tried very hard to prevent the problem from happen, but our ability is limited. So the wine we prepare may be used up.

That is when we need Jesus to be with us, to help us with our limitation. We need Jesus to be with us in our home, so that even if our wine ran out, Jesus will be there to help us.

Luckily, the couple invited Jesus to their house for the feast, if not they would have been helpless when the wine had run out. This is a problem that cannot be resolved even with money. There are no 24 hour convenient stores and supermarkets  during the time of Christ and they cannot buy wine even if they had the money.

But because Jesus is with them, he can turn water into wine. That is why we need Jesus in our lives and to allow him to rule over us and our house, we  need to rely on him in time of difficulties and mishaps.

Being Willing To Ask God For Help

Whenever we encounter situation when our wine is used up,  we need to tell our problems to Jesus just like Mary coming to Jesus with the problem.  God is always willing to help us through our difficulties

Sometimes the storms in life can distress us and make us anxious. But we need to rely on God and we need to tell him our suffering and our troubles. But often we choose to share them with friends instead of trusting Jesus.

Indeed friends can sometimes offer us help and advices, but there are many times they can only helplessly watch us in our problems. Perhaps they can make wine, but such processes require time, for no one can turn water into wine like Jesus

But often we find it hard to do so for we often hear comments like “Yes I trust him, but he ignored me in my prayers”

But let us notice what Jesus said to Mary 

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? 
  My hour has not yet come.”- Jesus (Jn 2:4)

Jesus did not immediately say “Alright, lets turn some water into wine” but he rejected saying “my hour has not come”. Sometimes we wonder why God does not grant our request now, and when is this “Good time” coming,

It appears as if Jesus did not listen and our problems are still left unsolved .

The Importance Of Following Instructions From The Lord

“Whatever he says to you, do it” –Mary (Jn 2:5)

This is the most important part of the solution is written here. For Mary did not know how or when the Lord will solve the problem, but she believe that God had his time to help. She is willing to believe and wait until Jesus tells them what to do.

So now we hear the instruction so of Jesus

1. Fill the water pots with water
2. Draw some out, bring it to the master of the feast

Step 1 can be followed without consequences, but the second instruction sounds dangerous. Even though others may not know that this was water, but the servants knew. So if we are the servants, can we follow the command of Jesus?

But these servants followed the command and this require both courage and faith. Instead of just putting our focus on the wine, let us look at the faith of these workers. They follow the instructions fully, and the result was that everyone can enjoy the wine.

We all believe in Jesus, but how many of us will be willing to obey his command?  We need to believe in Jesus so that we can receive eternal life, but will we follow all his instructions?

Obedience And Salvation

Jesus once warned us

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
  shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he
  who does the will of My Father in heaven.

   Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord,
  have we not prophesied in Your name, cast
   out demons in Your name, and done many
  wonders in Your name?’

  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew
  you; depart from Me, you who practice 
  lawlessness!’” – Jesus (Matt 7:21-23)

The instruction of Jesus are given according to the commands of the father. These command concern salvation, and how can we disobey them if we believe in Jesus and calls him Lord?

Today many Christians called Jesus Lord, but yet the many things they chose to do is not according to his instruction. Some people mock at us wondering why we place so much emphasis in how to perform sacraments such as baptism and holy communion. They accuse us of being legalistic and just following blindly. They often say that as long as we understand the significance and the teaching behind it , it would have been sufficient.

We tell ourselves that because we are under the grace of God, we do not need to adhere to Gods standards in the 10 commandments and man only need to keep coming to Jesus for forgiveness. We unknowing turn the grace of God into a license to disobey him without consequences.

We say that the grace of God is with us, and there are still miracles where demons are being cast out and people healed and that means God is please with us everything is fine.

But the disciple of Jesus did not do that, they believed and followed all the teachings of the Lord. The told people to be baptised for the forgiveness of their sin and told them to follow God.

Today many Christians feel that these do not matter, but  is that what Jesus says?

Jesus mentioned it one more time in Luke saying

Conclusion

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” – Jesus (Lk 6:47-49)

When the day of judgement comes, the faith that we build will be flooded. That is the time we can test if our faith could withstand the flood.  At that time, those who choose to follow their own ways will find that their faith collapsing in face of the flood of Gods judgement

From the miracle at Cana we learn that it is important to follow the instruction of Jesus. Perhaps we may think that we have unlimited wine and we do not need the help of Jesus. But we know that even if our wine is unlimited, our life is definitely limited.  All man , be it a king or a beggar, will use up his life

If we run out of wine, Jesus can turn water into wine, and if we run out of life, Jesus can give us everlasting life.

John recorded this miracles so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, by believing in him, we can receive everlasting life.

Let us keep this message deep within our lives.

Introduction

We have covered the first lesson that Christians ought to know in life, in the previous blog post, we understand that Christians ought to learn to fear God first and foremost.

Let us continue with the second lesson.

Lesson 2: To Learn Righteousness

Prophet Isaiah once said

“With my soul I have desired You in the night,
  Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
  For when Your judgments are in the earth,
  The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
   Let grace be shown to the wicked,
  Yet he will not learn righteousness;
   In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
  And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.” – Isaiah (Is 26:9-10)

God executes judgment so that people will see and learn righteousness. In fact God is watching over all that we do. So we must all be mindful that God is watching. God is not watching us like a cosmic policeman ready to give you a citation whenever you make a mistake. But he watches like a father to ensure that his children does not sin and loses their salvation.

We all have experience being a child. Sometimes children takes pleasure in disobeying their parents. They start by disobeying subtlety, intently observing the reaction of the parents.  They begin by being disobedient in small things, eventually their disobedience will grow greater. 

Sin works in the same way, we will not want others to know when we sin in the beginning. That is because we feel ashamed by it,  therefore we take our time and sin quietly at the background. But once we notice that there are no retribution, our actions get bolder and bolder 
 

The Case For Delayed Judgment

Sometimes we feel that God choose not to take action because he loves us.  But we only understand the pain and fear when God judges us later on for the sin.

In fact, our God is not one that will repay evil for evil immediately . God often show patient to sinners and treat evil with good. Sadly, modern man did not see it as a chance given by God for man to repent. Worst still when there are some who view this mercy and grace as God being afraid of them. As the result they continue to sin and they lose that chance for repentance

It is ironic that when God decided to execute his judgement, man then  accused God of cruelty. We often fail to consider if the punishment a result of Gods cruelty or mans disobedience

That is why Christians ought to know the righteousness of God as well as his love. for man For God will judge us according to his righteousness eventually . 

How do we learn the righteousness God? This is a very broad topic and could lead to many blog posts. So let us look at some of the points raise by Jesus to scale down the discussion.  
 

Lesson No 1 : To Let Your ‘Yes’ Be ‘Yes’ and Your ‘No’, ‘No’

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’
  For whatever is more than these is from the
  evil one.” – Jesus (Matt 5:37)

Jesus wanted his disciples to be righteous, and he wanted righteousness to begin at their speech. A righteous man is one who could discern between right and wrong. It is true that many of us can discern between right and wrong, it is just that we refrain from judging often.

Judging here is not about being mean and rude to the offender. It does not require us to hurt or bring bodily harm to anyone. It requires us to be open to about the fact that the action committed is sin. Our purpose is not to condemn people to hell but to turn them from their wrong. 

Courage is needed to judge for no one likes to be called a sinner. Indeed no man would want to hear messages that point out their sin and wrong doing. People who had the courage to judge are often faced with threats and accusation of things that they did not do. 

It is these thoughts of repercussion which tend to silence us. It make us ask ourselves “Why should I be bothered to speak out against this ? The person sinning is not my child or my brother, I should look out for my own interest instead.”

As the result we hide behind the banner of  “Not being judgmental” , “Not showing partiality” and “being a man of peace”. So we choose not to bring up the matter of sin and we push that responsibility to God.  We believe that by not being judgemental we bring harmony to the house of God.

That may be good in the eyes of men, But have we understood what it really meant to be a peacemaker? 

What is a True Peacemaker?

Being a peacemaker is not about  being a “Goody two shoes” before man. Peace can only be found within the church when the church is able to discern between right and wrong, sin and righteousness. The work of a peace maker is to lead people so that they can be reconciled with God.

It is necessary for him to point out the areas in which one needs to repent.  A peacemakers must do this not in a self righteous “holier than thou” attitude  but in a humble, sincere way. His purpose is to lead the person back to God and his job is to point out where sin is lurking so that one could repent before God.

True peace arrives when God forgives the sins of the sinner.

A peacemaker is not one who sweep sins under the carpet. Even if the sin is hidden from the eyes, the stench can never be hidden. Others will smell the stench and look under the carpet. 

A peacemaker is one who teaches right and wrong and leads people to repent and be renewed in their lives. He is one who discern good and evil.  That will mean that he cannot remain a “Mr Nice Guy” forever.

There is a popular quote that we often hear 

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph
  is for good men to do nothing” – Lee Tolstoy / Edmund Burke

It will be hard for one to learn righteousness if everyone choose to remain silent about sins.

To Speak Responsibly Without Idle Words

Even though it is a Christian duty to be open  about sin and to preach righteousness. Jesus also gave us a word of caution

“But I say to you that for every idle word
  men may speak, they will give account
  of it in the day of judgment.  For by your
  words you will be justified, and by your
  words you will be condemned.”- Jesus (Matt 12:36-37)

There are times we speak idle words without thinking of its consequences. We think that our words will disappear once it leaves our mouth. But we need to account for everything we speak. God place emphasis on it as words can either make or break a person.

Let us remember the time when the Israelites left Egypt, during that time not all who followed are the people of God. 

“A mixed multitude went up with them also,
  and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock” – Moses (Ex 12:38)

Among them are people who knows nothing of the promises of God. They did not seem to care for they only wanted to fulfil their lust and to gain benefits. As Israel journeyed in the wilderness they started many troubles among the people, they crave for meat and were sick of manna, they incited the people of God and influenced them to follow their craving, they speak idle words and in the end they were faced with the judgment of God.

Let us learn righteousness and the words of God, let us learn righteousness from the words of God. Let us be able to discern between right and wrong and to lead a simple life before God.

Lesson No 2 : To Be Fair and Not Show Partiality

Paul reminded masters to be fair to workers

“Masters, give your bondservants what is
  just and fair, knowing that you also have
  a Master in heaven.” – Paul (Col 4:1)

In those days, only the rich have servants. But today  many families have domestic maids who help in the house . Sometimes we tend to neglect these people, we are good to everyone else accept our maids and workers who work for us. We think that it is alright  since we are paying them for the work. We felt that it is only fair.

We fail to consider that they are also human beings, they are created by God just like you an I. They too have one master which is God. Sometimes we forget and we ill treat our subordinates and workers. As the result, we bring shame onto the name of God.

Elder James once rebuked the church leaders for showing partiality to the rich man and mistreating the poorer members in the church by telling them to sit at their feet. He claim that such partiality is evil before God and is sin.

But the question is, do we still regard this as sin?

Many Christians will declare that partiality is a bad thing, but they will not dare to call it a sin. But is that what the bible teaches?

“but if you show partiality, you commit sin,
  and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” – James (Jas 2:9)

The Truth About Partiality Within Men

Therefore let us learn to treat others fairly, and to show no partiality. For that is important in the eyes of God.Just as Moses who once instructed the judges of Israel

“Then I commanded your judges at that time,
  saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren,
  and judge righteously between a man and his
  brother or the stranger who is with him.
  
You shall not show partiality in judgment; you
  shall hear the small as well as the great; you
  shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for
  the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard
  for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” –Moses (Deut 1:16-17)

As human beings, we tend to refrain from rebuking a the rich and powerful. But when we see the poor committing the same wrong, we tend to openly persecute him. What is worst is that we claim to be judging base on righteousness.

Perhaps we can fool the eyes of man, but there will be some who will think otherwise.

We may not be guilty for great misdeeds, but sometimes we show favouritism in the little things that we do.

For example some parents show favouritism to the child that could perform well in school. We allow them to go scot free when they make a mistake, but we reprimand the other children when they commit the same mistake.

We are often guilty of making judgment base on appearance. Let take a look at one more example

When we find two children in the fight, and one of them crying, we will assume that the child who is crying is the victim and the one that is not crying is the aggressor. But we need to be fair and realize that the one that is crying may not necessary be the victim.  

 In Conclusion

We have discussed two aspect of learning righteousness. We have discussed 2 aspect of learning righteousness

1. Let our yes be yes and our no , no 
      a. To be a peacemaker between man and God requires us to discern good from evil. 
      b. We have to speak responsibly and not with idle words
2. We have to learn not to show partiality  
      a. To be fair to everyone
      b. Not to allow appearance to determine our judgment

Let us learn to practice them in our daily lives

Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  but these
  are written that you may believe that
  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
  that believing you may have life
  in His name.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

There were about 35 miracles recorded within the gospel, 8 of these miracles are recorded in the gospel of John. Out of the 8, 7 were performed when Jesus is alive and 1 was performed after his resurrection.

But John gave 2 reasons for recording the miracles.

Firstly He hope that by reading them the audience will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. Jesus is the king that was promised by God in the Old Testament, he came so that those who believe in him can enter into the kingdom of God

For Isaiah once prophesied

“For unto us a Child is born,
  Unto us a Son is given;
  And the government will be upon His shoulder.
  And His name will be called
  Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
   Of the increase of His government and peace
  There will be no end,
  Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
  To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
  From that time forward, even forever.
  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”- Isaiah (Is 9:6-7)

God will come in the form of flesh to establish this kingdom of God, and Jesus is that child, the true God in the flesh.

Secondly, John hope that by reading it we too can believe in him and receive eternal life through his name.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”-Jesus (Jn 5:24-25)

The Importance Of Knowing Christ

We know that it is appointed for man to die once and after to face judgement (Heb 9:27). Everyone who sins will be judged and be sentence to everlasting death. Those who had their sin forgiven can enter into the kingdom of God. To Christians,  Eternal life is about staying forever with the Lord and to be at peace with him.

For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23-27). Even though a man can choose to stop sinning , he can choose to do good and be charitable in all that he does, he cannot atone for the sins he had already committed  For his past mistakes cannot  be wipe off just because he is now good and charitable.

Perhaps he may be rewarded for the good that he had done, but he still need to pay for the sins he had committed.

That is why sin can only be forgiven through Jesus, God chose to come in the form of flesh to suffer and be punished for our sin. That is why Jesus need to sacrifice so that those who believe can be forgiven and not come to judgement.

But the question is “How do we know that Jesus is indeed that God who came in the flesh, how can we be sure that he is the Christ?”

That is why John decided to share these miracles, proving that Jesus is indeed Christ.

The First Miracle At Cana


  
An Example Of A Stone Jug Used During The Jesus Time

The first miracle of Jesus is performed in Cana, it is recorded in Jn 2:7-11. In this miracle, Jesus turn water into wine. And John shared the effect that this miracle had on the disciples

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee,
  and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed
  in Him “- John (Jn 2:11)

I wonder what reaction we would have upon hearing this. For most marketing department will tell us that first impression last forever. That is why many would expect that the first miracle must be important, special and great.

But strangely, we regard changing water into wine as something insignificant and there is nothing special about it. We tend to see this as small comparing to healing the lame, the blind or raising the dead.

Even though a marriage feast that ran out of wine is a spoiler . But we have read that the guest had already drank much wine and it appears that the first miracle is pointless, insignificant and unnecessary. Yet we wonder, why did Jesus use his great power to deal with such a small issue.

But the answer to this lies in the question “Do we truly understand why are miracles performed in the first place?”

Why Is Miracles Performed In the First place?

John understood the purpose of Jesus turning water into wine, he said that Jesus “manifested His glory”. The purpose of Jesus performing miracles is not for the purpose of bringing benefits to man. Even though benefits did come alongside with the miracle.

The real purpose of Jesus miracles is that through the power demonstrated from the miracle one can know God. It is so that others will know that Jesus is indeed sent by God. God uses miracles as a channel for someone to know God and receive eternal life. 

But sadly, man often wanted to see miracles as a way to get benefits from God. They hope to reap physical benefit through miracles. They downgraded God to a miracle healer that provides mere physical benefits.

These people became uninterested in knowing Jesus nor do they want to worship him. Eternal life has no value to them, and the immediate benefits outweighs the need for eternal life.

Jesus once corrected the attitude of the Jews who followed him

“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw
  the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

   Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which
   endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you,
   because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”- Jesus (Jn 6:26-27)

These people followed Jesus after he fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. These people even wanted to make Jesus king. For a king that can produce food will be useful. For his kingdom will never have to worry about famine, economy collapse.  Everyone will have food to eat for he can just create them out of thin air.

But Jesus simply said that he is not hear to make bread for everyone to eat, he wanted to give them eternal life.

So did we follow Christ so that we can reap physical benefits? Jesus wanted us to reconsider for he had eternal life that he wanted to give us

The Glory Of God In The Miracle At Cana

We recall the effect of that miracle on the disciple of Je sus

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee,
  and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed
  in Him “- John (Jn 2:11)

We know that the disciples believe that Jesus is the Christ through the glory of Christ manifested in the miracle. So what is that Glory?

We know that man can make wine from grapes, and Chinese could make wine from rice, but we are all aware that the process takes time and cannot occur instantly. This goes to show that this is supernatural power and one need to have the power to create in order for this to be done.

Man is a result of Gods creation (Gen 2:7) and God created man out of dust. Dust and human being are 2 different things with unique characteristic. So How can dust be made into a man?

In the eyes of man it is impossible, but with God everything is possible. For God has the power to create and he can make man out from dust. The idea of God making man out of dust seems crazy , and most man find it hard to believe, that is why many chose to believe that they evolved from apes and monkeys. Which they feel is more reasonable and possible.

But if we bring this idea into this miracle, we will find a lot of similarity . Water and wine is just as different as dust and man. Man had the power to make wine, but no one can turn water into wine immediately. For humans power of innovation and invention is limited by what God has already created.

Assuming that one day, man also claim that he had the ability to create man out from dust, they are still unable to create dust from nothing. Human beings are only capable to invent and modify things that God had already created, and they are not able to create something out of nothing.

This is why the first miracle manifested the glory of God. It allow the disciples to see the ability of Jesus to create things out of nothing. That is the glory of God, i tis the power of the creator and the power of God.

This is why the disciple saw this miracle and they believe   

Today as we read of this miracle in Cana let us choose to look beyond the wine that is created, let us open our eyes to the ability of Jesus to create things, for Jesus had the power to turn water into wine.

Jesus perform this miracle  to manifest his glory, Let us believe that he is God.

My wife showed me a very interesting song, which is known as “Hello Vietnam”. It was a song well liked by Vietnamese community. It was sang by a Vietnamese Belgian Singer known as Quynh Anh Pham.

I understand that Quynh Anh was a Ethnic Vietnamese born in Europe, and the song was written for her by French-hit singer Marc Lavoine  who was touch by the feeling of a small girl who had never seen her homeland.

Some interesting facts that I would like to share
1. The Movie by Coppola mentioned in the Lyrics is “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Interestingly my first impression of Vietnam was taken ironically from the musical “Miss Saigon”. Later on in my life i discovered  that it was really accurate and stereotypical in its depiction of Vietnam 
 
When I visited Saigon in 2013, I tried hard to find the old American Embassy (where the infamous helicopter scene was based on) only to realise that it was demolished. The closest I got to the scene was the rooftop of the Independence Palace.  I used to think that Vietnam was full of floating markets..and ladies wearing Ao Dai (most likely due to much travel shows that depicted that). 

Later on I realised that the real Saigon is so much different from what I expected.

This song can be sang in 3 languages, English, French and Vietnamese. I have always been interested to find song that could be sang in more than 1 language. Therefore I would like to present this dedicated to everyone who is far away from home.

Personally i think the lyrics is very well written. I guess the song is best felt by people who live away from their home. I have decided not to try to link the lyrics and the translation as French and Vietnamese are all not my language of expertise.

 

Title : Bonjour Vietnam  /Xin Chào Việt Nam/ Hello Vietnam
Singer  :Quynh Anh Pham
Music :Marc Lavoine 
Lyrics: Lavoine and Yvan Coriat

French Version:

Raconte moi ce nom étrange et difficile à prononcer
Que je porte depuis que je suis née.
Raconte moi le vieil empire et le trait de mes yeux bridés,
Qui disent mieux que moi ce que tu n’oses dire.

e ne sais de toi que des images de la guerre,
Un film de Coppola, [et] des hélicoptères en colère …
Un jour, j’irai là bas, un jour dire bonjour à ton âme.
Un jour, j’irai là bas [pour] te dire bonjour, Vietnam.

Raconte moi ma couleur, mes cheveux et mes petits pieds,
Qui me portent depuis que je suis née.
Raconte moi ta maison, ta rue, raconte moi cet inconnu,
Les marchés flottants et les sampans de bois.

e ne sais de toi que des images de la guerre,
Un film de Coppola, [et] des hélicoptères en colère …
Un jour, j’irai là bas, un jour dire bonjour à ton âme.
Un jour, j’irai là bas [pour] te dire bonjour, Vietnam.

Les temples et les Boudhas de pierre pour mes pères,
Les femmes courbées dans les rizières pour mes mères,
Dans la prière, dans la lumière, revoir mes frères,
Toucher mon âme, mes racines, ma terre…

Un jour, j’irai là bas, un jour dire bonjour à mon âme.
Un jour, j’irai là bas [pour] te dire bonjour, Vietnam (2 fois)

Vietnamese Version :

Bạn hãy nói cho tôi biết chăng, về họ tên mà tôi đã mang,
Về miền quê mà tôi ngày đêm luôn nhớ mong.
Lòng tôi mong biết đất nước tôi, đất nước đã có bao đời,
Được nhìn bằng đôi mắt của mình được trở về cội nguồn của tôi

Và qua phim Coppola,lòng thấy xót thương quê hương.
Bầy trực thăng bay trên cao, tàn phá xóm thôn nhỏ bé.
Ước mong về thăm chốn thiêng,Mong sao quê hương dang tay đón tôi.
Mong ước đến ngày trở về,
Lòng tôi yêu mến, Việt Nam.

Bạn hãy nói tới mái tóc đen, tới đôi chân nhỏ bé,
Và màu da đã ngày đêm cùng tôi lớn lên
Và mong sao đôi chân sẽ bước lên,Từ những nơi tôi chưa từng đến.
Để được nghe bài dân ca êm dịu lướt trên sông.

Và tôi mới biết, về đất nước tôi qua phim.
Người dân quê hương tôi cày cấy, vui trong lời hát.
Ước mong về thăm đất nước tôi.Quê hương bao năm tôi đã cách xa.
Mong ước đến ngày trở về,Lòng tôi yêu mến Việt Nam.

Tôi sẽ theo cha về thăm làng quê, tổ tiên.
Theo những giấc mơ bay trên mênh mông đồng lúa.
Tôi thấy bao thân thương nơi đây quê tôi.
Như cây có gốc, tôi yêu,vđất nước tôi !

Ước mong về thăm đất nước tôi,
Mong sao quê hương dang tay đón tôi.

Tôi sẽ thăm những dòng sông,
Đồng quê xanh mát Việt Nam.

Ước mong về thăm chốn thiêng,
Mong sao quê hương dang tay đón tôi.
Mong ước đến ngày trở về.
Lòng tôi yêu mến Việt Nam.
Lòng tôi vang tiếng Việt Nam.
Lòng tôi xin chào Việt Nam.

English Version:

Tell me all about this name, that is difficult to say.
It was given me the day I was born.

Want to know about the stories of the empire of old.
My eyes say more of me than what you dare to say.

(Chorus)
All I know of you is all the sights of war.
A film by Coppola, the helicopter’s roar.
One day I’ll touch your soil.
One day I’ll finally know your soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Vietnam.

Tell me all about my colour, my hair and my little feet
That have carried me every mile of the way.

Want to see your house, your streets. Show me all I do not know.
Wooden sampans, floating markets, light of gold.

(Repeat Chorus)

And Buddha’s made of stone watch over me
My dreams they lead me through the fields of rice
In prayer, in the light…I see my kin
I touch my tree, my roots,my begin

One day I’ll touch your soil.
One day I’ll finally know my soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Vietnam.
One day I’ll walk your soil
One day I’ll finally know my soul
One day I’ll come to you
To say hello…Vietnam
To say hello…Vietnam
To say xin chào (Hello In Vietnamese) … Vietnam

 

French Version

Vietnamese Version

English Version

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