Introduction

As Christians living on this earth, we are bound to face our own battles and fight. As long as life goes on, we will encounter pain and suffering. Nobody likes pain and suffering but we have to admit that they are part and parcel of life living on earth. There are times we encounter troubles and we find it hard to share them with our friends around us.

This is because sometimes they will give us a cold and unsympathetic response, while some will give us textbook answers such as “You need to pray and entrust them to God”. Many a times we find their comfort superficial and without any effect when it comes to helping us.

But today if we we understand that the Lord knows, it can help us find strength to face the difficulties and challenges ahead of us. Let us examine 2 aspect of our lives which the Lord knows.

 

Pt 1: The Lord Knows The Way That We Take

“But He knows the way that I take;
  When He has tested me, I shall
  come forth as gold.”- Job (Job 23:10)

Job was able to overcome the trials he encounter for he knew that the Lord knew the way which he takes, how he led his life on earth. Job did not understand why troubles came, and why he need to undergo sufferings. For he did not sin or commit a mistake, but yet the troubles arrives one after the other, and he understood that it was a trial from God.

How did Job arrive at this conclusion? That was because he knew that he is facing difficulties and they clause him pain.  But yet as God understood his difficulties and suffering, God did not attempt to save him from his suffering. That is how he knew it was a test from God.

If we truly  understand the fact that God knows our suffering and difficulties, we would know that God is walking beside us in the midst of our suffering. He is walking it with you, and we do not need to worry that the suffering will clause us to fail in faith.  Neither should we worry that the suffering will go beyond our ability to bear. For God is watching, he knows how heavy our burden is and he would not add to what we cannot bear.

That is why Paul reminds us that God will not abuse us and purposely make life difficult. But yet as we think about this a question often comes to our mind”. “Why is it that we feel that we cannot bear our suffering?”

Indeed if the suffering is short, we will know we can overcome it. We can bear with it no matter how painful it is. For we know it is only a short temporary period of suffering. But what happens when our suffering is prolonged? That is when we feel weak and our hearts is weary .It is not that our burdens have increased, but our weariness is making the problem harder to bear.

That is why even the Psalmist reminds us, that God knows our weakness and tiredness

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
  Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
  As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping) ,
  They make it a spring;
  The rain also covers it with pools.
  They go from strength to strength;
  Each one appears before God in Zion”- Sons Of Korah (Ps 84:5-7)

Example of Jesus In Gethsemane

Let us examine one example given to us in the bible, let us think about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. At that point of time, he felt sorrowful, it was not just ordinary sorrow, he was sorrowful onto death. His sweat fell like drops of blood.

There are some who think that was Hematirosis, and it is a rare condition. It occurs when one is facing extreme stress and acute fear, at that point of time Luke tells us, an angel appeared and added strength onto him. As the result, Jesus found the strength to bear the bitter cup.

Indeed Jesus knows our weakness, he will add strength onto us as we face our difficulties. He can help us overcome our weakness and difficulties, we will emerge stronger than who we were previously. That is why Job said “When He has tested me, I shall   come forth as gold.”

This is one of the important reason why Job overcame his difficulties, for he knew that God is aware of our troubles, and he is our source of strength. Today our lives on earth in the journey of faith is just like the days where Israel walked in the wilderness during the time of Moses. It was God who called Israel to walk in the wilderness, it was a long and difficult journey. It is an empty an barren land, but Israel finished their journey by obeying God.  For it is the path God told them to go, and God knew the way they walked. No matter how difficult and dangerous the path ahead is, God will help them through it. They can overcome all obstacles by relying on God, they found courage and finish the journey.

That is why we need to understand that God knows the way we walk and he will help us.

 

Pt 2: God Already Know What He Will Do

“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and
  seeing a great multitude coming
  toward Him, He said to Philip,

  “Where shall we buy bread,
     that these may eat?”

  But this He said to test him, for
  He Himself knew what He would 
  do.”- John (Jn 6:5-6)

The four gospels all talked about the miracle of 5 loaves and 2 fishes. But only the book of John recorded this observation made by John.  Jesus asked Philip “Where can we get bread for these to eat?”. He said it as a test for Phillip for he already knew what he would do. He wanted to see what his disciples would do.

Let us examine the reaction and actions taken by the disciples

Phillip’s Approach To The Test

“Two hundred denarii worth of
  bread is not sufficient for them,
  that every one of them may have
  a little.” – Phillip (Jn 6: 7)

Phillip saw the need and the magnitude of the problem, he saw the little resources that he had. He had at the most, 200 denarii of coins, roughly 6.5 month worth of salary for a single worker.  Even if he used all his money to buy bread, they can all but eat only a little bit of bread. Therefore he concluded that there is nothing he can do, why waste the money on what that cannot work?

Phillip is not wrong, his thinking and estimation are all sound and correct. His reaction is reasonable and fair but he forget to include one more aspect to his estimation. He had forgotten the authority and power of Jesus.

Even though Jesus is right beside him, he did not rely and trust in his power, we are guilty of doing this at times. Whenever we face a major problem and we knew that our strength is unable to overcome it, we forget to factor in the power of Jesus.

it is not that Phillip had never seen miracles performed by Jesus , he ought to have faith and rely on Jesus. But when Jesus tested him and told him to get bread to feed the multitude. He just made an estimate and concluded that it is something impossible to achieve.  For he only had 200 denarii and it would be unwise to waste it on a solution that cannot help.

Phillip only relied on his mind, wisdom, foresight and planning, he made use of everything that is before his eyes but he neglected the power of Jesus. In fact Jesus already knew what he wanted to do, he just wanted to see what Phillip is thinking. He wanted to know how Phillip will face this problem  and solve it.

Phillip did not past the test given to him by Jesus.

Andrew’s Approach To The Test

“There is a lad here who has five
   barley loaves and two small fish,
   but what are they among so many?”- Andrew (Jn 6:9)

Like Phillip, Andrew understood the magnitude of the problem, that is why he knew that 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes cannot help much. If Phillip and his 200 denarii cannot resolve this problem, how would 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes help?

But Andrew did not reject the little boys contribution, he knew that even though it did not help much, but Andrew did his part as a disciple, he took the little food and gave them onto the hand of Jesus. He wanted to see what Jesus will do with it, if he was willing to perform the miracle.

At that point of time, he did not know if Jesus would perform the miracle. But if the Lord is willing to do so, the problem will be resolved on the spot. Like Phillip he heard Jesus instructing Phillip to buy bread so they could eat. It appear as though Jesus was not prepared to perform the miracle.  For Jesus already give his instruction and told them to find a solution and get bread.

But where can they find the money to do so? Even if they have the money, where can they buy bread in the wilderness? He did not care about the situation and facts around him, he just took the bread and fishes and gave it to Jesus. Andrew wanted to see that Jesus would do and this is something we need to learn.

The Problem Of Preaching The Gospel

Today we are often faced with a big problem, we can see many around us who are in need. But how can we find strength to deal with it? Our strength is so limited. This is true especially in the work of the gospel today, there are many who need to hear the gospel but there are so little who are willing to preach.

What is worst is that when we are prepared to share, we are plagued with many troubles and difficulties, if we cannot even help ourselves, how can we try to help others?  What is more is that Jesus did not want us to preach only around us, we are suppose to carry this gospel message to the end of the world.

When we think of this we feel ashamed of ourselves, the work is so great and our power is so small. We did not just find sharing the gospel difficult, we even face crisis in our own faith. There are many around who find our gospel hard to believe, some even doubt and pose challenges to us. When we examine our own resources, indeed it look like 5 loaves and 2 fishes. We are limited by manpower, financial resources, and we know how limited we are.

So how can we resolve this problem? This is something we need to consider

Our Response To The Challenge

It is true that we only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, and the number we need to attend to are more than 5000. In face of this fact, will we respond like Phillip and just give up? Many Christians today responded like this, for the more they tried to preach the more tired they become. It seem as though no matter how hard we try, the end result is the same. That’s is why we reply like Phillip “There is nothing we can do”.

Let us not be like this, let us learn to be like Andrew. Let us do what we can even though it is only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. They may not look like a great help in the midst of all these troubles. But we have a responsibility to place it in the hands of Jesus.  Let him decide if he wants to perform miracles with it or not.

We will never know what Jesus would do with our 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. As we place this in his hand let us remind ourselves.. Jesus already knew what he will do. He is watching us to see what we will do.

Sometimes we tend to forget that Jesus already knew what he wanted to do. Sometimes we make response such as “If God will not do it, why must we put in our effort to do something?”

Indeed there are many times we wish God were to speak out just for once and everybody will listen to him. We know that if God is willing to help us, all our problem will be resolved. But yet we see God doing  nothing, and we asked “Why is it that you are unwilling to help us?”

Some of us sigh helplessly”If God wont do anything, what’s the point of us doing something?”

As the result we start to behave like Moses who once pushed the blame onto God. 

Learning To Work With God By Doing Our Part

“Why have You afflicted Your servant? 
  And why have I not found favor in Your
  sight, that You have laid the burden
  of all these people on me?

  Did I conceive all these people?
  Did I beget them, that You should say to me,
  ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a
   guardian carries a nursing child,’ 
  to the land which You swore to
  their fathers?” – Moses (Num 11:11-12)

At that point of time, the children of Israel was complaining to Moses in the wilderness. They accused him of bringing them out there to die for they have no meat to eat. Moses was angry and he said this to God.

Sometimes we face with a similar problem, especially when we serve God. That is often the time we tell ourselves to give up and not care about the problem. We wanted to push the blame to God saying he did nothing to help us.

But today if we understood what John meant when he said God knew what he would do and he is watching us to see what we will do. We will choose to believe in him and rely on him .At the same time, we would do whatever within our means to help.

“I planted, Apollos watered,
  but God gave the increase.”- Paul (1 Cor 3:6)

This is an important concept we need to understand whenever we face difficulties in life. More so when we are working for God. Whenever we face difficulties, let us remember these words.  Let us remember that we can only do the job of planting and watering. It is beyond our ability to let it grow.

God only wanted us to do what we can, to our best ability. It doesn’t matter if we are facing life’s problem or difficulties in service, God will not make us do what we cannot do, he want us to work with him.

We can only do what we can do, that is to plant and to water. It is God who let it grow. The result is beyond us only God can do it. This is an important concept we need to hold, both when serving God and facing life problem.

Learning To Rely On God Through Prayer

That is why today whenever we face difficulties in life and in service. We need to know what we can do within our power. We need to do them and entrust what is beyond our control to God. And God will help us. We must be willing to place our 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes before God.

But as we say this, some may accuse me of giving them the “textbook answer”. 

Some may even retort “What is it that we can do? What is our responsibility?”

The most basic of all is to pray to God and tell him our problem. But yet now as I said this,  I would be accused of giving another "textbook answer”. For many of us think that prayers are not effective. But why is it so?

One of the most common response we get it  
“Look, I repeated my request again and 
  again to God. I waited  but God did not
  take any action.”

This is one of the typical response where we conclude and say “What is the point of prayer?”.

Maybe we should approach this dilemma in a different direction. Let us examine ourselves rather than God. Let us ask if we are praying correctly. Let us examine some of the prayers made by the ancient saints.

EG 1 : Hezekiah Prayer Before God

2 Kings 18 and 19 talks about a King named Hezekiah. He encountered a huge problem as a king. During that time the armies of Assyria came and attacked him. The enemy is lead by a general known as Sennacherib.  They told Hezekiah that their God will not save them from the Assyrians and they have a point. For if war broke out between Judah and Assyrian, Judah would not be able to defend herself.

Therefore the enemy wrote a long letter, telling Judah not to trust in God.

In face of such problem Hezekiah only did one thing

“And Hezekiah received the letter
  from the hand of the messengers,
  and read it; and Hezekiah went up
  to the house of the Lord, and
  spread it before the Lord” – Chronicler (2 Kings 19:14) 

If we read his prayer from 2 Kings 19:15-19 we can see a few points. Hezekiah knew whom he believed in and who he was praying to. He was talking to the God who created earth, the one who made kings and rulers,  kingdom and nations.  He is the true and living God, different from the gods who the other nation worship.

Hezekiah’s faith is similar to the faith of David when he faced Goliath. He pleaded with the Lord to save Judah and God indeed answered his prayer. That very night an angel was sent into the enemies camp and all the soldiers was killed overnight. Sennacherib had to return home with no army to accompany him.

Hezekiah’s prayer would not have succeeded if he did not know whom he is praying to.  Hezekiah also did not demand God to do what he want, he just pleaded for his help. Hezekiah’s prayer made us consider 2 question.

1. When we pray, do we know whom we are speaking to?
2. Do we pray to God giving him orders or do we ask God to help us in his way?

EG 2 : The Prayer Of The Early Church In Face Of Difficulty

We shared earlier that no human being enjoy encountering difficulty in life. Whenever we are in trouble in our prayer we tend to ask God to take our difficulty away. But yet many a time God did not seem to accede to our request. Our problem  continue to happen, eventually we become discourage and we say that prayer didn’t work.

But have we wonder if the ancient saints ever ask God to take away their problem? When the church began in the book of Acts, there were many miracles that are perform. Yet the Jews did not believe, they threatened the apostles not to teach the name of Jesus. 

Therefore the church gathered to pray about the problem, but did they ask God to remove the problem? “

“Now, Lord, look on their threats,
  and grant to Your servants that
  with all boldness they may speak
  Your word,  by stretching out Your
   hand to heal, and that signs and
  wonders may be done through
  the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” – The church (Acts 4:29-30)

The church did not ask God to take away their troubles, but they ask God to grant them boldness to continue to testify for Jesus in the midst of these problem. They pleaded with God to show more miracles to help hem so that they can continue to preach in the midst of the trouble.

We knew from history that their situation only got worst, disciples were killed and imprisoned.  Yet the gospel continue to prosper in the midst of these persecution.  The Holy Spirit grant them boldness courage and bravery to stand up in the midst of these difficulties and trials.

We have the right to ask God to take trouble away from us through prayer. But sometimes God allowed it to happen, and sometimes God just hoping that we can pray to him for help, for more strength to handle, and the courage to continue to serve him.

If our prayer is according to his will, he will grant the strength for us to continue. For we see the disciples eventually preaching the gospel far and wide. 

 

EG 3: Making Plans And Prayer

Very often we pray to God asking for help, and when we do so, we stop doing and started watching. We sit there passively waiting for miracles and Gods direction. When God remain silent, we continue to wait and do nothing. At the end of it, we become discourage, we stop praying and we no longer trust God.

We may pass comment such as “We have waited on the Lord, but why did he not give us strength? Didn’t Isaiah tell us that those who wait on the Lord will receive strength?”

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
  And the young men shall utterly fall,”
  But those who wait on the Lord
  Shall renew their strength;

  They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
  They shall run and not be weary,
  They shall walk and not faint.”- Isaiah (Is 40:30-31)

But do we really understand what it means to wait onto the Lord?  Waiting on the Lord is not something passive. We need to continue to walk,than we will not faint. We need to run and then we would not be weary. You have to continue walking and running, then we can mount out with wings like the eagle and receive strength.

Praying to God does not mean that we no longer do anything. We are suppose to continue to make plans and to entrust our plans to God and let him guide us. That is how Apostle Paul relied on God to help him.

“Now when they had gone through
  Phrygia and the region of Galatia,
  they were forbidden by the Holy
  Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

  After they had come to Mysia, they
  tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit
 
did not permit them.

  So passing by Mysia, they came down
  to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul
  in the night. A man of Macedonia stood
  and pleaded with him, saying, “Come
  over to Macedonia and help us.”” – Luke (Acts 6:6-9)

Paul was eager to preach the word of God and he knew it is within Gods will. But God had forbidden him to go to some of the places he wanted to go. But Paul did not passively just pray and wait, he continued to make plans. He did not stop preaching, nor did he just pray and do nothing.

As Paul continue to move , he asked God to guide him. Finally he saw the vision of the Macedonian man. Then he headed toward Macedonia and started to preach.

Waiting for God is not a passive work, we do not just wait and do nothing. As we pray to God to guide us, we need to continue to put in our effort to do what we can do.  Eventually God will move us through his spirit and guide us where to go.

WE need to remember that God plan may not be what we want, that is when we need to be submissive and respond to the calling of God.

 Conclusion So Far

So far we studied that the Lord knows 2 things and we need to keep them in our hearts.

Firstly he knew the way we walk, he knows our faith our strength as well as our weakness. IF we rely on him, he will not allow us to fall in our trials. For he know how much we can take and he will not give us a test we cannot handle

Secondly, we learnt that God already knew what he wanted to do. Many a times he wanted to see how we would react to his test.

We also discussed one of the most basic thing we can do is to pray about our problems. We covered 3 aspect of prayer. Firstly we need to know whom we are praying to and rely on him. Secondly we need to ask God for strength to overcome our difficulty instead of asking for the problem to be removed. Lastly we need to continue to work and do what we can while we entrust our problem to him in prayer. 

May God help us in all our difficulties and give us strength to finish our walk of faith.

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
Part 3: The word of God is like a measuring line and a light 

Let us continue our next metaphor

The Word Of God Is A Two Edged Sword

For the word of God is living and powerful,
  and sharper than any two-edged sword,
  piercing even to the division of soul and
  spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a
  discerner of the thoughts and intents of
  the heart. “ – Author Of Hebrews (Heb 4:12)

Here it tell us that the word of God is a living and powerful weapon. We need to have this understanding about the word of God. For it is not a dead literature or a mere piece of ancient writing.

If we regard the word of God is one that is living and with vitality. Our attitudes towards the bible will be different compared if we were treat it as a mere ancient document. If we believe that the bible is the word of God and it has spirit and life, we will read it with a different attitude and heart .

That is why we need to understand that the word of God is living and powerful. It can bring us comfort and strength in life. For Paul explains

For whatever things were written
  before were written for our learning,
  that we through the patience and
  comfort of the Scriptures might have
  hope. “ – Paul (Rom 15:4)

Paul told us that the bible is written specially for us, it is written to bring us hope, endurance and comfort. This is something ordinary literature cannot do. Today in the world, we have many self help books and book discussing religion and philosophy.  There are times such literature bring us comfort, happiness, it may even inspire new thoughts within us.  They may even be able to point us to new direction in life, inspires us to do what we normally would not do.

I do not deny the fact that common literature can provide help & comfort or even inspire us to think positively. But today if we were to face a hopeless situation, that is the time when these book are unable to give us strength.

Learning to find strength in the words of God

Let us recall the story of Elijah, how he slept under the broom tree and prayed to God for death. Was Elijah dying because of hunger? No, for we knew that he was afraid and disappointed. How did Elijah overcome his predicament?

Initially we  read of an angel offering him food and drink, but after eating he continues to sleep. The second time the angel offered him food and drink. He comforted Elijah saying “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” After that we read that Elijah had the strength to walk for many days. Is the root of the problem hungriness?

Sometimes if the problem is merely exhaustion, we only need to rest before we regain strength. But what happens when we are tired in spirit? How can one receive strength in spirit? Physical food and rest can replenish our physical strength. But only the word of God can give our spirit hope and strength.

Life on earth is full of worries, we are pressured from work, sometimes our superior threaten us by withholding our salary. There are many problems in life which we want to run away from, they make us feel that our lives are not worth living. 

These are  all signs of being tired in spirit. That is the time we need the words of God the most. 

Prophet Amos once said

““Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,
  “That I will send a famine on the land,
    Not a famine of bread,
    Nor a thirst for water,
    But of hearing the words of the Lord.” – Amos (Amos 8:11)

And Jesus reminds us

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by
  bread alone, but by every word that
  proceeds from the mouth of God.’”- Jesus (Matt 4:4)

The bible is the word of God, it is a book where we can gain strength and help from God. If we do not listen nor read from it, we will never be able to get any strength and help for our spirit. If we view the bible as ordinary literature and the sermons as mere oratorical speech and not the words of God. How can we ever be moved by the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of God will only work within us  if we believe and desire the word of God. That is when we receive strength from God.

This is the reason why the author of Hebrews says that the word of God is living. It can generate strength within us and his words are not empty words.

The Word Of God That Never Fails

Before Joshua dies, he spoke his last words to the children of Israel

“Behold, this day I am going the way
  of all the earth. And you know in all
  your hearts and in all your souls that
  not one thing has failed of all the good
  things which the Lord your God spoke
  concerning you. All have come to pass
  for you; not one word of them has failed.

  Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all
  the good things have come upon you which
  the Lord your God promised you, so the
  Lord will bring upon you all harmful things,
  until He has destroyed you from this good
  land which the Lord your God has given you.

  When you have transgressed the covenant
  of the Lord your God, which He commanded
  you, and have gone and served other gods,
  and bowed down to them, then the anger of
  the Lord will burn against you, and you shall
  perish quickly from the good land which He
  has given you.”- Joshua (Jos 23:14-16)

The last words of Joshua is important and similar to the last words of Moses. He reminded the Israelites that they are the chosen people of God. He told them that the word of God will always come to past.  For God had fulfilled every promise he made to Abraham.

For God said, “ I will bless you and you will be a great nation”. At that point of time Abraham had no son, he had Isaac at the age of 100. From Isaac came 2 children, by the time Israel entered Egypt, they were numbered to 70.

Eventually they became a great nation, their numbers grew so great that the Pharaoh was afraid of them and wanted to destroy them. But yet the more he opposed the more they continue to grow. For it was the will of God. Eventually Moses brought them out of Egypt and Joshua led them into the land of Canaan. God fulfilled his promise to bring them into the land of Canaan. That is why Joshua told them that Gods promise will always come to past.

Where is our blessing? Why Can’t We See It?

Similarly let us believe and esteem the words of God. For everything that God had spoken in the past had always been fulfilled. we often mind what others have to say and we often forget what God told us. Let us remind ourselves of the blessing that God had promised us in the scriptures.

But sometimes we wonder “Where is our blessing? why are we unable to see it?”

Joshua told the people, the words of God never fails, both his blessing and his curses will come to past. If we follow his words, blessing will be upon us. But if we transgress against his words, his curses will come to past. If we do a bit of both then both his blessing and curses will be upon us.

Often the real problem lies within us, if we really uphold the words of God. The modern Christians often talk about his blessing but they ignore his curses altogether. That is why we must examine our faith to see if we believe in all of Gods word.

God is merciful and loving, he will always be ready to forgive us. But God is also righteous, eventually he must judged us for our sins. Let us learn to fear God  follow his words and receive his blessing

The Two Response When Pierced : Repentance

The word of God is not just double edged. It is sharper than a double edged sword. It can pierce through our souls and reveal the evil intent within us. It reveals the secret thoughts within us. At the same time it can pierce into the heart of man.

Most man will have 2 response when they hear the word of God. One would fear God and recognised the sin within him. For we read earlier that Gods word is like a mirror. That is when it becomes a 2 edged sword, revealing your sin and piercing through your heart.

An example of this can be seen on the day of Pentecost, when the Jews heard the preaching of Peter, they were cut in their heart. Acts 2:37 is not a mere description, for they felt the pain piercing through their heart. How cold they crucify Jesus to the cross?

The preaching of Peter allow them to see their hard heartedness, wickedness, pride and ignorance. As the result they humble themselves and repented.That is when the word of God pierce through their soul like a two edged sword. God did it because he did not want us to suffer eternally in pain and suffering. He wanted to awaken us and call us back.

The Two Response When Pierced : Anger

On the other hand, there are others who, after being pierced by the word of God, became angry with the word of God. For the word revealed the shame that is hidden within their heart. In the end they wanted to destroy the word of God. This was recorded in Lk 4:28-30

“So all those in the synagogue,
  when they heard these things,
  were filled with wrath, and rose
  up and thrust Him out of the city;
  and they led Him to the brow of
  the hill on which their city was built,
  that they might throw Him down over
  the cliff. Then passing through the
  midst of them, He went His way.” – Luke (Lk 4:28-30)

These people were filled with wrath upon hearing the words of Jesus. For the word of Jesus revealed their hypocrisy.  They know they cannot murder Jesus openly, but they wanted to do it badly. So they thrust him out of the city and wanted to throw him down the cliff.

The word of God is spirit and it is life, different people will have different responses to it. Some upon hearing will repent from their sins. While others became full of wrath and wanted to kill Jesus. For when Jesus pointed out their sin they were unable to accept it. They refuse to repent. These are the wicked that are often mentioned in the scriptures. 

What is the Difference Between Sinners And The Wicked?

Jesus wanted to save sinners but not the wicked. Perhaps you may ask, is there a difference between the wicked and the sinners?  Most will define  murderers and killers as wicked, we will think that those who commit miner sins are sinners. But God uses a different approach when it comes to differentiating sinners and wicked.

In God’s eye, a murderer is still a sinner for he can still repent. The wicked are sinners who knew their sins and refuse to repent. It is not that God did not want to save the wicked but rather the wicked refused to be saved by God.

If we try to dissuade a wicked man to stop sinning, they will tell you boldly “Stop persuading me, if I perish so be it”. They are well aware that they are treading on the wrong path but they choose to do it. The devil is like that, that is why we call him wicked.  The devil is well aware of the impending judgement he will receive, but he will never repent.

On the other hand, let us not be like Pharisees, even though they fear and they do many things hoping to please God. They pay the tithes, fast 3 times a week and make long prayers. These are all things that are hard to do. But all they show is external piousness, they do not repent from their own sins. They too, wanted to kill Jesus.

True Knowledge Of The Word Of God

Now we have received, not the
  spirit of the world, but the Spirit
  who is from God, that we might
  know the things that have been
  freely given to us by God.

  These things we also speak, not in
  words which man’s wisdom teaches
  but which the Holy Spirit teaches,
  comparing spiritual things with
  spiritual.” – Paul (1 Cor 2:12-13)

If we want to understand the word of God, we would need guidance of God to understand his will and his words. For we are able to read but we cannot fully understand it. For Paul mentioned earlier 

“But God has revealed them to us
  through His Spirit. For the Spirit
  searches all things, yes, the deep
  things of God. “ -  Paul (1 Cor 2:10)

Paul tells us that the spirit of God searches all things. Indeed only a spirit of man can understand the things of man. We may have a pet but our pets will never understand us fully. In the same way, the words of God can only be understood by the spirit of God.

We cannot use the wisdom of man but we need the spirit of God. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand the scriptures. While human wisdom can help us analyse passage and rationalize thoughts, it may even help us know the original text and understand the verse better.

It cannot guaranty that we would be able to understand the things of God. If knowledge of biblical Hebrew is so important, why is it that those who read the Hebrew scriptures in its original form are unable to see that Jesus is the messiah that they were waiting for?  Why is it that they are unable to see how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the messiah?

Jesus once spoke to his disciples

“I still have many things to say to you,
  but you cannot bear them now. However,
  when He, the Spirit of truth, has come,
  He will guide you into all truth; for He will
  not speak on His own authority, but whatever
  He hears He will speak; and He will tell you
  things to come.” – Jesus (Jn 16:12-13)

Paul calls the word of God the sword of the spirit. that is why we need the Holy Spirit to abide in us and teach us. Only then will the word of God be powerful within us. For the Holy Spirit will work with the word of God. We need both of them in our hearts.

That is why we should emphasise on the word of God as well as prayer. For the sword of the spirit is the word of God. The holy spirit will work together with the word of God to encourage us and give us strength.

That is why we should not just pray, we need to read the bible and understand it. Then it would become a useful and powerful weapon of the Holy Spirit

The Word Of God Is Like Medicine

“My son, give attention to my words;
   Incline your ear to my sayings.
   Do not let them depart from your eyes;
   Keep them in the midst of your heart;
   For they are life to those who find them,
   And health to all their flesh.”- Solomon (Prov 4:20-22)

The word of God is like a medicine. Even though we are healthy and well at the moment. We may fall sick at times. The worst illness happen when we are sick in our spirit, for the best doctor cannot cure the matters of the heart.

We need medicine for the heart in order to cure such illness. The word of God is the best medicine for our heart.  That is why Solomon describes it so, for the word of God gives health to everyone and it can allow us to remain healthy.  For  a joyful heart is good medicine.

In the past, and sometimes even in our modern world. There are people who thinks that illness were a result of spirit and ghost. But today science have taught us that diseases are clause by virus. As the result we can heal ourselves now. But the Psychiatrist tells us that if we are sad, it will weaken our immune system. Therefore our emotional well being is related to our physical health.

The word of God can bring joy and comfort to our hearts. It can broaden our minds and give us the strength to forgive the people who had hurt us. As the result we could control our temper and choose not to fight. We could use this medicine to help us.

A Medicine that Enlarge Our Hearts

But how can it help us achieve peace in our hearts? How can it help us forgive and let go?

Only the word of God can help us and the Psalmist explain it clearly

“My soul melts from heaviness;
  Strengthen me according to
  Your word.”- Psalmist (Ps 119:28)

“I will run the course of Your
  commandments, For You shall
  enlarge my heart.” -Psalmist (Ps 119:32)

Our hearts can be bound by our hatred and wrath, it can also be bounded by sorrows and worries. For there will be words that will make us angry, and words that will break our hearts. That is when we need prayers, and we need to believe and mediate on the words of God. It can melt the heaviness and strengthen us, it can enlarge our hearts if we follow his commandments.

The Psalmist continues to plead with the Lord

“Remember the word to Your servant,
  Upon which You have caused me to hope.
  This is my comfort in my affliction,
  For Your word has given me life.” – Psalmist (Ps 110:49-50)

It is by remembering the words of God we can find hope. It can give us life and give us comfort. That is why the word of God is the best medicine for the heart. It is the reason why we need to read and ponder over them. That is why we often make children memories bible verses in Sunday school. For we want them to keep the words in their heart. Only then can the word of God comfort them when they are in trouble. For if we do not know the verse, how can we be reminded of it?

The Right Medicine For the Right time

Every good doctor is able to prescribe the right medication for the right diseases. In a same way, Christian must learn to make good use of the word of God. For if we abuse the word we will bring more harm than good to the people who hear us.

For example, we remember the 3 friends of Job who came to visit him in hope of bringing him comfort and counsel. They wanted to help him, but they make use of the wrong medication. They insist that Job’s suffering was a result of a judgement of God. And they went on to say that we all have sinned.

That is when Job defended himself asking them to point out his sins.

When they are unable to do so, they claim that it is the will of God. They advised Job to be humble and receive it. Their words brought more anger and disappointment in Job. Job calls them worthless Physicians who are only here to pass judgement.

As Christians, we are guilty of that at times. But we ought to know that the words of God are given to save people and not to harm them. 

A Concluding Story

There was a preacher who debated with a unbelievers and that man is hardened in his heart.  That man refuse to believe and in the middle of the debate he asked “Do you truly believe that all the words in the bible and all the instructions from Jesus? “

The preacher replied yes, and the man referred him to Matt 5:39

“But I tell you not to resist
  an evil person.  But whoever
  slaps you on your right cheek,
  turn the other to him also.” – Jesus (Mat 5:39)

Before the preacher could say anything, the man gave him a slap and he was in shock. So the man replied “Please do not be angry, but if you truly believe in the words of Jesus, please turn your cheek to me now”

The preacher replied “Well, I have this verse for you. Jn 3:36.”

“He who believes in the Son has
  everlasting life; and he who does
  not believe the Son shall not see
  life, but the wrath of God abides
  on him.”- Jesus (Jn 3:36)

The unbeliever was wise, and but as the preacher was showing him the scriptures, he let down his guard. Before he could finish reading, he received a punch in his stomach.

The preacher replied “Here is how the wrath of God looks like”

Both of these man know how to use the bible, but they use it only to teach and hurt others. They use it to vent their anger and frustration. This is not the right way to use the word of God.

Sometimes we behave just like these two me. But we need to know that God wanted people to repent and return to him. God wanted to save their souls and wake them from their slumber. Therefore we need to ask ourselves

“Are we using the word of God to help the ones in need?”

Let us learn not to use it merely to give others a lesson or to ridicule people. For if we do so are we suppose to be good or useless physicians?

Recently I came across an interesting MTV by Jay Chou. It is about a song called 青花瓷 (The Blue And White Porcelain) I find the lyrics very poetic and beautiful, so I decided to share it with you on the blog.

To many of my audience from the west, you would be wondering what is a  blue and white porcelain.  You can take a look at some example of it from the Wikipedia entry here . In ancient times it was a type of porcelain often sought after by traders. It is regarded as an luxury item. I remember once in Brunei I visited the Maritime Museum and among the artefacts recovered from one of the most ancient shipwreck in Brunei bay, it is proven that traders would visit China to buy blue and white porcelain for trade.    Along the coast of Africa, blue and white porcelain plates are often used as ornaments and are regarded as treasures. 

The MTV is very Asian so i will give an synopsis here.

The MTV began in Ancient China, where a woman was captured by bandits and taken prisoner. She was taken captive by the Bandit King and raped. Her lover was a swordsman who fought to save her . He took his precious blue white porcelain vase as ransom for his wife. But as the woman was released, she was killed by the bandit king.  She died in the arms of her lover.

Later the precious antique porcelain was auctioned in the modern era.  The characters in the previous story were reincarnated. But they find themselves fighting over the same porcelain antique once again.  The swordsman decided to let the woman buy the antique. Their love rekindled again, unfortunately the bandit King now a mob boss, he tried to prevent the swordsmen and his lover from running away. This time the swordsman was shot and he died in the arms of his lover.

The lyrics of the song was about the swordsman missing his lover. The song uses the elaborate drawings found within  the porcelain vase as a metaphor to describe the beauty of his lover as well as his longing for her.

Here is the lyrics of the song and its translation

Title: 青花瓷
Artist:  周杰伦
Lyrics : 方文山
Arranged By : 钟兴民
Title:  Blue & White Porcelain
Artist:  Jay Chou
Lyrics : Fang Wen Shan
Arranged By : Zhong Xi Ming

Stanza 1


素胚勾勒出青花
笔锋浓转淡
瓶身描绘的牡丹
一如妳初妆

冉冉檀香透过窗
心事我了然
宣纸上走笔至此
搁一半

Stanza 1


sù pēi​ gōu ​lè​ chū​ qīng ​huā​
bǐ ​fēng​ nóng​ zhuǎn​ dàn​
píng​ shēn​ miáo ​huì​ de​ mǔ ​dan
yī ​rú​ nǐ​ chū​ zhuāng​

rǎn​ rǎn​  tán​ xiāng​ tòu ​guò​ chuāng​
xīn ​shì​ wǒ​ liǎo ​rán​
xuān ​zhǐ​ shàng​ zǒu​ bǐ​ zhì ​cǐ​
gé​ yī bàn​

釉色渲染仕女图
韵味被私藏
而妳嫣然的一笑
如含苞待放

妳的美一缕飘散
去到我去不了
的地方

yòu​ sè xuàn ​rǎn​ shì ​nǚ​ tú​
yùn ​wèi​ bèi​ sī ​cáng​
ér nǐ​ yān ​rán​ dì​ yī​ xiào​
rú​ hán ​bāo​ dài ​fàng​

nǐ​ de měi​ yī​ lǚ​ piāo ​sàn
qù​ dào​ wǒ ​qù bù​ liǎo
de dì​ fāng​

Chorus
天青色等烟雨
而我在等妳

炊烟袅袅升起
隔江千万里

在瓶底书汉隶仿
前朝的飘逸

就当我为遇见
妳伏笔

Chorus
tiān​ qīng ​sè​ děng​ yān ​yǔ​
ér​ wǒ​ zài děng​ nǐ​

chuī ​yān​ niǎo ​niǎo​ shēng ​qǐ
gé jiāng​ qiān​ Wàn ​lǐ​

zài​ píng dǐ​ shū​ hàn​ lì​ fǎng​
qián ​cháo​ de​ piāo ​yì​

jiù​  dāng wǒ wèi​ yù​ jiàn
nǐ fú ​bǐ​

天青色等烟雨
而我在等妳

月色被打捞起
晕开了结局

如传世的青花瓷
自顾自美丽
妳眼带笑意

tiān​ qīng ​sè​ děng​ yān ​yǔ​
ér​ wǒ​ zài děng​ nǐ​

yuè ​sè​ bèi​ dǎ ​lāo​ qǐ​
yùn​ kāi​ liǎo jié ​jú​ 

rú​ chuán ​shì​ de qīng ​huā ​cí​
zì ​gù ​zì​ měi ​lì​
nǐ yǎn​ dài​ xiào ​yì​

Stanza 2

色白花青的锦鲤
跃然于碗底

临摹宋体落款时
却惦记着妳

妳隐藏在窑烧里
千年的秘密

极细腻犹如
绣花针落地

Stanza 2

sè bái​ huā​ qīng​ de jǐn ​lǐ
yuè ​rán​ yú​ wǎn​ dǐ​

lín ​mó​ sòng ​tǐ​ luò ​kuǎn​ shí
què​ diàn ​jì​ zhe nǐ​

nǐ​ yǐn ​cáng​ zài yáo shāo​ lǐ
qiān​ nián​ de​ mì ​mì​

jí​ xì ​nì​ yóu ​rú​
xiù huā​ zhēn​ luò ​dì​

帘外芭蕉惹骤雨
门环惹铜绿

而我路过那江南
小镇惹了妳

在泼墨山水画里
妳从墨色深处被隐去

lián​ wài​ bā ​jiāo​ rě​ zhòu ​yǔ​
mén ​huán​ rě​ tóng​ lǜ​

ér​ wǒ​ lù ​guò​ nà​ Jiāng ​nán
xiǎo​ zhèn​ rě​ le nǐ​

zài​ pō​ mò​ shān ​shuǐ ​huà​ lǐ
nǐ​ cóng mò​ sè shēn ​chù​ bèi​ yǐn qù​

Repeat Chorus Twice Repeat Chorus Twice

 

Here is the English translation

Stanza 1
The plain outlines from the porcelain,  with its strong and weak strokes combined
The peony painted on it is as beautiful as you
The whiff of incense through the window carries worries which i understood
I paused the brush strokes which kept us apart.

The glazing on your portrait hides your beautiful charm. 
But your sweet smile bloom from within like a flower
Your beauty dissipates like smoke 
it entered a place which I cannot follow

Chorus
Within its blue misty drizzle I am waiting for you
Through its spiral smoke & rivers, we are a thousand miles apart
That little stroke at the bottom of that vase
Is a foreshadow of our meeting that is to come

Within its blue misty drizzle I am still waiting for you
As the moon light washes ashore the remnant of our meeting
As our precious porcelain retains her beauty
Your eyes carries your smiles

Stanza 2
A painted white koi came alive at the bottom of the dish
But its ancient inscription were longing for you.
The eons of secrets hidden within the kiln
Remain as silent as a embroidery pin falling

The palm leaves by the curtain stirs up showers, attracting rust on the door knockers
As I pass that little town in Jiang Nan, I  attracted you  
Within the coarse ink of that beautiful landscape painting
You are hidden within the depths of its brushstrokes

Repeat Chorus twice

 

My lyrics were translated with some inspiration taken from Youtube user
RandomMess

My Vietnamese friend may want to check out this translation of the song in Vietnamese

As I shared a few days back, granny was called home to the Lord a few days back. God had been kind to her by granting her wish to see her great grand child. God arranged for all her grand children to spend time with her just before the Lord brings her home.

Though it is our wish to have her by our side, but God knows that she would be better off in his bosom. God already dropped my family the hint when he allowed her great grand son to come prematurely to fulfil her request.

Even though we are sad that she is no longer with us, and we can no longer talk to her or lay down near granny to be pampered by her. We know that soon we will all gather beyond the river. For we will all meet before the Lord.

During the funeral, we shared the testimony of how God granted her request not to take her home at December 2015 . God granted her 8 more months on earth. Even though granny did not share with us  her requests to the Lord. But  we are sure that one of it concern her great grandchild. For he was conceived during December and  God allowed the boy to come early in order for her to see him.

At the cremation ceremony, I missed the chance to deliver an Eulogy for her. So please allow me to deliver my Eulogy here.  I wanted to write this down so that one day her great grandson will read of his great grandmother. I wanted to preserve all my memories of her while they are still fresh in my mind.

Introduction

Firstly on behalf of of my family, I would like to thank the Church for arranging the funeral and for all my relatives, friends, brothers and sisters for attending the funeral.

Secondly I would like to thank the brother or sister who took the picture on Senior members day 2013, the moment when my brother and I saw the picture of granny smiling while receiving her brooch of flowers, we know that it would be the picture we would want to use for her funeral. Little did he/she know that his/her simple service to the Lord had such a great impact on our family. 

When I was a kid, mother made me sleep beside granny and sometimes I would snuggle beside her and she would tell me her story. While everyone ask me how granny died. I would rather be talking about how she lived. And that would be what I would like to share with each and everyone of us seated here in this crematorium.

Granny Early Life

My granny was an adopted child. She came to Singapore from China at the age of 5. We have no idea who our great grand parents are. When Granny visited her home town in China, they were unable to identify our great grandparent. The only thing we know is that everyone in her village bear the same surname. Therefore granny decided to use Chua as her surname. 

Granny grew up as a child in Singapore in the late 1920s and she lived her life by the banks of the Singapore river. As a girl from that era, she did not go through school but she taught herself to read on her own. She had also keen interest in watching Teochew Opera. Whenever she is sad and unhappy. She will choose to watch Teochew Opera and movies to lighten her mood.

I remember as a kid, I saw many Chinese story books that she kept in her cupboard, she would often read the books and later on I understood that the books were actually stories and synopsis of Teochew Opera.

Granny’s Favourite Opera Story

One of the Teochew opera stories that left a great impression to me is entitled “柴房会”(translated “The meeting in the firewood room”) .  In that play, there was an honest and good man known as “Lee the third” (李老三). In the opera he was a very comical character and it often attract the attention of my elder brother.

In that play,  李老三 (Lee) encountered a lady ghost while staying in a firewood room. The lady is known as 莫二娘 (Second lady Mo). She had a very sad life, Lady Mo was a decent lady, from a good family but she was deceived and  abducted from home. She ended up making a living as a courtesan. Eventually she fell in love with a businessman from Yang Zhou known as 阳春 (Yang chun) but that man cheated her of her life savings and left her stranded in the inn. She later died and her spirit haunted the firewood room in the inn.

In the story she saw that Lee is a good and honest man, therefore she wanted Lee to help her travel to Yang Zhou to seek vengeance against Yang Chun.  Granny told me that Lady Mo had to hide in an Umbrella (as Chinese believed that spirits are unable to withstand sunlight).  That is why when Lee took Lady Mo on the journey, Lady Mo must reside in an unopened umbrella, it is to prevent the sun from hurting her. 

My brother is captivated by the story as the opera performer who played the role of Lee was very comical and he performed many acrobatic stunts on a ladder to demonstrate the shock Lee had when he first encountered the spirit of Lady Mo in the firewood room.

Grandmother had a collection of Teochew Opera cassettes which she liked to listen to. One of her favourite Opera singer is known as Tan Chor Hui (陈楚惠). She was a famous Teochew Opera singer from Hong Kong, she passed away in 2012.

 

Granny As A Young Woman

Granny was a curious young lady. Whenever granny’s adoptive mother sent her on errand , she like to take a look at the busting city around her and she would be scolded for coming home late. I understand that Granny will also take the chance to look at Chinese characters on the street. She would copy them and bring them to a lady living nearby and she will teach granny how to read it. 
When she was young she worked in a Joss paper factory. She would be in charge of pasting gold foils on joss paper

She married my grandfather  before the second world war, and she gave birth to my father shortly after the war. At the time of my fathers birth, there was still a lot of administrative problems within the government.Therefore Dads birth certificate bears the name that Japanese gave to Singapore during the second world war. Which is Syonanto 昭南島 Shōnantō which is translated “the light of the south".

Granny went on to have my aunt, and she had a difficult life bringing up my father and aunt. She loved both my father and my aunt dearly. At one point of her time, she was offered a job as a laundry woman in the house of a wealthy British family. Her employer gave her the condition forbidding her to bring her children to the work place. So she rejected the job so that she could be with her children.

She made a living as a laundry woman and she singlehandedly raise up my father and aunt. She loved them both very much. She often reminded me that I would have to take care of my father and aunt on her behalf when she dies.

Granny had a God-Daughter whom she loved very much as well. She would often talk about her. She loved her children as well as her god daughter. 

Granny continued to stay in a shop house by the banks of Singapore River. My dad and aunt grew up beside the Singapore River

Granny Life In The 70s and 80s

Later on Granny moved to Redhill and lived in a two roomed HDB flat (they are small apartments built by the Singapore Government). Life was still tough for granny as my father was working as a bus conductor (a bus ticket seller) . Our house is small and cramp. Eventually my elder brother was born in Red Hill.

Later on my father managed to get a taxi drivers licence, and our life slightly improved. So eventually my family moved to Clementi New Town. We lived in a 3-room apartment and I was born in 1981. We lived together as a family. Even though life was tough, we managed to get by.

Granny had a few favourite foods, she like eating fish especially during new year and she love making Soon Kueh, it is a Teochew snack that looked like a dumpling. It is  filled with a fragrant mixture of shredded bamboo shoots, turnip and dried shrimps wrapped in a smooth rice-tapioca flour skin.”

During the dragon boat festival, she would make traditional dumplings with her own special additions. We missed her dumplings, she was unable to make them when she was old. In the past she would often distribute them to her beloved children.

The Happier Times With Granny

Since childhood till the 80s, granny did not smile much for life is tough. But the change in granny happened when she found the Lord. When God brought my mother back to church, she took  my brother and me to church for the first time. We were baptised into the Lord on 1st April 1990 (yes, it was April fools day )

Granny witnessed for herself how the Lord took care of my elder brother and me. She believed that the Lord is a God who answers prayers and takes care of his children. Her faith in the Lord grew over the years and she was eventually converted to Christianity, she was baptised in 1991.

From then on she started to smile more often, she had started her walk with God. Even though she did not understand theology and the bible well, she would often pray to God and make offering to church on behalf of both my father and aunt.

Once we asked her why she did it and she explained that even though my dad and aunt do not believe in the Lord, she wanted the Lord to watch over them and protect them. She believed that by making offerings on behalf of her children, she could ask the Lord to protect them. She did it out of the love for her children.

Later on my father was converted to Christianity, but Granny continued to make offering for her children voluntarily.

The Love Of Granny

Granny loved all her three grand children. They are my elder brother. my little cousin and me. She took care of us when we are babies and she would always pat us to sleep. whenever she patted us she would sing us children songs in Teochew.  Many of these songs are arched into my memory.

Later on  I have to leave my home country to make a living outside. Granny would often pray for me, she believed that God would protect me, whenever I have the chance to call home, she would often ask about my life. Even though her questions were often repeated, I would answer her the same answer again and again. For I know it was her love for me.

Even at her death bed, she continued to show her love for her grandchildren. She would comfort my elder brother and reminded him to tell her his problem She is also worried that my little cousin would go hungry and she wanted to ask someone to make milo for her .

She continued to show her love for us  no matter how terrible she felt. Even when she was in pain and distress she continued to show her love for us.

She is also well liked by the neighbours. At the last part of her life, She likes to seat with a group of elderly at ground floor of my apartment. Many of the neighbour treated her like their big sister and they also came to offer their respects at her funeral.

Granny is often remembered in church as a quiet lady who always smile brightly, that is why we are able to take a picture of her smiling on senior members day 2013.  She is also remembered for always coming forward to the pulpit pray.

Granny’s Favourite Hymn

Before I end my Eulogy, I would like to share her favourite hymn. It is “Walking On The Kings Highway. It was written by F Horton. But I have shorten the hymn into the way she would have sang it.

Here are the Lyrics

Title : Walking On The Kings Highway
Lyrics : F Horton

We shall see the desert as the rose,
Walking in the King’s highway;
There’ll be singing where salvation goes,
Walking in the King’s highway.

Refrain
There’s a highway there and a way,
Where sorrow shall flee away;
And the light shines bright as the day,
Walking in the King’s highway.

There the rain shall come upon the ground,
Walking in the King’s highway;
And the springs of water will be found,
Walking in the King’s highway.
Refrain

There no ravenous beast shall make afraid,
Walking in the King’s highway;
For the purified the way was made,
Walking in the King’s highway.
Refrain

Goodbye Granny, I miss you forever. May we meet at the feet of Jesus one day. Until we meet again then you would always be living in my heart and mind. I love you and miss you. Goodbye granny.

It had been seem sometimes since I have last written on this blog. Many things had happened between my last post to now.

God had finally sent me away from the first country which I was working overseas in. Now I am living in a difference place, life here is very different and I am still trying hard to adapt. In the midst of all this, there was a huge mix of joy , sadness, pain, helplessness, anxiety and unknown.

It is exactly as how God told me 6 years ago.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when
  you were younger, you girded yourself
  and walked where you wished; but
  when you are old, you will stretch out
  your hands, and another will gird you
  and carry you where you do not wish.”- Jesus (Jn 21:18)

In the midst of all these my little boy came into the world, he brought us much joy and much adjustment. While we are barely trying to adjust to our new lives here and our new born. Then we received the news that the child’s great grandmother had passed away.

It appears as if God allowed him to come one month early so that he could say hello to her, and God kept her alive so that she could see her great grandson before allowing her to rest in the Lord. The day before she passed we keep reminding her that one day we will all meet before the Lord. She is only going a while before us.

A Christian only feel sadness in a funeral. We do not mourn in despair, we only grieve because we are temporarily separated from our loved ones. We cannot bear not being able to see them and talk to them right now. But we know that one day, when Christ comes, we will all be gathered before him and we would be together forever.

For God once told us through Paul as he wrote 1 Thessalonians

“For if we believe that Jesus died and
  rose again, even so God will bring
  with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
   ……
  For the Lord Himself will descend
  from heaven with a shout, with the
  voice of an archangel, and with the
  trumpet of God. And the dead in
  Christ will rise first.
  Then we who are alive and remain
  shall be caught up together with
  them in the clouds to meet the
  Lord in the air. And thus we shall always
  be with the Lord”- Paul (1 Thess 4:14,16-17)

That is how Christians ought to remember about death. While we mourn for our love ones, let us not despair, for they are safe in the homeland shore. In the arms in the Lord.

That is why I would like to dedicate this hymn to my granny. It is by Fanny Crosby and it is titled the Home Land Shore. I would always remember the little children songs she taught me to sing in Teochew, how she always patted me to sleep and taken care of me when I was a kid.

I have arranged the hymn in the way that is often sung at church. So its arrangement may differ from the original slightly.

 

Title : Home Land Shore
Lyrics : Fanny Crosby
Tune : Stephen Foster (In tune of Swanee River)

Far, far beyond the storms that gather
Dark o’er our way.
There shines the light of joy eternal
Bright in the realms of day,

Far, far beyond rolling billows
Faith spreads her wings;
Love tells us of the golden City,
Hope of its glory sings. [Refrain]

Refrain:
There shall be sorrow, pain, and parting
Grieve our hearts no more;
Soon, soon we’ll meet beyond the river,
Safe on the Homeland shore.

Far, far beyond the vale and shadow
Loved ones have passed;
We’ll meet them in the “many mansions,”
All gathered home at last.

O blessed morn of joy unbounded!
O glorious day!
There every tear of grief and anguish
Jesus shall wipe away. [Refrain]

 

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