March 2015


Introduction

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

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

So far we have taken a look at his first miracle

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1, Part 2)
2. Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s son (Part 3, Part 4)
3. Jesus Healing By The Pool Of Bethesda (Part 5, Part 6)
4. Jesus feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 Fishes (Part 7 , Part 8)

Lets now take a look at the fifth miracle

Jesus Walking On Water

https://i0.wp.com/www.wga.hu/art/b/bruegel/jan_e/2/galilee.jpg

“So when they had rowed about three or four miles,
 
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing
  near the boat; and they were afraid.” – John (Jn 6:19)

The disciples saw Jesus walking to them, and they were afraid. Matthew gave the reason behind their fear.

And when the disciples saw Him 
  walking on the sea, they were
  troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!”
  And they cried out for fear.”- Matthew  (Matt 14:26)

These disciples mistook Jesus as a ghost as no man could walk on water. Man may have the ability to swim, but not the ability to walk to water. This is is why they were afraid. But Jesus called out to hem saying “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

Jesus wanted to clear their doubt immediately for he did not want his disciples to continue being afraid and doubtful. For there are some doubts which are not good, and need to be cleared immediately.  I am sure at the end of the day, the disciples must be ashamed, for they have mistaken their teacher as a ghost.

Sometimes Christians make the same mistake when we encounter something extraordinary and we jump into conclusion without examining it and listening to it carefully. We tend to go for what the majority believes and  allow our judgement became clouded. As the result, we are unable to discern if we are looking at Jesus or a ghost.

But if one were to recognise his voice, we will disregard the opinion of others. Man had often treated God as the devil and vice versa. For in the west there is a church of Satan and they worship the devil as God.  In the eastern world, the Chinese had a “Hungry Ghost Festival” where they make offering to the ghosts and not to God.

The Ironic Culture That Fears Spirits But Not  God

There was a time when Paul arrives to the city of Athens to preach the gospel. During those days the Athenians were worshipping all sorts of gods, they even had an altar dedicated to the unknown god.

Even though the Greeks are known for their culture, intelligence, philosophy and knowledge,. Yet they led a life full of superstitions and blind worship. So much so that they worshipped a God that is unknown to them

Since the dawn of history man had been afraid of gods and spirit, even though they were unable to see him, they will rather worship them. They worship all sorts of spirits both good and evil, in the hope that they will not disrupt their lives. The Athenians were worried about missing a spirit, so they created the generic altar for whoever that may be.

In fact they are not the only one that does that, the Chinese have the same concept as well. If one were to visit a Chinese temple, you will see many deities each with their own individual altar. Before the Chinese leaves the temple, they will put one joss ticks onto the central urn, and one will notice that there is no idols before that urn. So who was to receive the offering?  The Chinese called it “过路神” which literally means “The god that is passing by”

Both Athenians and Chinese fear spirits and they went further and they even worship the unknown god. Paul in his preaching tells them that they have neglected one God. That God is none other than the creator of mankind and the True God. He is not a God that was created by man, but in fact he created man.

The universe cannot exist by itself, for all things have a builder and the builder of all things is God. He had given us life and we must worship him.

Is Jesus The True God That Creates All Things?

But others may asks us “How can we be sure that the creator is Jesus?” So far we have seen all the miracles performed by him. Jesus had demonstrated his power as well as his authority to create all things.

John had selected 7 miracles and used them to tell us the abilities. He had talk about how Jesus had the power to create, how he can change the physical properties of water into wine. He told us how Jesus could heal a child in Capernaum when he is 33 KM away. transcending space. He told us how Jesus could make a 38 year old paralytic walk transcending time.

All these miracles tells us that Jesus had the power to transcend all physical limitation. It is a power only the creator can hold, therefore we must worship the true God

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 
  Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped
  Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”- Matthew (Matt 14:32-33)

Perhaps these men have heard of Jesus and did not believe in him completely, but now when they believe they worshipped Jesus.  They believe not because of the fact that Jesus was walking on water and that the storm had stop. They saw it as an expression of the power of God. It tells them that Jesus is indeed the God who came in the flesh

The Conclusion So Far

Therefore let us worship the true God and not spirits. Let us learn to fear God and not the spirits. When we worship God we will receive that eternal life that he promise. Therefore we must worship the true God who created the heavens and the earth.

Why Walk On Water? What’s The Purpose Of Doing that?

Before we start, let us consider the question. “Why did Jesus walk on water? What is his purpose of doing so?”

Jesus did not perform that miracle to frighten his disciples or to test the limits of their courage. The gospel of Mark gave us the reason

Then He saw them straining at rowing,
  for the wind was against them. Now about
  the fourth watch of the night He came to
  them, walking on the sea, and would have
  passed them by.”- Mark (Mk 6:48)

Jesus did so because he saw them straining on the boat. Therefore he walked towards them in the storm, and it is a good thing. Jesus wanted to help them so that they do not need to strain further.

Perhaps as the disciples are battling the storm, they may have been complaining within their heart.

“Immediately He made His disciples get
  into the boat and go before Him to the
  other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent
  the multitude away.”- Mark (Mk 6:45)

The disciples were in this fix because they obeyed the words of Jesus and now they are greeted with a storm and they are struggling within their boats. If Jesus were to make them travel on foot, they may not have meet with the storm.

They may have felt that their suffering is a result of obeying the instruction of Jesus and the irony is that Jesus is nowhere to be found when they are stranded in the midst of their trouble.

The truth is, Jesus was on the shore alone and he saw them in trouble and the storm pressing hard against them. He choose to walk on water so that he can get to them and help them soonest. Yet these disciples were unaware and they even mistook Jesus as a ghost.

Let us now consider the other things we can learn from this.

Facing The Storms We Meet In Life

Sometimes in life we find encounter bad events and we feel that it is just because of our bad luck. We find ourselves suffering and we wonder why God was silent and not helping us. But the fact is that Jesus saw the wind against us, and he had already chosen to walk though the storm to go to them.  He did it so that the disciples do not need to struggle to come to him.

But sometimes we treat Jesus as a ghost for we are unable to see him clearly. I am sure that the disciples must have felt bad for Jesus was going to help them and they treated him like a ghost.

In life we often encounter troubles and storms that troubles us. When we try to pray about it, it appears as if Jesus did nothing to help us. We feel helpless when we are up against the winds and we are in fact struggling to keep our boats afloat.

But Jesus saw the disciples struggling against the wind and he walked on water to help them. Even though we cannot see him, we need to believe that he knows what we are facing.

Indeed trouble can cloud our judgement and we sometimes ask “Why did this happen to us?” But when the storm pass, we will be able to see its benefits. That is when we realise that we have misunderstood God. For sometimes we can only be sure when we reach the end of the road.

The Conclusion From The Record Of Mark And John

That is why we need to build our faith in Jesus. Let us not focus on the problem that lies before our eyes. For our perspective over the problem will change and we will view the situation differently later on. Even though we encounter pain and trouble now  Let us continue to have peace and hope within our heart. For we know that our helper is God. He can see us struggling in the storm.

Even though we cannot escape the many storms in life, but Jesus is always walking on the water to us. He did it not to frighten us but to help us. If we can see and recognise his voice we will not be afraid. We will know that is is good.

This is one lesson we can learn from the record of Mark and John 

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This is a song most English Speaking countries would have heard or sang before. From where I come from in Singapore, most kids were taught to sing this as part of our music lesson.

When I was younger, I was wondering what does “Auld Lang Syne” actually mean for it hardly sound English to me, later on in my life I realise that it was in a language called Scots (not Scottish)  and it is literally translated as “Old Time Since”.

It means “A Long Time Ago” or “For the sake of Old times”

It is often sang during new years as well as even used in state funerals back in Singapore.

I believe the most recent time we hear it is just today, when our first prime minister’s coffin left the Istana for the parliament house on a ceremonial gun carriage , it was played on a traditional bagpipe.

While many good things had been already said about this giant in history. I believe that as a leader, he had made many tough decisions that we may or may not have agreed to. But still Singapore have lost a good leader who had contributed much for our country.

There is so much written about him in the media hence I do not need to say anything more.  As the nations mourns, i think I would post the lyrics here

Title : Auld Lang Syne
Lyrics : Robert Burns
Tune : Traditional Folk Song

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

 

you can find the original poem from Richard Burns here

Introduction

The Chinese had a saying “男怕入错行, 女怕嫁错郎” (nán​ pà​ rù​ cuò​ háng​, nǚ pà​ jià​ cuò​ láng​) translated it reads  “Every man fears entering the wrong profession, while every lady fears marrying the wrong man”

This saying reminds us to be careful in the choices that we made.

So far we had studied
1. Choice Of Oprah And Ruth
2. The choice Of Mary And Martha

Now let us look at the choice of Abraham and Lot

The Choice Of Abraham And Lot

“Please let there be no strife
between you and me, and
between my herdsmen and
your herdsmen; for we are
brethren. Is not the whole
land before you? Please separate
from me. If you take the left, then
I will go to the right; or, if you go
to the right, then I will go to the left.”- Abram (Gen 13:8-9)

“Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan,
and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain
and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. “- Moses (Gen 13:12)

Both Abram and Lot believed in the promises of God. They chose to listen to the command of the Lord and depart from Ur of the Chaldean. They went to the land of God’s promise with the same heart and on the same goal.

But as they journeyed in this life of faith, they encounter various problems and conflicts. That is the time when they both made different choices. Lot departed for Sodom while Abraham persisted and remain in the land of Canaan.

The Need To Resolve Conflict

In our lives of faith, we will definitely  encounter disputes and conflicts, therefore it is important for us to learn how to handle these conflicts. If we handle them well, we would be able to keep our friends. For a mishandled conflict can turn friends to strangers. In the worst scenario, they can turn friends to enemies.

That is why we need to learn how to resolve conflict. In this bible story, Abraham  managed the conflict well. He made a good choice.

Though many would feel that his choice and silly. But History had proven that he had made the right choice.

The bible had kept a record of this as a lesson for all of us. It is important for us to learn them when we encounter conflict in the future. Learning them can help us preserve our live of faith.

There are 3 things we can learn from Abraham resolving his conflict with Lot

Pt 1: Abraham Decided That Separation Was The Best Solution

Gen 13:9  tells us that Abraham choose to give way to Lot and to give him the privilege to make the first choice.  That is a good approach to the problem.

Some of us may feel that it is a bad idea to separate. Some thinks  that Abraham made this suggestion out of anger.  There are some who felt that as long as they are willing to tolerate, there is no need for separation.

But let us ask ourselves “Can all conflicts be resolved just by enduring?”

All cultures had proverbs that suggest the need to endure through difficulty. For example, the Chinese had a saying “守得云开见月明”. It means that if one were to endure and wait for the clouds to clear, one could enjoy the beauty of the moon.

But there are some problems that cannot be resolved by mere endurance. Take for example, if 2 people are  fighting for the same cubicle in the washroom, it is a question of immediate need and not a question of endurance.

There are problems that do not need our immediate response, but to identify them require a complete understanding of the situation. So let us consider the facts behind the conflict between Abraham and Lot.

Abraham did not choose to separate out of anger, he saw the truth behind the problem and he knew that separation is the best way to resolve it.

For the bible describes the problem in Gen 13:6

“Now the land was not able to support them,
that they might dwell together, for their
possessions were so great that they could
not dwell together. “ – Moses (Gen 13:6)

Here it says that the land cannot contain the 2 of them, it is unable to support them and their livestock. Even though Abraham and Lot had became rich, but the land remains the same. It had the same amount of green pastures and the same amount of water. It is unable to provide for the massive livestock that they own.

That is the reason behind their conflict. While it may be common for workers to fight among themselves. It may appear that as long as they bear with each other the problems can be resolve. But in the case of Abraham and Lot, their herdsman are continuously striving. If those strive happens once in the blue moon, Abraham would have ignored them. But if the strive happens again and again then the problem is not so simple as one would think.

Abraham understood that the land is too small to support the both of them. For their possession came in the form of Animals and flock which need land to graze and water to drink.

Abraham accepted the fact behind the problem. He knew that separation is the best solution for they need to gain more land. Even though it is painful to separate from Lot his nephew, but it is necessary.

Likewise today if we choose to ignore our problem and pretend to be cordial to each other. We risk the problem dragging on. Some problem if left unsolved for a long time will be harder to resolve.  The same applies to problems encountered within the church as well as those within the family.

Let us choose to face the problem and let us try our best to reduce the conflict. Let us not allow small problems to escalate into big conflicts.  If a problem cannot be avoided, we need to face it. But to face the problem require us to understand the facts behind the problem.

Some solutions may be painful, just like the choice of Abraham. But sometimes a short pain is better than prolonged agony. That is why Abraham chose to separate from Lot for he understand that the land was not able to support them.

Pt 2: Abraham Took The Initiative To Approach Lot

To resolve the problem, Abraham approached  to Lot and said “Let there be no strife between us”. We know as the fact that Abraham is the elder and he is the uncle of Lot. We also know that Abraham is the reason behind Lots riches. Lot owes his wealth to Abraham.

But Abraham did not use his authority as the elder to intimidate Lot, he did not accuse Lot of being ungrateful. Abraham choose to focus on the fact that they are brethren. Abraham did not make use of his seniority as a bargaining chip, he chose to focus on their kinship. By doing so, Abraham had lowered himself so as to approach Lot for a solution. This is not an easy task.

Sometimes when we fight, even though we can see that it is clearly our fault. Even though we regret the situation we had landed ourselves into, we cannot resolve the problem.

For no one wants to admit that they are in the wrong, and no one is willing to humble himself and apologize first. For we know that he who is first to speak loses, therefore we choose to wait for the other party to talk first.

But Abraham did not do so, and he did not wait for Lot to speak to him. But rather he chose to speak to Lot first.  For Abraham knew that if he were to wait, the problem may get worst. Today it may be their herdsman fighting but eventually it will lead to Abraham and Lot fighting directly.

So Abraham chose to be proactive and initiate the discussion. He did not want the problem to get worst.

There are times when we can resolve problem by waiting. For example, if we wait long enough the rain would stop. But some problems will only get worst if we wait. Those are problems that are avoidable, and they would never resolve by themselves.

That is when we need to take the first step to face the problems. But as we face them let us learn from the humility and courage of Abraham.

Pt 3: Abraham Choose To Give Way To Lot

We would notice that Abraham chose to gave way to Lot, it sounded like a simple way to resolve differences but often it is easier said than done. Lot is a reasonable man and he knew the root clause of the problem as well but he chose to remain silent. Why is it so?

For Lot Know that if he were to propose a solution, one side would need to choose a spot to go. Most of the time the first person would choose the better spot, leaving the latter to receive an inferior spot. Usually it is the one who propose who would allow the other party to choose their spot first.

Lot was unwilling to propose because he did not want to get the inferior spot. Abraham took the initiative and he was willing to lose out. Human beings have the tendency to want to take advantage and not lose. But when both parties think alike, the issue will remain unresolved. But if one side is willing to give in and suffer a disadvantage, it will resolve the problem.

Why is Abraham Willing to Lose his Advantage ?

Did Abraham approach Lot because he was too weak to fight him? Was Lot so powerful that Abraham needs to bow down to him?

We know that later in Genesis Abraham led 300 men to rescue Lot. From here we can see that Abraham was not a weak and he could fight Lot if he wanted to. While most will choose to bow down only to those who are stronger, Abraham chose to let go because of his faith.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when
he was called to go out to the place
which he would receive as an inheritance.
And he went out, not knowing where
he was going.  By faith he dwelt in the
land of promise as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob,
the heirs with him of the same promise;
for he waited for the city which has foundations,
whose builder and maker is God.

But now they desire a better, that is, a
heavenly country. Therefore God is not
ashamed to be called their God, for He
has prepared a city for them.”- Author Of Hebrew (Heb 11:8-10,16)

Abraham must have been fairly rich in Ur. It is likely that possessing Canaan would not make him richer. He left Ur not because he wanted a piece of land. Some may think that Abraham left because God wanted to make him into a great nation. But God also said that his possession will last forever.

We know that nothing last forever. Only the kingdom of God lasts forever. Abraham understood the will of God and he knew that the possession God is giving him is not on earth but in heaven. That is why he choose to be a sojourner and to lead a life living in tents. He became a nomad willingly, Abraham knew that life in the city is comfortable.

Lot eventually moved into the city of Sodom  because it offers a better and a different life style. Life in the city is very different from life in the countryside. The rich loves to go to the countryside to enjoy peace, but the poor would want to make a living in the city.

But Abraham chose to dwell in tents for he desired a better home in the heavens. It is that hope that defines his mentality and attitude. He is willing to lose his worldly possession and not to fight Lot. He chose to let go, and if Lot wants the better land, let him take it.

Let us study into that decision more closely.

Using Faith To Influence Our Choices

Whenever we make a decision with regards to solving problem. Let us ask ourselves “Are we looking to benefit our faith or to gain material benefits? Are we looking at the benefits before our eyes? or are we interested in the benefit that is to come? Are we concern about our pride? Or are we concern with how God look at us from heaven?

Sometimes our surrounding can influence our choice, but most importantly let us allow our faith to influence our choice.

Abraham made the right choice when he choose to suffer lost. He choose to give in to Lot and let go of his worldly possession. He did that not because he is weak, but because  he believed in God. He did it because he seek a heavenly home and not a piece of physical land.

Do we have the same mentality of Abraham? The God he believed in is the same God that we as Christian believed. Abraham allowed his faith to influence his choice. Are we willing to let faith influence our choices?

The answer to that depends on who we really believe in and what we want in life.

An Exhortation To Give In

If we are only interested in worldly possession, we will make choices like Lot. We will strive to the bitter end and we will not give in. We will fight anyone for them, even if he is our uncle. People who holds the attitude of Lot regards riches as the most important. They are willing to put aside kinship and relationship for the sake of it.

Even if they believe in God, they will never have the heart of God. They may sing “Hallelujah” as they worship. Paul once rebuke the church in Corinth.

“But brother goes to law against brother,
and that before unbelievers!

 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure
for you that you go to law against one another.
Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do
you not rather let yourselves be cheated?
 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and
you do these things to your brethren! “- Paul (1 Cor 6:6-8)

Some of us may find Pauls letter harsh. For we are being attacked by our friends, relative and brethren. Let us consider what we will say to someone who is in that situation.

Some may response saying “Do not be afraid, we will support you in this fight! Go ahead and fight!” and they stand back to watch the gladiatorial spectacle.

Man had a natural desire to strive and they like to win. We would not want to win alone so we want our friends to win as well. Therefore we often encourage them to continue fighting.

But Paul exhorts Christians to give in. Paul even went to the point to say “Let us be cheated, and accept wrong”. We may be able to take it if we lose a bit of money. But sometimes we find it hard to accept when it comes to losing pride and reputation.

But have we asked ourselves “Did we lose more than what we gain in this fight?”

In this situation I am not talking about fighting for the truth. For Christian should never give in when it comes to the truth. Even Paul teaches us to persevere when it comes to defending the truth. As long as it is not a matter of truth, we must be willing to give in.

Ironically man tend to do the opposite. we fight when there is no need to fight we persist when there is no need to persist. We give in when we ought to stand our ground.

Conclusion Of That Conflict Between Abraham and Lot

But why do we give in? What are we persisting for?

Those are things we need to consider with regards to our faith. Right now we have all made our decision with regards to faith, and we all feel that we make the right choice. But how would we feel about that decision 10-20 years down the road?

Sometimes we will only know the outcome of our choice when we stand before God. At that time it will be too late for regrets.

That is why the bible tells us that God is watching us as we make our choices today.

When Abraham and Lot was fighting, God did not appear. He was watching as the events unfold, when he saw the decision Abraham made, he choose to appear before Abraham after Lot left.

“And the Lord said to Abram, after
Lot had separated from him: “Lift
your eyes now and look from the
place where you are—northward,
southward, eastward, and westward;
for all the land which you see I give to
you and your descendants forever. “-Moses (Gen 13:14-15)

Abraham passed the test and God is please with his choice. God assured him of his blessing, for Abraham esteemed the promises of God. When one esteem the promises of God, God will esteem him as well.

Conclusion Of The Study

So if we were to encounter a problem in faith, and there is a choice to be made. What choice will we make?

Will we choose to be like Abraham to esteem God’s promises? Or will we choose to be like Lot to be concern only with our earthly treasure. We know that Lot regretted his choice at the end of the day, for he lost everything when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Will we still make a choice like Lot? May God help us make the right choice always.