Introduction

In our previous post, we have looked at four metaphors that describe the word of God.

Part 1: The word of God is like Fire and Hammer
Part 2 : The word of God is like a Mirror And Rain

Let us continue our next metaphor

The Word Of God Is A  Measuring Line

“Then I raised my eyes and looked,
  and behold, a man with a measuring
  line in his hand. So I said, “Where are
  you going?”

  And he said to me, “To measure
  Jerusalem, to see what is its width
  and what is its  length.”- Zechariah (Zech 2:1-2)

Prophet Zechariah  saw a vision of a man with a measuring line. He was instructed to measure Jerusalem, to check its width and its length. The measuring line is a standard for length.  Today it can also refer to the standards we use to measure our words and our actions.

Throughout history, men had used different standards to measuring actions and words. Asian cultures would choose standards such as the words of Confucius and Buddha , while western cultures will use words from famous philosophers like Plate and Socrates as standards . Besides philosophy, there were also various religions and their all uses different standards of morality. We heard of many of these standards and sometimes we are unsure which is the best standard for measure.

Prophet Isaiah once posted a question to the people of Judah

“And when they say to you,
  “Seek those who are mediums
    and wizards, who whisper and
   mutter,”
  should not a people seek their God?
  Should they seek the dead on behalf
  of the living? To the law and to the
  testimony! If they do not speak
  according to this word, it is because
  there is no light in them.” – Isaiah (IS 8:19-20)

Over here Isaiah said that instead of seeking the dead for the living, why not seek the Lord of life? But even if we are interested in Christianity, we know that there are thousands of denominations. But the words of Isaiah tells us that the standard use by God is one. It is the standard based on the words of the bible. For those who do not speak according to his word has no light in them.

Isaiah is not talking about the laws and standards of men, but the words and oracles of God.  That is why Christians ought to use the word of God as our measuring line. The bible is the word of God and it is the standard we ought to use.  If we have a doubt, a discussion or a dispute. Let us not base our points on perspective of men from our denomination . But rather we should examine it according to the words of God.

For we are not saved by the words of a pastor or a denomination, but we are saved by the Lord Jesus. The truth of the scriptures is not define by the church or any person of influence. Even though various denominations may offer different perspective and views regarding the truth. But their words is not the truth. For Truth is only found in the words of Jesus. For Jesus once told us  

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”- Jesus   (Jn 14:6)
“If you know these things, blessed  
  are you if you do them.” – Jesus (Jn 13:17)
“The words that I speak to you are spirit,
  and they are life.”- Jesus  (Jn 6:63)

This is why Christian ought to follow the words of Jesus as our standard. The word of Jesus was first taught by Jesus to his disciples,  the disciples handed them to the church as the foundation. That is why every church must first be build upon the foundation of the truth taught by the apostles and the prophets with  Christ as our the chief cornerstone.

That is why we need to read the bible to understand the words of God. For the teaching of Christ, the apostles and the prophets are all recorded in the bible. Today many in the world like to quote from renown preachers, theologians as well as linguist who understand ancient Hebrew and Greek. They follow them for their feel that their explanation are logical and they are experts in their field of knowledge.

As the result, these people influence the majority in their thoughts.But is truth defined by the majority?  There are many truths held by the majority which  cannot withstand the test of time. Over time, they are proven wrong. Can we use their words as our standard? What if their teaching goes against the truth written in the word of God?

Let us consider which truth can save us.

A Truth That Saves

Paul once told Timothy

“and that from childhood you have
   known the Holy Scriptures, which
   are able to make you wise for salvation
   through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

   All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
   and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
   for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
  that the man of God may be complete, 
  thoroughly equipped for every good
  work. – Paul (2 Tim 3:15-17)

The scriptures are precious for it contains the word of God. It can save lives and help us gain the wisdom of salvation. When Paul mentioned scriptures at the point of time, he is specifically referring to the Old Testament. He used them to build up his faith which is in Christ Jesus.  But today we believe that both the Old and The New Testament were given by God so that believers in the end time would have access to both the words of the prophet and the teaching of the apostles.

If we follow the teaching of the scriptures, it will make us wise for salvation. As Christians we definitely believed in Jesus but have we follow all the commands given by the Lord? If we choose to obey half of it can it save us?

Today we have many denomination each with different understanding of the scriptures. That is why we need to find out and ask ourselves, which of them are indeed the teaching of Jesus.  If we were to read the bible we will find the truth. Anyone who abides by the word of Christ will not add and subtract from it. Those who follow the instruction of Jesus will only see one set of truth. They will follow the example of Christ whole heartedly.

They will choose to follow the baptism of Jesus, and follow the sacraments instructed by Jesus only. They will try their best to follow every instruction. For they know it is not right to add and subtract from the commands of God.

For in the great commission Jesus instructed his disciple

teaching them to observe all things
   that I have commanded you; and lo,
  I am with you always, even to the end
  of the age.” – Jesus (Matt 28:20)

The disciples follow everything commanded by Jesus, for they know that the words of Christ are living and filled with the power of God.  We need to follow his words with the same attitude. If we follow the scriptures only, there will not be many versions of Christianity. For during the time of the apostles, there is only one church. Today we have seen and heard many denominations. These denomination came as the result of people  using their wisdom to add and subtract from the word of God.  There were people did so even when the apostles were alive. That is why they receive a rebuke from Paul.

I marvel that you are turning away
  so soon from Him who called you
  in the grace of Christ, to a different
  gospel,  which is not another; but there
  are some who trouble you and want to
  pervert the gospel of Christ.” – Paul (Gal 1:6-7)

Paul reminded the church of Galatia that a gospel that is different cannot save the soul. That is why he warned them severely in the verses that follow

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven,
  preach any other gospel to you than what
  we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 
  As we have said before, so now I say again,
   if anyone preaches any other gospel to you
   than what you have received, let him be
  accursed.” – Paul (Gal 1:8-9)

What Does It Mean To Stand By The Truth?

Every Christian have the responsibility to protect the pure gospel. We are not to add to it or subtract from it. Even Elder John who is a disciple of love, was strict about this. John wrote in the book of 2 John

“Whoever transgresses and does not
  abide in the doctrine of Christ does
  not have God. He who abides in the
  doctrine of Christ has both the Father 
  and the Son.
 
If anyone comes to you and does not
  bring this doctrine, do not receive him
  into your house nor greet him; 
  for he who greets him shares in his
  evil deeds. “ – John (2 Jn 9-11)

Those who fear God will abide by his word and not transgress it. Besides the words of Jesus there are no other truth. If one were to preach another gospel and go beyond the words of God. John told us not to receive them, for if we do we have a part in his sin.”

But applying this verse brings about a practical issue, for we all have friends and relatives who do not believe in God. From where I came from in Asia, we have Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu friends. They follow another religion and can we receive them?

John is not referring to our day to day interaction with people, for everyone is entitled the freedom of religion and we need  to extend courteously to all men. If we see a man hurt, we should render our help even if he is a heretic. This is the basic duty of men, and we ought to help anyone who is in trouble. But if one attempts to lead us away from our belief, that is when we need to take our stand. In a similar fashion we should not take part in activities that promote his belief.

For example if someone ask for a donation for humanitarian reason. If it is used to reconstruct houses or construct hospitals and schools to benefit the community, we are obligated to help. But if he asking for donation to construct places of worship, then we have the right not to help.

Having a stand in faith require discernment, it does not stop us from interacting with people with other beliefs.

Measuring The Temple OF God

Once Prophet Ezekiel recorded in Ezekiel 40-43.  There was a men given a measuring line to measure the temple of God. God wanted to know the dimensions of the temple.

“Now there was a wall all around
  the outside of the temple. In the
  man’s hand was a measuring rod
  six cubits long, each being a cubit
  and a handbreadth; and he measured
  the width of the wall structure,
  one rod; and the height, one rod.” Ezekiel (Eze 40:5)

This is because a temple build not according to the measure of God is not the temple of God.  It is important that every church hold on tot he word of God. We need to use it as a measuring line to measure the temple. And that measure is the word of God.

Only by using the word of God can we have the wisdom to discern right and wrong. It will tell us if we have transgress the words of God. Knowing the word of God is not the sole duty of the preachers and ministers, every Christian must know the word of God.

In the book of Revelations, John was given a measuring line as well. This time he was not instructed to measure the temple only.

“Then I was given a reed like a
  measuring rod. And the angel
  stood, saying, “Rise and measure
  the temple of God, the altar,
   and those who worship there.” – John (Rev 11:1)

The vision of John and Ezekiel are similar, but their focus is different. Ezekiel is told to measure the temple, while John was told to measure the temple and the people.  At the same time John must measure the people who are worshipping inside the temple and to leave the outer courts alone. For it is given to the gentiles, all the children of God must enter the temple.

How does our worship measure against the standard of God? It is not about how we kneel , sit or if we have raise out hands during singing. It is about whether our thoughts and actions are clean and holy. If we use one hand to sin and the other hand to pray, God will be displeased.

Even though no Christian is perfect, we need to have the attitude to change and follow what is good. Paul calls every believers a saint, that includes  the members of the church in Corinth. He is not implying that they are perfect, but rather they are in the process to perfection.

God’s requirement for his children is simply “Be Holy For I am Holy”  therefore Christians ought to put away our bad habits and repent. Then they  will be ready in their new garments when Jesus comes to receive his bride. We know that the bride refers to the church, the church refer to the people. They must be prepared for his second coming. They need to put on the white linen, which is the righteous acts of the saints. They must follow the command of God and not to act according to their whims and fancy. IF they fit these requirements, they are regarded as righteous. For anyone who follow the acts of Jesus is considered a saint.

That is why Jesus once said.

“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.” – Jesus (Matt 7:21)

Indeed the word of God is a measuring line, it is used to measure the church as well as everyone of us. God wanted to know if we match up to his standards. He is ever willing to help us, that is why we need the Holy Sprit to guide us and help us to follow the commands of God.

The Word Of God Us A Lamp To Our Feet, Light To Our Path

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
  And a light to my path.” – Psalmist (Ps 119:105)

The Psalmist called the word of God the lamp to his feet. Those who had camped before know how it feels like to be without light. It will be pitch black and that is why it is important to carry a torch while walking. Usually we would shine the torch near our feet, and it is important. This could prevent us from stepping onto ditch and hurting ourselves.

In the countryside there may dangerous animals such as snake on our path. That is why we need a light for our faith. By having it we would not fall into traps and get hurt. The book of proverbs also teaches us how to esteem the word of God in the same way.

“My son, let them not depart from your eyes—
   Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
   So they will be life to your soul
   And grace to your neck.
   Then you will walk safely in your way,
   And your foot will not stumble.
   When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
   Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
   Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
   Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
   For the Lord will be your confidence,
   And will keep your foot from being caught.” (Prov 3:21-26)

We need to take heed of this wisdom and not allow it to depart from our eyes. For it will help us walk safely so that our foot will not stumble. We must not allow this light to depart from us.  If we carry a bible and not read it, we are departing from the light. Eventually we will get fall down and get hurt. If we use it diligently, we will see dangers and avoid them. As the result we will not stumble and will not fall asleep in our spiritual journey.

Navigating The Minefield Called Life

Sometimes our walk to the kingdom of heaven is like travelling across a minefield. In order to survive, you would need a mine sweeper. Without a minesweeper, we may step on a mine which may maim or kill us. The same thing could be said about life, for some mistakes may affect us our entire life. If we do not hold on to God closely we may lose our salvation.

The bible tells us of many people who committed a mistake in their folly.

King Saul made a mistake by disobeying God and it cost him his throne. David committed adultery with Bathsheba when lust overcame him. They both stepped on a mine and its damage was great. A moment of folly can lead to a lifetime of regrets.

That is why we need to be vigilant and allow the light to shine in our path. Let our eyes not depart from the word of God. Let it be the light to guide us our entire life. The light of God is not just the spirit of God. It also refers to the word of God.

Joseph was living in a minefield when he was sold to Egypt as a slave. But  how did he managed to survive the minefield? He is able to see the sin and wickedness around him. When he is approaching a mine he escaped by saying, "How can I do such great evil and sin against God “.

We often think that it is difficult to preserve ourselves in he grace of God. Some thinks that by being a hermit one could avoid sinning. But Joseph is a man just like us, he led a life in the world and he did not sin. That is because he allowed the word of God to shine into his  life.

It is important for us to allow the word of God to be the light of our life.We must also allow it to shine on the dangers ahead of us. Let us not use it solely as a lamp to our feet. It must be the light of our path. Whenever we hear something suspicious, let us shine our light at it. If we see danger, let us not take that path.

Gods words is a light that shines ahead of us. It tell us what we ought to do and help us avoid traps that kills our faith.

The Example Of Abraham Old Servant

And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps
  the woman will not follow me.’ 
  But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before
  whom I walk, will send His angel
  with you and prosper your way; and
  you shall take a wife for my son from
  my family and from my father’s house.

  And this day I came to the well and said,
  ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, if
  You will now prosper the way in which I go, “ – Servant Of Abraham (Gen 24:39-40,42)

Abraham gave his old servant an important task. He wanted his servant to arrange and find a bride for his son Isaac.  The servant was worried that he could not complete the task, for there are many problem that are in his mind. “What if the woman does not want to leave?” “How would I know if she is a good woman?”

The old servant was unsure about how could complete the task as he could see all these problem ahead.  But Abraham his master said “The Lord whom I worship will go before you, you must rely on him.” Therefore the old servant followed his instruction and we know the outcome of the story. When he found Rebekah he said

And I bowed my head and
  worshiped the Lord, and
  blessed the Lord God of
  my master Abraham, who
  had led me in the way of truth
  to take the daughter of my
  master’s brother for his son.” – Servant Of Abraham (Gen 24:48)

This is an example how God light a path or him.

Sometimes we do not know what will happen tomorrow, we do not know if it would be peaceful or not. It is natural for us to worry, for we know anything can happen. We do not know when disasters and misfortunes will strike. There are many things about tomorrow that we cannot understand.

But we know God hold tomorrow and his hand will guide us. We are sure of it because we read how God led the servant of Abraham to complete his task. We know that God will lead those who believe in him for he is a loving God.  But are we willing to follow his guidance? Can we hold on to the hand of God?

Conclusion

King David tells us

“Good and upright is the Lord;
  Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

  Who is the man that fears the Lord?
  Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
  He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
  And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
  The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
  And He will show them His covenant.” – David (Ps 25:8,12-14)

David tells us that our God is good and upright. He guides sinners in the way.  Sometimes it is inevitable for us to commit mistake. But most importantly let us repent and return to the right path. For we have a good and righteous God who will lead us back to the way he chooses. Those who fear him will be taught by him.

“For this is God,
  Our God forever and ever;
  He will be our guide
  Even to death” – Sons of Korah (Ps 48:14)

God is forever our God, he is our guide even to death. We have a living God, the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob. Even though they have died, but the Lord is still God. He is  the God whom we can entrust our lives to. He will lead us everyday until we leave this world.

Let us continue to believe in him and let him guide us in our path. We may not know what happen tomorrow, but let us put our hands into the hands of God. For he will guide us always.

As it was my custom since 2010, I would specially post a hymn on the 3rd may of the year.  3rd may had always been a special day in my life.

So far I have shared the following hymns

What A Friend I have In Jesus” – May 3rd 2010
“Thanks to God” – May 3rd 2011
“Day By Day” – May 3rd 2012
“All The Way The Savior Leads Me” – May 3rd 2013
“Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer” – May 3rd 2014
”Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” – May 3rd 2015

This year as the day draw nears. I find myself singing the tune of “Hold Thou My Hand”. It is a hymn written by the famous hymn writer Fanny Crosby.  Interestingly 2 of the hymns in my list were written by the same author. “Day By Day” and “All The Way The Savior Leads me.”

I did a research on this hymn but not much is said about it. Except for a quite from Fanny Crosby herself

“For a num­ber of days be­fore I wrote this hymn,
  all had seemed dark to me. That was in­deed an
  un­usu­al ex­per­ience, for I have al­ways been
  most cheer­ful; and so in my hu­man weak­ness
  I cried in pray­er, ‘Dear Lord, hold thou my hand.’
  Al­most at once the sweet peace that comes of
  per­fect as­sur­ance re­turned to my heart, and
  my gra­tit­ude for this ev­i­dence of an­swered
  pray­er sang it­self in the lines of the hymn.“ -Fanny Crosby

I believe I am experiencing the same dark usual experience just like her. When I first wrote in 2010, I was sent by God to serve in a place, and now 6 years have passed. I believe this is the last year I am staying here and God had moved me to a new place which I planned to reach by mid of July. Interestingly, I began working in this country exactly on the mid of July 2010. It seems fairly normal that God would want me to go over there and start a new life on the mid of July 2016 (that will mean I have stayed 6 years exactly)

The place I am going to is a place where I am very unsure of, But God had already told me that I have to move out a long time ago. Once I completed the lessons that I need to learn here, God will open the way and send me to the place he wants me to go.  Indeed it is a place where I would not have expected to go, so that feeing of uneasiness is there.

As I was taking the time to say goodbye to my friends here. I cant help humming the tune of this hymn now. It seems that I need the Lord to hold my hand as I begin this new phase of life. I hope that GOd would indeed hold my hand and guide me as the day approaches. I find the verse that inspired the hymn extremely comforting for the Psalmist Asaph said

“Nevertheless I am continually with You;
  You hold me by my right hand.
  You will guide me with Your counsel,
  And afterward receive me to glory.

  Whom have I in heaven but You?
  And there is none upon earth that
 
I desire besides You. 
  My flesh and my heart fail;
  But God is the strength of my heart
  and my portion forever.” – Asaph (Ps 73 :23-26

I guess we all need to remember that even though our flesh and heart may fail, God will continually be the strength of our heart and our portion forever. May God continue to guide me in this new journey ahead

Title : Hold Thou My Hand 
Lyrics : Fanny Crosby
Music : Hubert P Main

Hold Thou my hand; so weak I am, and helpless,
I dare not take one step without Thy aid;
Hold Thou my hand; for then, O loving Savior,
No dread of ill shall make my soul afraid.

Hold Thou my hand, and closer, closer draw me
To Thy dear self—my hope, my joy, my all;
Hold Thou my hand, lest haply I should wander,
And, missing Thee, my trembling feet should fall.

Hold Thou my hand; the way is dark before me
Without the sunlight of Thy face divine;
But when by faith I catch its radiant glory,
What heights of joy, what rapturous songs are mine!

Hold Thou my hand, that when I reach the margin
Of that lone river Thou didst cross for me,
A heavenly light may flash along its waters,
And every wave like crystal bright shall be.

This tune only have 3 stanza, but its very nicely played

This is the second part of the sermon shared in my church on Saturday. You can click here for the first part

Introduction

“Therefore, having been
  justified by faith, we have
  peace with God through
  our Lord Jesus Christ,
  through whom also we have
  access by faith into this grace
  in which we stand, and rejoice
  in hope of the glory of God. “ – Paul (Rom 5:1-2)

Paul says that we enter into grace by faith and we have hope in the glory of God.  Paul is a man who had suffered much for God but he felt his suffering is worth it for the coming glory far outweighs the temporary suffering he encountered. He once shared with the church in Corinth. 

The Glory That Is To Come

“It is doubtless not profitable for
  me to boast. I will come to visions
  and revelations of the Lord:
 
I know a man in Christ who fourteen
  years ago—whether in the body I
  do not know, or whether out of
  the body I do not know, God knows
  —such a one was caught up to the
   third heaven. “ – Paul (2 Cor 12:1-2)

Paul said that it is pointless for him to boast about himself. He would rather share the about the vision and revelations from the Lord. The man which he was referring to is himself. He was once taken up into heaven. He is unsure if he had physically been brought to heaven or if he encounter a vision . But what was important was written in Verse 4

“how he was caught up into
  Paradise and heard inexpressible
  words, which it is not lawful
  for a man to utter.”- Paul (2 Cor 12:4)

He was taken up into Paradise, it is in the spiritual realm where he heard of things that man cannot describe. When he say it is not lawful for man to utter. Of course it does not mean that he is sinning against God if he said it, but what he saw was glory that cannot be describe using the words of man. It is possible or one to compare and contrast various sites and scenes on earth. There may be places which we use to regard as beautiful. But if we come across another site, perhaps you can make a comparison and describe the difference using words.

But nothing on earth could compare to the paradise that Paul had seen, it is so indescribable which is why no man could utter a word to describe it. Paul was taken up to the heavens and he saw glory that cannot be compared with any place on earth. In the same way we have brethren who had seen heaven in vision and when their vision had finished, and we asked them how beautiful heaven is. But they were unable to describe it in words.

Glory In Tribulation

Paul was given the privilege to enter heaven and to see the glory that is to come. It is so glorious that nothing on earth can describe it. If we want to enter this glory, we would need to enter the grace of God through faith. After that we need to work hard to spiritual nurture ourselves in order to receive this glory. After we believe in the Lord, we will encounter trials in our faith. Paul once talk about tribulations in Rom 5:3 

“And not only that, but we
  also glory in tribulations,
  knowing that tribulation
  produces perseverance,
  and perseverance, character;
  and character, hope.” – Paul (Rom 5:3-4)

In order to allow us to enter into that glory we need to go through trials and tribulations. That is why we need to be vigilant when we are suffering in difficulties. For nothing on earth can describe that glory that is awaiting for us in heaven. If our sufferings on earth can be use to exchange for this glory. This exchange will definitely be worth it. For these tribulation can allow us to remain strong in faith. 

We need to be strong in the midst of tribulation for it will give us patience, through this patience we will learn perseverance. If we do not go through tribulation how would perseverance be produced? Without perseverance how could one endure in his faith till the end. If we do not endure to the end, we will be destroyed.

Trials Creates Perseverance

If we endure and persevere in faith, it that endurance is a proof that our faith is real.  If our faith is real we would be just like the Roly-Poly toy. It would never tumble because of its low centre of gravity, the more you try to stumble the doll the more it would come back up. The anchor of our faith is Jesus, he is our rock and the centre of our faith. He is our base with a strong weight. It is because of this faith in Jesus, we could turn tribulation into perseverance.

Without tribulation we would not know our areas of faith that needs improvement. That is why God allow us to meet with trials so that our faith will grow. A faith that could grow will create within us hope. In life we often say that practice makes perfect. If we do not use a skill often, we would not be able to retain the same level of competency. For example, if we drive a few times in a year, we will sometimes make mistakes at the wheel for we are unfamiliar with driving.  the more we drive, the more skilful we become. Eventually the driving will become second nature to us, inbuilt into our character.

How Perseverance Creates  Character, and Character Creates Hope

This is what Paul meant by Perseverance creates character. In our lives we learn to rely on God to be victorious in tribulations. Over time these victories will create perseverance.   Just like an Athlete who practiced often  in order to compete with their opponents. They are able to respond to their opponents move no matter how fast they may be. In order to develop such reflexes thy need to practice for long hours. The same applies when we persevere in trials and it will create the character within us. 

From character comes hope. Whenever we face tribulation and we overcome them by relying on God. From these experiences  we learnt to rely on God and that God  will opens a way of escape during the trial. Perhaps there are certain trials that we cannot avoid, but because of our reliance in God. We experience deliverance from God.  Over time our reliance become our hope whenever we face trials. ‘

Hope that is created out from our character is not a theoretical understanding of how to rely on God. But it is build from our practical experience after going through many tribulation. That is why whenever tribulation arrive, we would rely on God and hope that God will open a way of escape.

This is a hope that is not built base on theory but from your own experience in Christ.

The Source Of Hope, The Holy Spirit

Paul continue his sharing saying

“Now hope does not disappoint,
  because the love of God has been
  poured out in our hearts by the
  Holy Spirit who was given to us.”- Paul (Rom 5:5)

Here Paul tells us that this hope does not disappoint. Do we know of occasions where hope does disappoint?  Hope can be disappointment when what we expect from God did not happen. When everything in life turn against you and those who hurt you ridicule you asking “You claim that your God is so great and powerful, why did he not save you from your troubles?”  That is when we find disappointment in faith.

In the church there are many brethren who experience trials in faith. As long as they do not let go of their faith, their hope eventually does not disappoint. There are members who had unbelievers in their family. When they are stuck with illness, their family members mock them saying “You say that your God is so wonderful, why did he not save you from your illness? isn’t Jesus the best physician around?” But from our testimonies we hear of our brethren undergoing trials and how they feel that there was no way out. But God did not bring their hope to disappointment.   

A Personal Testimony From The Preacher

The preacher shared that during the period in the 80s when he was a student in Singapore. There was a riot in his hometown in Sabah. the rioters were burning shops and overturning vehicles. The rioters were looting and destroying the area near his fathers shop.  It was the grace of God that preserved his family, where in only the row of shop houses where his father shop was not set on fire. In that incident, all the buildings around were burnt and many of the shops are destroyed. But strangely their row of shop house were spared. When they came out after the rioters had left. They notice that the cars around the shop were all overturned and petrol was leaking out of the cars. But the shop did not caught fire. For his mother was in the shop, she was unable to escape on time, so out of desperation, she closed the shutters and hid in the shop. All she could is to pray.

She was the only believer around, according to her, there were other non Christians in the shop, whoever who tried to run risk being mugged and robbed.  Even though his mothers faith was not strong, but she relied on God and she prayed. Later on when the the rioters left, the police started to check on any survivors. When his mother left the shop she notice that everything around them were burnt.

Trials And The Building Of Faith

Sometimes God allow us to encounter trouble so that we can learn to keep our faith.  It is through trials and tribulation we can experience God.  As long as we do not lose faith our hope would not be disappointed. In another words God will let us experience his salvation no matter what trouble we encounter. It is through these experiences  we will experience God. These experience will give us hope so that when we encounter the similar situation again we will believe and rely on God. That will help us to overcome the trials that are before us.

During the Israelites 40 years of wandering of the wilderness, they encountered both Marah (BItterness) and Elim (Comfort) along the way, but they are mere stops along the way onto Canaan. Job experience a similar experience, but at the end of his trials God blessed him. The bible concluded his story by saying

And the Lord restored Job’s losses
 
when he prayed for his friends.
  Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as
  much as he had before.”- Job ( job 42:10 )

The bible tells us that Job met with much troubles during his trials. God tested him and allowed him to lose all his processions within a day. And later on God struck Job with illness so much so as he had sores all over his body. Job 42 records the end of the trials, at the end God gave him all that he had loss and blessed Job twice as much. This is the mercy of God to Job.

From here we know that no situation in life is permanent, God will change the situation around us. Whenever we encounter trouble we need to have the hope that Job had. Eventually God will change the situation and give us more blessing. If we compared Job procession in Job 42 verses what he had in Job 1, you will realised that he got back double of everything,

Love Poured Out To Our Heart By the Holy Spirit 

The latter part of Rom 5:5 tells us that the love of God was poured out to us through the Holy Spirit given to us by God. God did not give us trial for the sake of destroying us. It is meant to build us up and establish our faith. He allow us to encounter trouble and difficulty in order for us to grow.

If a flower is place constantly in the greenhouse, they will not be able to withstand the storms outside. For these plants are too well taken care of. A flower from the greenhouse may appear strong and sturdy but if we were to plant them in the wild, they may just die and wither away. The wild flowers are as strong as the trees in the wild. They  may not look tall but their roots are deep underground. They are able to withstand the strong winds and will not be uprooted easily.

From here we know that the stronger the winds the deeper the roots. As far as Christian life is concern, an easy life would not produce a deep root. Therefore God allow trials to come so that we will be deeply rooted in him . We remain rooted because the Holy Spirit was had poured out the love of God within us. The trials from God are meant to build us up and not harm us.  He will give us trails based on our degree of faith.  Those whoa re stronger will meet with greater test while those who are weaker will meet with a small test. As long as we believe in his love we will grow in faith at our own pace.

Conclusion

Rom 5:1-5 teaches us how is one justified by faith.  Baptism allowed us to access the grace of God through faith, after our baptism, we must undergo trials to help us be established in the grace in which we stand. Trials and tribulation can grow our faith and build up the hope of God within us. This hope does not disappoint, when hope is perfected it produces perseverance, and from perseverance comes character and from character come a stronger hope. God will use trials and tribulation to train us up in faith, they can come from within and outside the church.

Therefore when we encounter trials let us not doubt the love of God.  As long as one does not doubt the love of God, he will not be disappointed and God will lead him to a higher ground and bless him as he continue to grow in his love.

This is the sermon shared in my church on Saturday.

“Therefore, having been
  justified by faith, we have
  peace with God through
  our Lord Jesus Christ,
  through whom also we have
  access by faith into this grace
  in which we stand, and rejoice
  in hope of the glory of God. “ – Paul (Rom 5:1-2)

Paul was talking about justification of faith in the book of Romans From Rom 1:17 onwards, Paul was talking about how the righteousness of God is revealed through the gospel. In the gospel, the righteous shall live by faith. The main theme of the book of Romans is justification by faith. Paul shared in great details how is one justified by faith.

Understanding Justification By Faith

in the days of Paul there are 2 ways for one to be justified before God. One is through the keeping of the Law of Moses while the other is to be justified by faith in Christ. In Rom 5:1 Paul was talking about Christians being justified by faith. Most of the Christian churches believe that justification by faith happens when one believe in Jesus. But we believe that justification by faith happens at the point of Baptism .

For Paul once told the Church in Corinth

And such were some of you.
  But you were washed, but you
  were sanctified, but you were
  justified in the name of the
  Lord Jesus and by the Spirit
  of our God.” – Paul (1 Cor 6:11)

In the earlier verses (1 Cor 6:9-10) Paul was describing the lives of the Corinthians before their conversation to Christianity. How they used to be fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortioners. They used to live in sin,  but after their baptism they were cleanse and justified. For baptism washes away their sin, that is why they are justified before God.

Baptism is effective for it is done in the name of Jesus and with the witness of the Holy Spirit.

When we are baptised, we are immersed into the waters, but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that bear testimony that this baptism is effective. It is at baptism where our sins were washed away and we are sanctified and justified before God.  But Christians ought to understand that there are two types of sanctification.  These two types of sanctification can be seen in Paul’s salutation to the Corinthians

“To the church of God which is at Corinth,
  to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
  called to be saints
, with all who in every
  place call on the name of Jesus Christ
  our Lord, both theirs and ours” – Paul (1 Cor:1:2)

There are those who are sanctified in Jesus Christ, these are the members who had received baptism and have put on Christ. They have their sins forgiven and are called the sons of God. But these are also people who are called to be saints. After baptism, we need to pursue sanctification in our lives. Our sins are forgiven during baptism, but after our baptism, we must strive to remain sanctified. In another words, we must live a life separate from the world and to spiritually cultivate ourselves. That is what it mean to be called to be saints.

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he addressed the Corinthians as  people sanctified in Christ and called to be saints.  These are two aspect of sanctification that we need to pursue. The Corinthians were sanctified by the blood of Christ at baptism, but they did not respond to the call of being saints. For when Paul wrote the letter to them, they were weak and there were divisions among them. They were drunk during Holy Communion and they bear grudges among themselves so much so that they sued their own brethren in court. They have not responded well to the calling to be saints, so therefore Paul wrote to them encouraging them to be sanctified before Christ.  He wanted their conduct to be compatible with the gospel of faith which they have received from him.

Paul reminded then in 1 Cor 6:11 that they were sanctified by the blood of Christ during baptism. They are justified in their status, they are now children of God. But this sanctification does not necessarily change their conduct.  So when does one conduct justified? John wrote in his book of 1 John

“Little children, let no one
  deceive you. He who practices
  righteousness is righteous, 
  just as He is righteous.” – John (1 Jn 3:7)

Those who do righteousness have good conduct. Indeed when one arise from the water during baptism are justified before God, but how can they continue to be justified? They need to continue do righteousness.

Understanding Peace With God

In Rom 5:1, Paul describe  those who are justified by faith have peace with God though Jesus. What does he mean? Before our conversion, we were separated with God because of sin. We were his enemies.  God is holy and no sinner can come to God directly. But when a Christian believed in Christ and are baptised. They are  justified by God, they have a change of status. They changed from being a sinner to one justified before God. As they are justified by the blood of Jesus,they can come before God and draw near to him.  They can overcome sin by relying in Jesus and they can enter heaven.

Gaining Access To The Grace Of God  By Faith

That is what Paul meant by those who are justified by faith are able to gain access by faith. Today Christian receive baptism by their faith in Jesus, this allow them access into the grace of God. When Paul talk about gaining access to grace, he is telling us not to stay put at the point of baptism. For the righteous must live by faith, it is only though faith we can access the grace of God. A Christian life in the grace of God begins at baptism when he decide to acknowledge his sin and to follow the instruction of Jesus to be baptised. After that he must continue to deeper into the grace of God by faith.

Those who have faith  are able to access the grace of God easily. He is able to access regardless of his education level or social status. One may be highly educated but he may not see the grace of God. Interestingly,   a normal man may be able to understand it better.  In our church we have natives who live among the hill tribes that had little access to TV, civilisation and internet, but they are able to understand the grace of God.  Those with faith can understand the grace of God even if they are illiterate and without much knowledge. A person may be illiterate but if he hear the words of Jesus and believe by faith he is able to receive the grace of God.

We use to have a sister who cannot read at all. In the church we often write the instruction to pray in a banner. The opening  words are written in red while the rest of the words are  in blue. Usually the preacher will instruct the congregation saying “Repeat the red line follow by the blue line”. So this sister followed that instruction with faith, she prayed by saying “Repeat the red line follow by the blue line”. As she prayed she ended up speaking in tongues. Eventually the church taught her more regarding prayers and faith. The more she understands the more experience she receive.  Her faith grew and she was eventually baptised. It continues to move her even today.

The Grace In Which We We Stand

Rom 5:2 Tells us that those with faith will access the grace in which we stand. It begins at baptism and baptism is the beginning of this relationship with God. How can one continue in this relationship? He need to enter into this grace by accessing it through faith. Perhaps we may not start off with a good faith initially, there may be some of us who started with a weak faith, but we need to continue in this faith and grow in it. Then we can be preserved in the grace of God.

At the point of baptism, we are justified in status, but our conduct have not match up to the standard set by God. Even though we are far from his standard, but we have taken the first step and entered into the grace of God through faith. If we continue o stand in grace, our faith will grow in grace. Gods had high demand for us, we must be perfect just as our heavenly father is perfect.

Since we have entered this grace, we need to pursue perfection from our imperfection. Our faith need to be progressive. We need to strive to improve continuously until we reach all of God requirement for us. As we strive to meet God standards, we will receive both spiritual and physical blessing and the more we experience in this faith the more joy we receive.

Rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Eventually this joy will develop into hope. For the more experience we have with God the stronger our joy and hope becomes.  Then we will hope in his glory. After gaining access to the grace of God by faith, we need to continue to stand in this grace and the more we experience God the more we will rejoice when we experience God working in our life. This joy will turn into hope, this is a hope of the coming glory of God that we will receive at the end.

Our hope is related to the grace we receive, if we lose hope we will lose the grace that God had given to us. In order to maintain this grace in which we stand, we need to spiritually nurture ourselves, to come for service often, to offer to take part in the holy work. This hope will help us overcome problems and difficulty, we will be able to hold on to this hope. For Paul once shared with the church in Rome.

“For I consider that the
  sufferings of this present
  time are not worthy to be
  compared
with the glory
  which shall be revealed in us” – Paul (Rom 8:18)

Paul was a man who suffered for Go, he  was often whipped and tortured . He was eventually sentenced to death by Emperor Nero. Paul wrote the book of Romans, he tells us that no matter what suffering he encountered, they cannot compare to the coming glory that God had revealed to him. For he knows that the coming glory outweighs the suffering he encountered.

We all desire good achievements in life and  we are willing to work hard for a good result in life. We know that we need to go to a good school to put in effort to start and prepare ourselves for the test. In order to get to a good university, we are even willing to sacrifice our rest days in order to achieve a good result. Similarly a farmer is willing to work hard in his field for he hope to receive a good harvest. There is no free lunch on earth, we need to pay the price in order to get the good result.

Conclusion So Far

Paul wanted to achieve that glory that is to come, therefore he put in his effort with his relationship with god. He had entered into grace through faith and he works hard to stand in his grace in order to achieve that glory that is to come.

In the same way, we need to move forward in faith, different Christian move forward at different speeds. Some can sprint quickly while others run slowly as if in a marathon. But  what we need to know is that faith must not be stagnant, we must move forward as our goal is in the glory to come.

There was a sister who had believed in Jesus for more than 20 years. But her faith remain stagnant, she had no learnt to rely on God and she kept working day and night and have no advancement in faith. So God shown her a dream to help her understand her problem. In her dream she saw herself carrying her daughter in her arms as if she first came to church 20 years ago. She entered the place and she saw an examination hall, she was going for an exam and her husband is seated on a table nearby. When the invigilator pass her the papers, she read the question and was unable to answer. So she look on her husband to see how he was faring. Her husband simply told her to write anything on the answer sheet and hand up your papers.  But the sister was afraid so she handed a blank answer sheet to the invigilator.

When the invigilator saw it, he commented “This is a simple question even a kid can answer it.” She was unable to recall the test subject, but she distinctly remember the invigilator saying “Why did you not rely on Jesus but solely relied on yourself?”

When she awoke, she thought of the comment and she remembered that she had followed Jesus for 20 years. She still saw herself carrying her daughter for she was stagnant in faith, her faith is exactly the same as 20 years ago when she carried her daughter to church. Even though she entered into the grace through baptism but her faith remained stagnant and there was no progress. Therefore she was reminded by God.

In the same way, we have entered by faith into this grace. As long as we are living we need to stand in this grace and grow in joy and hope. For this hope tells us for the glory that we will receive. In order to attain this hope we need to seek to improve our faith. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow we walk, but we need to seek perfection in faith. So that eventually we will receive this greater glory that God had destined for us.

Introduction

In our previous post, we have looked at two metaphors that describe the word of God.

In Part 1: The word of God is like Fire and Hammer

Let us continue our next metaphor

Word Of God Is Like A Mirror

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word
  and not a doer, he is like a man
  observing his natural face in a mirror;
  for he observes himself, goes away,
  and immediately forgets what kind of
  man he was. But he who looks into the
  perfect law of liberty and continues in it,
  and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of
  the work, this one will be blessed in what
  he does.” – James (Jas 1:23-25)

Here Elder James describes the word of God like a mirror. A man can never see himself, that is why we have mirrors. The purpose of the mirror is to show us our reflection. The mirror will reflect how we look accurately.  If the mirror does not produce a good reflection  we cannot push the blame to the mirror.

Likewise the Word of God is like a mirror, it reveals our true character.  It reflected our weakness and the ugliness that is within us. When we look at this reflection of our weakness and ugliness, should we be angry with the mirror?  Will we choose to get up and walk away from it?

Whenever we observe our reflection on the mirror, if we notice that our hair is messy or dirt on our faces. We would comb our hair and clean our faces. Though some may decide to clean the mirror for they think that it was the mirror that was dirty. It would be bad to choose to ignore it and walk away.

If our face is dirty, can we blame the mirror for reflecting the dirt? Sadly this is the attitude of some Christians whenever they gather to listen to the word of God.  They would rather wish that the mirror to be quiet and not point out their mistakes. What is worst is when they push the blame to the mirror for being dirty. 

The “Holy” Bible

Once an atheist asked “Why is the bible called the Holy Bible when it records of so many unholy things?”

Indeed there were stories of rape, incest, murder and genocide within the records of the scripture.  There are also stories that are scandalous and could ruin the reputation of Kings. For the bible recorded how King David peeped at Bathsheba bathing and how it led him to become an adulterer, a murderer as well as a covetous man who lusted for his subordinate’s wife. 

That is why many atheist insist that the bible is an evil book and is not fit to be called the Holy Bible.

But how should we react to such criticism? We know from James that the word of God is like a mirror. It is able to reflect our sin, our pettiness and ugliness within our heart. It testifies of evil that is around us. Only a mirror that is clean could show our reflection faithfully. It would be ironic not to notice the dirt on our faces and to clean the mirror instead.

Indeed there are many books and chronicles that beautify and glorify things that are evil and dirty. They hide the ugliness of man so that no one can see it. This is why they cannot be a true mirror , only the word of God is a mirror.  If we observe the reflection carefully we will know that it is talking about us. 

The reason for the bible to keep such record is to tell us a few things. Firstly it allow us to re-examine ourselves to see if we need to repent.  Secondly it is a record telling us that no an could remain righteous by their own power. Which is why God need to intervene in order to save man from sin.

The Mirror That Reveals The Ugliness Of Men

Interestingly, both western and eastern culture contained stories and folklore regarding magic mirrors.

Among the Chinese legend, there was a mirror that is able to revealed goblins who disguised themselves as humans.The Chinese called it 照妖镜 (zhào​ yāo​ jìng)​. The term is now used to describe the ability to see through a conspiracy.

But in that legend. The mirror is able to reveal the true reflection of the demons even if he is disguised as a common man.  In the same way, the word of God is able to discern if we are good or evil. Jesus once used the word of God to reflect the ugliness and hypocrisy of the Pharisees of his days. 

(Extracted from Jn 8:40-44 )

Jesus : “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man 
                who has told you the truth which I
                heard from God. Abraham did not 
                do this. You do the deeds of your father.”

Pharisees : “We were not born of fornication;
                          we have one Father—God.”

Jesus :   “If God were your Father, you
                  would love Me, for I proceeded
                  forth and came from God; nor have 
                  I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 
                 Why do you not understand My speech?
                 Because you are not able to listen to My word.

                 You are of your father the devil, and the
                 desires of your father you want to do. 
                 He was a murderer from the beginning,
                 and does not stand in the truth, because
                 there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie,
                 he speaks from his own resources,
                 for he is a liar and the father of it”

The Pharisees appear to be God fearing before everyone, but when Jesus uses the truth as a mirror on them. The mirror reflected that they were not of God but were of the devil. For their thoughts and their actions are similar to the devil, who is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning . When Jesus told them the truth, they wanted to kill him.

The Pharisees understood the truth spoken by Jesus and they are unable to accept it, when the words of Christ reflected the fault that is in their hearts . They wanted to silence Jesus by killing him. For no one dares to speak against the Pharisees so far. The truth reflected the ugliness within their hearts .

The Mirror That Reveals What Is Beauty In The Eyes Of God

In the west there mentioned another magic mirror. This mirror tells us who is the prettiest in the land. The queen  who stood before it often ask “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?"

The mirror will always reply "My queen, you are the fairest in the land." The answer remain constant until the day Snow White was born. This time the mirror replied “My queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.” The queen was unable to accept the truth.

The word of God is like a mirror, it reflected what is beautiful in the eyes of God. In real life, we often use the mirror to help us groom ourselves and to make ourselves look presentable. But sometimes beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

But have we wonder what is beautiful in the eyes of God? That is the beauty we ought to pursue after. Sometimes we feel that God is unfair, for he had made some beautiful and some less beautiful. Sometimes we murmur against God and ask why are we not as intelligent as our friends.

Even though it is not our fault, but people give us different treatments according to how intelligent we are and how pretty we are.

But whenever we read the bible, it tells us of what is beautiful and valuable in the eyes of God. It point us to the right direction to the qualities we ought to pursue. For everything on earth is temporary, it is vanity and its glory will soon pass away. The things that are beautiful in the eyes of God are eternal and they last forever.

So will we pursue the beauty of the world or the beauty of the kingdom of God?

If we want to pursue after what is beautiful in God’s eye, we need to have the courage to stand before this mirror and check our reflection.  Then when Jesus come again we would be like the bride ready for the bridegroom. If we fail to prepare ourselves and we allow our filthiness to remain on us. How can we be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven?

Let us remember that the word of God is like a mirror, and most importantly let us use it regularly to examine ourselves for dirt For we need to cleanse ourselves in order to enter the kingdom of God.

Let us examine another metaphor

Word Of God Is Like A Rain

“For as the rain comes down,
  and the snow from heaven,
  And do not return there,
  But water the earth,
  And make it bring forth and bud,
  That it may give seed to the sower
  And bread to the eater,

  So shall My word be that goes forth
  from My mouth;
  It shall not return to Me void,
  But it shall accomplish what I please,
  And it shall prosper in the thing for which 
  I sent it.”- YHWH (Is 55:10-11)

Here the book of Isaiah describes the word of God as rainwater. Water is essential for life, without water the land will not give its produce. No matter how good the seed or how fertile the land is, without rain there will be no harvest.

The word of God is like rain, it is one that had the strength and the power of life. It can nurture life and help plants grow. That is why we need to get the water from God. For God spoke through Isaiah saying 

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
  Come to the waters;
  And you who have no money,
  Come, buy and eat.
  Yes, come, buy wine and milk
  Without money and without price.
  Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
  And your wages for what does not satisfy?
  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
  And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
  Incline your ear, and come to Me.
  Hear, and your soul shall live;
  And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
  The sure mercies of David.” – YHWH (Is 55:1-3)

Let us not buy the waters from the world, for the things of earth can satisfy us temporarily. It may be able to satisfy us materially, it may be able to satisfy the lust of our eyes. But it cannot satisfy the void that is in our heart.

Why should we spend so much effort and money on things that can never truly satisfy?  Whenever we get a new car, a new house, we would feel elated upon receiving them. But how long will that happiness last? When we see other having something better, it robs us of our happiness.

We would desire something better a larger house, a cooler car  when will we ever be happy and satisfied? If we can be contented that easily, we would not have the rich committing suicide.

Men had a void in their heart, it is something nothing in the world can truly satisfy.  You may be a CEO with with a grand house and a luxury car. But our hearts would still be troubled we will find it hard to feel happiness. The void in man is the result of a life cut off from God. There is no hope of eternal life and eternal rest.  That is why only by returning to God can this void be filled up

Filling The Void In The Heart

Jesus had once said

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
  
but whoever drinks of the water that I shall
   give him will never thirst. But the water that
   I shall give him will become in him a fountain 
  of water springing up into everlasting life.”- Jesus (Jn 4:13-14)

You may have a lot of water in this life, but you will experience thirst again.  For there will not be everlasting joy and peace.  Our world is never had a lack of  good food and good  enjoyment . Every culture regard their food as the best in the world.

But is there something that is so delicious yet the hardest to swallow?

It can be found in all cultures and we all have problems eating it. It is called “The Last Morsel”

It is the last bit of the most delicious food that will give us fond memories. But when we arrive at the last morsel, we would admire it for a long time and we will find it hard to swallow . It is not that this last morsel taste awful. But we all know that sadness of not being able to eat it for some time. 

That is why we would take a long time to eat it, we would nibble on it slowly and keep it for as long as we can. 

Under normal circumstances, we are able to enjoy our food because we know that we can try it again if we want to. That is the reason why we can enjoy without worries, for we know we can still eat it again. 

Therefore let u consider “Can enjoyment and sin satisfy forever?”

Let us consider this from some real life examples.

Suppose if a man were to spend his days living in sin, he may be happy during that moment of sin. But when he returns home and he knows that he have to account for his action before his wife and his family. Will that joy satisfy him forever?

Suppose if a man is able to enjoy everything that money has to offer. He is happy and contented with all that he had. But if one day his life is threatened by terminal illness and he would pass away anytime. Can he still remain happy? Will he be able to face death with courage?

The two examples above tells us that man needs the assurance to be able to face God and to have his sin forgiven. He need to know that when he dies, he is able to enter heaven and enter that eternal life. A man who is sure of that can face death without an issue. At the same time he will learn to enjoy every moment he had on earth. For he knows that he only live once, and after that he will enter a better place. 

Only the words of God can give us this eternal life and peace. It can satisfy us allowing us  not to thirst again. It is able to give us peace and allow us to be truly satisfied.  It can help us remain joyful. That is why the word of God is indeed the water of eternal life. It points us back to God and it lead us to eternal life

Let us not waste our time pursuing the waters of the world. Let us seek out the water of eternal life that God wanted us to have. Let us focus on what is everlasting and not the temporary things on earth.

The Cleansing Rain

There is another aspect of rain that we should consider. For many things on earth is cleanse with water. 

“that He might sanctify and cleanse
  her with the washing of water by
  the word, that He might present
  her to Himself a glorious church,
  not having spot or wrinkle or any
  such thing, but that she should be
  holy and without blemish. “ – Paul (Eph 5:26-27)

God demands his church to be a glorious church. But how do we define “a glorious church”?

Many regard a glorious church to be grand and clean, without a spot or wrinkle. That is why they built grand looking cathedrals and majestic church halls. They have the state of the art sound system with excellent indoor acoustics. They decorate the hall with stained glass, crystal lamps so as to give it a grand and majestic look. But does that make it a glorious church?

The church is not the building but the people who gathers and worship in it. They are the ones washed by the blood of Jesus. At the moment of baptism, , we are part of this church. Since we are part of this church we need to strive to be the Christian that are spotless and without wrinkle.

To help us achieve that, Jesus had used his blood to wash away our sins.  He had also given us his words to cleanse us. We need to understand the will of God and accept the cleansing of his blood. At the same time we need to listen to the words of God and allow it to clean us. We need to change our lives and repent before God, allowing his words to remove the uncleanness that is in our hearts.

Whenever we gather in church to listen to the words of God. It will remind us of our sins and sometimes rebuke us. There will also be time when the words of God can bring comfort and refresh us in our times of disappointment. If we do not listen to the words of God, we will not know of our own uncleanness.  We would think that everyone around us is as bad as us. 

Only by listening to the word of God we can see our actual situation. It can help us discover our weakness, sadness and our areas that require improvement.  As long as we come before God with a heart of repentance and to obey him, the word of God will be like rain water, giving us comfort and strength to change and to return to God. 

Let us esteem the word of God and allow it to cleanse us and help us.

Relationship Between Repentance And Resolve

Some of us may observe, “We have see many Christians coming to church and hearing the word of God. But they remain weak and unclean, it seems as though the word of God is powerless against sin.”

Such observation worries speakers as well. We sometimes question if we  should continue to speak the words of God. We wonder if there is a need to change our tones or to speak with tears.  Sometimes we wonder if we should speak with more zest and vigour. Especially when we look from the pulpit and it looks as though the word of God had no effect.

But Jesus once said that his words are life and they are spirit. They do have their power and effect. If not why do we receive testimonies of how the word of God changes the life of sinners.

The reason why many lives remain unchanged is because the hearers refuse to allow it to change their hearts. It is not that the word of God is without power and is not able to change life. For many of these Christians did experience changes, but their change impacted only for a moment.  Peter describes this aptly in his letter.

“For if, after they have escaped the
  pollutions of the world through the
  knowledge of the Lord and Saviour
  Jesus Christ, they are again entangled
  in them and overcome, the latter end
  is worse for them than the beginning.

  For it would have been better for them
  not to have known the way of righteousness,
  than having known it, to turn from the holy
  commandment delivered to them.

  But  it has happened to them according to
  the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own
  vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to
  her wallowing in the mire.”- Peter (2 Pet 2:20-22)

In the old testament, the dogs and pigs are considered unclean animals. For dogs ate their own vomit and the pig is unable to chew the curd, they  will also wallow in the mire. You may be able to give them a bath but they will return to their habits after that.

Some Christian have the same problem, they repented when they heard the teaching of Jesus. Their repentance is true and they began on their journey of faith.   But after a while they became estranged by the wickedness in the world again.

They do know the way of God, but they are unable to continue in that path.  They knew that it is wrong to visit  Casinos and Brothels and they know how it would bring harm to their life. But they choose to walk towards it.

These are the believers that Peter was talking about in his letter. That is why we see Christian lusting after the things of the world and leaving the church. They have stopped following Christ. They may be believers or even disciples in the past. They were the ones who left everything to follow Christ. But today they are no longer walking on the path of God.

That is why we need to understand that faith is not just about repenting with sincerity.  We need to have the resolve to follow Christ all the days of our lives. If we choose to  continue walking the path of wickedness we will fall away from God eventually.

A Concluding Story

There was a mental patient who felt that he had recovered and wanted to go home. So he approached the doctor to ask for his discharge. The doctor replied him with a challenge

“Let me give you a test,
  if you pass the test, I would 
  approve your discharge and 
  you can return home as you
  wish.”

The doctor went forward and turn on a tap, and the water was flowing into a pail. The doctor gave the patient a scope, and gave him his instruction.

“If you are able to scoop out 
  all the water from the pail,
  you can be discharged.”

So the patient was happy and replied “This is so easy” and he began scooping the water out. After some time,  there is still water in the pail. He wondered why it is not empty. So he told the doctor “There is something wrong with the pail, it is not normal”

So the doctor said “That is why you cannot go home”

A normal person will know that he need to close the tap before scooping out the water.

This same principle applies when we are trying to maintain holiness. A man can only be holy when he had decided to stop sinning. He needs to turn off the tap. We need to stop walking on the path of the wicked. We need to stop entertaining the thoughts of sinning. That is the only way to stop wickedness.

The Psalmist once said 

“Blessed is the man 
Who walks not in the
counsel of the ungodly, 
Nor stands in the path 
of sinners, Nor sits in the
  seat of the scornful;” – Psalmist (Ps 1:1)

We know the path of the righteous and the path of wickedness. We are aware of the end of both the sinner and the righteous. Let us use the word of God to cleanse and preserve our faith, When Christ come again we will receive blessing.  Let us make this decision to follow Jesus and never turn back. 

This is the Sharing at my church yesterday

Introduction

Joshua is a servant of God, he is the one who continue the work of Moses after his death. He was the man who led Israel into the land of Canaan. In his days as he served the Lord, he had encountered many miracles an grace of God. That is why in his old age, he had an important message to be delivered to the children of Israel. This message is important to us as Christian today as well.

Joshua began his address as follows

“I am old, advanced in age. You have seen all
  that the Lord your God has done to all these
  nations because of you, for the Lord your God
  is He who has fought for you. 4 See, I have
  divided to you by lot these nations that remain,
  to be an inheritance for your tribes, from
  the Jordan, with all the nations that I have
  cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward.
 
And the Lord your God will expel them from
  before you and drive them out of your sight.
  So you shall possess their land, as the Lord
  your God promised you” – Joshua (Jos 23:2-5)

This was the opening message of the message of Joshua. At that time Joshua is old in age, the book of Joshua, recorded how he led Israel. He led the Israelites to cross the river Jordan and led them on two campaigns to capture the land of Canaan. The work that God accomplish through Joshua is no ordinary work. For Jos 23:1 reads, “Now it came to pass, a long time after the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about”.  God had given Israel rest from all their enemies, this is a testimony that Joshua had led the children of Israel until they have truly received the grace of God.

This is something we ought to emulate, especially to those of us who had followed the Lord for a long time. We need to lead our families to receive the grace of God, we must present our families to be holy before the Lord. Just like how Joshua gathered the people before the Lord.

Lets us begin by examining his message in details.

Pt 1: To Be Courageous  To Keep The Word of God

“Therefore be very courageous to keep
  and to do all that is written in the Book
  of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside
  from it to the right hand or to the left,” – Joshua (Jos 23:6)

Joshua begin by telling the children of Israel to be courageous when it comes keeping the law of Moses. He tells them not to turn from it to the right or the left. This is an important message, and this command is not created by Joshua. It was given to him by God.  For the Lord once said to Joshua

Only be strong and very courageous,
  that you may observe to do according
  to all the law which Moses My servant
  commanded you; do not turn from it
  to the right hand or to the left, that
  you may prosper wherever you go” – YHWH (Jos 1:7)

When Joshua took over the leadership of the children of Israel, it was a great responsibility. Not only the children of Israel were numerous, but they were about to cross over the river Jordan and conquer the land of Canaan. In face of such a great task before him, this was the command of God to him, God promised to be with Joshua just as he was with Moses all he need to do is to be courageous to keep the law of God. This was the command he obeyed all the days of his life. Now in Joshua 23 in his old age Joshua took what he received from God and gave them to the children of Israel . For he had understood why they were successful in entering the land of Canaan and how they manage to defeat the Canaanites that were in the land.

How does this relate to us today?

The reminder of being courageous to keep the word of God is not just for us, it is for our children as well. This is something difficult to do, for we need to do this from our heart. If we look around us  it is difficult for many around us will not keep it. But as far as the bible tells us, Jesus once said “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  (Jn 14:15), keeping the commandments is a display of our love of Jesus. As the children of God and a believer of Christ we must keep the commandments of God.

The bible tells us of many things we ought to fulfil in our lives,. If we follow the words of the bible, we would receive spiritual blessings as well as physical blessing. In order to receive blessings, we must work hard for we do not wait for blessing to fall on us . We  must strive for ourselves just like how the Israelites did when the enter the land of Canaan. They obeyed the command of God willingly when they cross over the river Jordan. They were told to carry the ark of God into fast flowing river Jordan.  Those who had seen the cross section of the crossing will notice that the entrance to the river is steep, therefore the priest have to jump right into the river for the waters to reside. In the same way, the walls of Jericho collapsed when they obey the command of God to walk around the city quietly. They did so for one round per day with the priest blowing the trumpet and no one shouting. They did so for  6 days. On the 7th day, they march around the city 7 times and on the 7th round, after the priest blew the trumpet, the people shouted and the walls fell flat. All these while the victories of the Israelites were a result of their obedience to the command of God.

Likewise, if we want to receive blessing from God today, we need to keep the commandment of God. For we will receive blessing,spiritually and physically. This can be seen in Israel when they enter the land of Canaan they rejoice in the land and it is a land fill with milk and honey. They could enjoy the blessing easily as God had given it to them. Just as what Joshua said in the next chapter

“I sent the hornet before you
  which drove them out from
  before you, also the two kings
  of the Amorites, but not with
  your sword or with your bow.
  I have given you a land for which
  you did not labor, and cities
  which you did not build, and you
   dwell in them; you eat of the
  vineyards and olive groves
  which you did not plant.” – Joshua (Jos 24:12-13)

Here Joshua reminded them that they did not build these cities or labour for this land. It is a blessing of God to them. To keep these blessing they need to keep the commandment of God

This is the first important message from Joshua to Israel

Pt 2: Remember How God Had Loved You

The second message is written in Jos 24:1-11. It is a long recount of the past history of Israel. How God took Terah and Abraham from the land of Ur of the Chaldeans (Modern Day Kuwait) to the land of Canaan (the present day Israel). How they used to serve other Gods and was turned to serve the true God. How he gave the land of Seir (Present day Jordan) to Esau and he took the children of Israel and settled them in the land of Egypt when they multiplied into a huge population. He reminded them how God sent 10 plagues into Egypt and saved them from the armies of the Pharaoh by the red sea. How he took care of Israel during their 40 years journey in the wilderness

Joshua gave these details so that he could remind the children of Israel. For Joshua knew that they have not experienced this in their lives. For almost everyone who came out of Egypt, who had experienced these miracles had all died in the wilderness. The audience Joshua was addressing are born during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. That is why Joshua recounted their history before them, Joshua wanted them to not forget all the blessings God had given them so far. For God had guided them in his mercy for if God had not taken care of them, they would have died in the hands of the Egyptians, or die of hunger in the wilderness. When Joshua look back at the entire journey before him, he could see how God blessed them on every part of the journey.

Therefore  Joshua brought an important message to Israel.  Reminding them that they are currently living in Canaan and that was all because of God. He reminded them not to forget God.

How does this relate to us today?

Today if we were to recount the many help God had given to us all these years, we would find that they are too numerous and we cannot finish writing about them in a book. At the basic level the greatest blessings we have received from God is that he had saved us from sin through baptism in his name. Therefore, like Joshua we must tell these to our next generation especially our young and our grandchildren. We need to tell them how God had blessed us and take care of us.  Let us not think that what we received  is the result of the work of our hands for all that we received came from God and we need to share these stories with our next generation

Pt 3: Choose For Yourselves Who You Should Serve

The last important message from Joshua are written in Jos 24:14-15

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve
  Him in sincerity and in truth, and put
  away the gods which your fathers
  served on the other side of the River
  and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!

  And if it seems evil to you to serve
  the Lord, choose for yourselves this
  day whom you will serve, whether
  the gods which your fathers served
  that were on the other side of the
  River, or the gods of the Amorites,
  in whose land you dwell. But as for
  me and my house, we will serve
  the Lord.” – Joshua (Jos 24:14-15)

This last message is a challenge from Joshua, Joshua wanted the people to make a choice in their faith. This is a question we odd to ask ourselves. Joshua did not call the Lord God of Abraham , Isaac & Jacob but he simply say serve the Lord. This is because the faith of Israel must be established and they cannot depend on the faith of others  Joshua wanted the people to grow up in their faith and choose whom they want to serve. 

It is our decision to choose to follow the word of God or to follow the ways of the world. If we want to remain in our faith in God we cannot depend on the faith of others. If we choose to follow God we will have establish our faith. In the church we can see different level of faith, there are some who come to church only when the preacher comes to deliver a sermon , while some follow their friends and relatives to come to church. Such faith is still at infancy  There are also others who think that they are saved but their faith does not match up with their deeds

We need to understand that we will eventually be judged for our actions. We are not saved by the deeds of others. That is why our faith needs to grow and we need to make a choice to follow God. Even at home when our kids grow up they have to make their own choices. Some may choose to serve God while some will choose to follow the ways of the world. As a parent we cannot do much about it. But we could follow the example of Joshua . Joshua encourage them to choose God.

We may be wondering why did Joshua make this his final message and not the first or second. If Joshua were to make them choose in the beginning  they may not choose carefully. In order to allow the children of Israel to make a lasting commitment to God. He decided to remind them how important it is to keep the commandment of God through their life experience and he reminded them how God had taken care of them in the past. He asked them to make a choice only after considering everything.

In the same way, we ought follow this same model, to first teach our children the importance of having courage to follow the commandments of the Lord and to recall all the blessing God had given them so far.  Only when they consider everything then allow them to make the choice to establish their faith

Conclusion

We have studied the three important message from Joshua. Let us learn to keep the commandment of God with courage, to recount and remember the blessing God had given us.

Let us make the right choice in faith and establish our faith in the Lord.

This blog post came as a result of a request from the user Lis P. who posted a comment on my blog entry Lyrics of 男儿当自强

The request is for the translation of a movie theme song sang by Jackie Chan titled “Who Am I?”. It was quite difficult to find but I managed to find the lyrics after a month of googling and baidu searches.

In the quest of the search I found a few interesting fact about the song. The lyrics, one of which is  that the song was actually written and composed by a famous Taiwanese Singer Emil Chau.  I believe Emil was a friend of Jackie as he  made cameo appearance in some of his movies

The role of the post is not to provide a critique to the movie. I would just drop information details about the movie to help readers understand the lyrics better.

A Quick Introduction to the Movie

“Who am I?” was a comedy film by Jackie Chan. Like in all of his shows, it features interesting car stunts and daredevil stunt sequences.

The story is about a multinational military unit which was sent to ambush a convey and kidnaps several scientist working on a meteorite.   The unit was eventually double crossed by their commander after the mission. Their helicopter was sabotaged and the unit died in the helicopter crash.

One of the member survived , he was saved by a African tribe and he awoke with an amnesia. Unsure of his name, he called himself “Who Am I”. Later on he stayed among the natives and learnt their customs.

Later on he rescued a rally driver from a snake bite, and help the team win the rally championship. While his commander realise that there was a survivor from the helicopter crash. They went on to try to kill him.

Eventually he managed to track down the commander to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. After much fight and difficulties, he managed to help the CIA capture that rogue commander.

The song lyrics is mainly about the main character singing about himself not being sure who he really is.  The background music featured a tribal music, tribal drums and chants due to the fact that the main character was stuck in the African desert and living among the African tribesmen  for some time.

Interestingly i notice a lot of word play in the lyrics. Unfortunately those word play cannot be successfully translated into English. At the same time the lyrics can be quite a tongue twister if you try to read it  aloud.
And I believe i heard Emil Chau’s voice at some part of the song.

Nonetheless here is the Lyrics and their Hanyu Pinyin

Title: 我是谁
Lyrics : 陈没、周华健
Sang by: 周华健, 成龙
Title: Who Am I?
Lyrics : Chen She, Emil Chau
Sang by: Emil Chau, Jackie Chan
(Stanza 1)
昏天暗地 这里到底是那里 要住哪里走 要往那里去 滚滚风沙 混沌中我是谁 还要怎么追 还要怎么退 昨天我是谁?今天谁是我? 耕过耘过 得过且过 来过去过 谁是我是谁 我是谁是我 是过非过 现在的我不是我
(Stanza 1)
hūn​ tiān​ àn dì​ , zhè​ lǐ​ dào ​dǐ​ shì​ nà ​li​?
yào​ wǎng​ nǎ ​lǐ​ zǒu​, yào​ wǎng​ nà ​li​ qù​?
Gǔn​ gǔn​ fēng ​shā​ hùn , dùn​ zhōng​ wǒ​ shì shéi​ hái​​ yào​ zěn ​me​ zhuī​, hái​​ yào​ zěn ​me​ tuì​ zuó​ tiān​ wǒ​ shì​ shéi​? jīn ​tiān​ shéi​ shì​ wǒ​ ? ēng guò​ yún​ guò, dé ​guò ​qiě ​guò​, lái​ guò ​qu​ guò​
shéi​ shì​ wǒ​ shì​ shéi​, wǒ​ shì​ shéi​ shì​ wǒ​ shì  guò​ fēi​ guò, ​ xiàn ​zài​ de wǒ  bù​ shì​ wǒ​
(Stanza 2) 
茫茫大雾看不见是谁非谁
昨天南到北 明天怎么追?
茫茫大地真想不出是过非过
今天行到北 最好不爱谁
昨天我是谁?今天谁是我?
笑过哭过 不是只我 何必是
我谁是我是谁 我是谁是我
是过非过 现在的我不是我
(Stanza 2) 
máng​ máng​ dà ​wù​ kàn ​bu ​jiàn​ shì​ shéi​ fēi ​shéi
zuó​ tiān​ nán​ dào​ běi​, míng ​tiān​ zěn ​me​ zhuī​?
máng ​máng​ dà ​dì​ zhēn​ xiǎng​ bù​ chū​ shì​ guò​ fēi​  guò​
jīn​ tiān​ xíng​ dào​ běi​. zuì ​hǎo​ bù​ ài​ shéi​
zuó​ tiān​ wǒ​ shì​ shéi​? jīn​tiān shéi​ shì​ wǒ​?
xiào​ guò​ kū​ guò, bù ​shì​ zhī​ wǒ​, hé ​bì​ shì​ wǒ​
shéi​ shì​ wǒ​ shì​ shéi​, wǒ​ shì​ shéi​ shì​ wǒ​​
shì​ guò​ fēi​ guò, xiàn ​zài​ de​ wǒ​ bù ​shì​ wǒ​

As requested. the translation is as follows

(stanza 1 )

In the dark I awoke, where I right now?

Where should I go now? Where shall I head to?

In midst of sandstorm and chaos,  I do not know who I really am.

How should I pursue? How should I retreat?

Who am I yesterday? Who am I today?

As time past, I muddle through and I have came and go

Who am I? Who am I?   
Is it fault or blessing that my current self isn’t me?

(stanza 2 )

Among the thick fog I cannot make out who he is

I travelled south to north, where shall i pursue tomorrow?

Among the vast land I cannot figure if this a blessings or curse

Today I travel north, its better to love nobody

Who am I yesterday? Who am I today?

I have smiled and cried, and its not only me and why should it be me?

Who am I? Who am I?   
Is it fault or blessing that my current self isn’t me?

I have found only one youtube containing the song

I have found Emil Chau singing an English version of this song on youtube as well

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