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. 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 these miracles

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)
5. Jesus Walking on Water (Part 9, Part 10)
6. Jesus Healing A Blind Man (Part 11, Part 12)
7. Raising Lazarus (Part 13)

This is the last blog post of this series in the previous blog post, we learnt that Jesus intentionally came late to Lazarus. So that he will die  and Jesus will be able to resurrect him.

Now let us look at the other lessons that we can learn from this miracle.

Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.

“Lord, behold, he whom
  You love is sick.”- Mary and Marta (Jn 11:3)

Jesus love Lazarus and he is sick. Sometimes we think that people who are loved by God will receive special grace. Most Christians will define this special grace as “"No disasters and no trouble”

To many in the world, grace means having no problems, no sickness and no pain. This is something we desire. That is why when we see people in trouble our first reaction is “Why the grace of God is not given to him? Why would God allow the ones he love to suffer?”

But that is the thinking of man and not what the bible tells us. The bible records that those who are loved by God will still fall sick. Elisha was a great prophet, full of great miracles and he healed many sick. He is loved by God and God used him mightily. Yet the bible records that Elisha died of illness.

Those who are loved by God will still fall sick and will still die. The only difference is that they pass away with a heart full of joy and peace of the Lord. For they know that God loved them and had brought them back to heaven for an eternal rest.

That is the difference between a someone whom the Lord loves and an unbeliever.

Those who are loved by the Lord understands that he is cleanse from sin, he will receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of his inheritance. He is assured that God had prepared a place for them and he will take him there some day.  That is why they can remain peaceful and joyful always.

But those who do not believe will despair. He may be able to think positively for a while, but if the sickness and pain is prolong, he may despair and give up hope. Even the strongest man may despair at times in the midst of suffering.

That is why Paul remind us

But I do not want you to be ignorant,
  brethren, concerning those who have
  fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others
  who have no hope. For if we believe that
  Jesus died and rose again, even so God
  will bring with Him those who sleep in
  Jesus.”- Paul (1 Thess 4:13-14)

“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.
  
Therefore comfort one another with
  these words.”- Paul (1 thess 4:17-18)

As Christians, will we choose to despair in face of death and difficulties? Or will we choose to believe in the words of Jesus and be filled with peace and joy?

That is something we need to consider and we need to comfort each other often with these words

Jesus Delayed Coming To Lazarus

“So, when He heard that he was 
  sick, He stayed two more days
  in the place where He was. “- John (Jn 11:6)

“Lord, if You had been here, my 
brother would not have died.”- Martha and Mary (Jn 11:21,32)

Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained 2 more days, he did it so that Lazarus will die, and then he can perform this miracle. But Mary and Martha did not know this, so they murmured against Jesus. They questioned why Jesus chose to delay for 2 more days while they are worried for Lazarus.

As Lazarus’s condition got poorer and poorer still Jesus did not come. When Jesus finally arrived, they were unhappy and they blamed him for Lazarus death. They must be thinking within themselves “What is the point of coming since he is now dead?”

We face similar situations before, even more so when we are in extreme difficulty and danger. We call out to God again and again and it appears as though Jesus did not hear us, nor did he grant us our request.  Finally, our patience is exhausted and we start to murmur against God and blame him for the consequences that happens.

But the story of Lazarus tells us, that while we are entitled to our will, we need to understand that God has his own will as well. If Jesus were to come early, Lazarus will be healed, he will not need to die and it is good. But Jesus had another will, one which he delay in his arrival so that Lazarus will die. Jesus wanted Lazarus to be buried for at least 4 days.

There was a common Jewish superstition that after a person is dead, his spirit will remain in the tomb for 3 days. Only when the body starts to smell, that is when the spirit leaves. Therefore Jesus choose to come late not just for the sake of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It is also for the multitude as well as the many Christians who will read of this miracles. He came late so tat everyone will know that he is the Lord of Life. Only though Jesus one can be saved.

That is the better will of God, and Christians who have faith will have a different attitude. Yes we may have our own will, our own wishes  and our own timing. But God will have a better will and a better time. Even though God did not answer according to our timing and our desires. But we will not despair nor murmur. Even though we may not understand why God did not grant our wishes, but we believe that God had a will that is far better. We will thank God and trust that God will have a better will and a better time.

Jesus Wept

“Jesus wept.”- John (Jn 11:35)

This is the shortest verse of the bible, and it is also the most touching. For Jesus wept, he wept after seeing the sorrow of the bereaved. He could see their despair and helplessness in face of death. As the result, Jesus is sad and sorrowful.

“Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping,
   and the Jews who came with her weeping,
   He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.”" – John (Jn 11:33)

Here it records that when Jesus saw everyone weeping, he started to groan in Spirit. Some translation indicated that this groaning had a kind of anger and indignation. On one hand, Jesus was weeping, and on the other hand he was anger.

Have we wonder why Jesus is agitated? Jesus wept because he saw their sorrow and agony over death.  He understood our tears, and he can understand our weakness. Jesus had tasted the experience of being human. He is able to understand us. Whenever we encounter suffering and pain, he will weep together with us. He will weep with us even when everyone else is mocking us.

Perhaps others may think that the suffering we have encounter is small and insignificant, but Jesus will weep with us .For he knows our weakness and our suffering.

Jesus is sad because of the people and their unwilling to believe in his words. For those who do not believe in his words, will despair even more  and be in deeper agony, this is true especially when they are facing difficulty or death.

But if one believes in the words of Jesus.”Eve n though he may die, but he will live” Then he will not feel despair and helpless before death.

A Christian feels only sadness during funerals, for we know that it is a temporary separation. This separation is similar to us sending our children off to study. We are sad because we will not be able to see them, but we will never despair and be sorrowful. For we know that those who believe in the words of Christ will meet again. That meeting will be eternal in the kingdom of God. That is why we will not be despair, be helpless and sorrowful.

If one do not believe in the words of Jesus, he will feel the despair and agony of death. That is the reason why Jesus s troubled before the tomb of Lazarus.  He was sad at the hard heartedness of the people and their unbelief.

That is why we need to remember that Jesus wept.  We need to constantly ask ourselves, in all that we do, are we bringing trouble and distress to Jesus? The author of Hebrews reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Those who come before God must believe that he exist. He must believe that all that Jesus promised are true.

 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

John 11:39

Jesus : “Take away the stone.”
Martha : “Lord, by this time there
                  is a stench, for he has
                  been dead four days.”

Jesus told the people to roll the stone way. Does Jesus really need people to do this work?  If he were to command angels to do it, they will roll the stone away.  But Jesus chose to ask man to do it, even though people find excuses not to follow the instructions of Jesus.

But Jesus wanted man to do the work.  when Jesus gives us an instruction, it is within the ability of man. He did not want man to command the dead to come forth, he only wanted us to move the stones ourselves.

We need to understand that even when God perform miracles, he expects man to do what they could do, while God will accomplish the things that man cannot do.

“Commit your works to the Lord,
  And your thoughts will be established.”- Solomon (Prov 16:3)

This is a proverb that many knew, but yet the fact is, there are times when we commit our works to the Lord, and God did not establish it. It makes us wonder why.

“he preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”- Solomon (Prov 16:1)

Here it tell us that man can make as much plans as they like, but it is God’s who can decide whether to establish a plan or not. So do we know when God accepts a plan and when he rejects it? When you ask your Christians friends, some may say that if everything goes smoothly, that means that it is the will of God, but if you face opposition it is not. But is this a good way to judge ?

Let us consider Prov 16:2

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
  But the Lord weighs the spirits.”- Solomon (Prov 16:2)

Here it reminds us, that man will always think that their plans are good. But God does not look at the surface, he looks deeper into our hearts. God wanted to know our true intention, our true motivation behind our actions. If they are aligned to the will of God, God will grant it.

“Did I not say to you that if 
  you would believe you would
  see the glory of God?”- Jesus (Jn 11:40)

Today there are many who claim that they will believe only when they see something. For as humans we have a tendency to trust our eyes for facts. But Jesus reminds us that only by believing can we see the glory of God.  Today if we want to see the glory of God, if we want to see something that is impossible made possible, then we need to follow the word of Jesus.

We need to remove the stones within our hearts, we need to be willing to believe and follow the words of Jesus, then we can see the glory of God. That is the faith we ought to have. We need to first roll away the stone. That is something within our ability, then we need to believe that Jesus can do what we cannot do.

If we roll away the stone with no faith, then we will doubt if Jesus can raise Lazarus. Those who rolled away the stones must have smell the stench of the dead body in the tomb. But sometimes we need to smell the stench in order to see the dead being raised. The smell from the tomb must have made many around doubtful. But if we choose to stop believing after removing the stones, then we will never see the glory of God. Then we will not see Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Then all our work will be in vain and it will come to nothing.

But if we believe that Jesus can raise a man from the dead, and yet we choose not to roll the stone away, then our faith will be in vain for it lack action. That is why faith must be accompanied by actions. Then we can see the glory of God

 Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go.”

“Loose him, and let him go.”- Jesus (Jn 11:44)

When Lazarus was raised and he walk out of the tomb, he must be wrapped up in his grave clothes. If he remains like this what sort of resurrection is this? That is why Jesus told them to loose him and let him go. If they did not loose him, he will continue to look like a dead man. Only by removing the grave clothes can he be a true living person and be able to move freely.

Today all of us is like Lazarus, we have received the blood of Jesus and we are reborn. But sometimes we still look like our old person. It looks as if we are still dressed in grave clothes.

That is why Paul remind us

“But you have not so learned Christ,
  if indeed you have heard Him and
  have been taught by Him, as the truth
  is in Jesus: 
   that you put off, concerning your
  former conduct, the old man which
  grows corrupt according to the deceitful
   lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of your
  mind, and that you put on the new man
  which was created according to God, in
  true righteousness and holiness.” Paul (Eph 4:20-24)

If we have truly learnt from Christ and become his disciples, we need to let go of our former conduct. That is just like Jesus calling the people to take the grave clothes of Lazarus. For we have all received a new life through the precious blood of Jesus.

That is why we need to listen to the words of Jesus, to put off our old man. For when God create the new heaven and new earth. Our old sinful self will not be allowed to enter. Only those who are reborn built according to the image of God can enter this kingdom.

We need to follow the words of Jesus, put off our old self and put on the new man. We need to be a real person that is raised by Jesus.

WE have finish this series concerning the 7 miracles of Jesus. May we all learn the lessons from this even miracles and believe that Jesus is Lord.

 

4. May God help all of us to apply this to our lives

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Introduction

In Part 1 and Part 2, we have talked about the first and second mistake of Aaron. He did not rebuke the Israelites when they wanted to build the golden calf. He had also built the golden calf for them.
We have also drawn lessons from his mistakes and talks about the potential golden calves that we have in our modern world.

Now let us consider his second mistakes

3rd Mistake  : He built an Altar And Declare A Feast To An Idol

“So when Aaron saw it, he built
  an altar before it. And Aaron
  made a proclamation and said,
  “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.”

  Then they rose early on the next
  day, offered burnt offerings, and
  brought peace offerings; and the
  people sat down to eat and drink, 
  and rose up to play.” – Moses (Ex 32:5-6)

Aaron built and altar and declared a feast. By doing so he had corrupted his service before the Lord. This corruption can be viewed from many aspect.

1. Aaron was the high priest of God, now he became a high priest of the calf
2. While God is creating priestly garment for him, he is busy building the calf
3. He lowered to Almighty God into a image of a calf

All these tell us his foolishness and his erroneous attitude. He was suppose to teach the truth of God but now he is teaching an impure truth. How can you equate the worshipping of the calf as keeping a feast to the Lord. He had went against God personally by declaring this feast.

He knelt down before a calf, and yet he think he is being zealous for God. He even went ahead and called the calf, the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. He is corrupt in his service and he is unaware of it. This is the worst form of corruption for one to be in.

For if Aaron is aware of his mistake he will have a chance to repent and turn back. But the worst form of corruption is when we are unaware of our mistake. That will turn us from bad to worst.  By building the altar and declaring the feast to the Lord. He had turn his  unintentional sin into a sinning wilfully against the Lord

Aaron did not initiate the work to build the golden calf, it was the children of Israel who wanted it. Aaron created the calf out of compulsion and in a moment of weakness. But by legalising the worship, Aaron had sin against God directly.

There is a chinese Idiom that illustrate this attitude perfectly.

(gū xī yǎng jiān)

There was a man who was born in the year of the rat. As the result, he  had intense love for rats. So he instructed his family not to kill the rats in the house at the same time he forbid them to drive the pest out of the house. As the result the rats started to do as they please, they stole rice and other food from the kitchen.

When the man saw this, he was worried that the rat had nothing to eat. So he deliberately left food all around the house. So more and more rats appeared in the neighbourhood. As the result everyone is affected by it. 

Aaron had allowed evil to continue and he had allowed it to grow even stronger.

4th Mistake : He Denies Responsibility, Refuses To Confess 

Aaron 3rd mistake is recorded in Ex 32:21-24

Moses: “What did this people do to you
                 that you have brought so great 
                 a sin upon them?”

Aaron  : “Do not let the anger of my lord 
                  become hot. You know the people,
                  that they are set on evil. 
                  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods 
                  that shall go before us; as for this
                  Moses, the man who brought us out
                 of the land of Egypt, we do not know
                 what has become of him.’

When Moses confronted Aaron, he denied the responsibility of his mistake. He refuse to admit his wrong and this could be seen clearly in this dialog. Aaron blame it on the people, and he pointed out the fact that they are evil. This is something Moses knew.

Moses had experienced many of their attack and their comment. But that doesn’t justify the creation of the calf. Aaron is trying to say that he is afraid of going against those who are bent on sinning. He is afraid that they might attack him so he did it to protect himself.

It appears as if Aaron was force to commit the sin out of fear. Moses rebuke him for he is a leader who lack the moral principle. He is just like a police officer who refuse to help the weak when they are bullied. He just stood in the corner and lament “There’s nothing I can do, he is evil, allow it to continue, better you get hurt instead of me”

Nipping Sin In The Bud

Isn’t it the work of Police Officers to maintain order in society? Isn’t it their duty to protect the citizens, uphold the law and preserve the peace? That is why Moses rebuked him. Aaron fault lies in the fact that he is the leader who did not correct the mistake of the people. Instead of stopping them, he took part in the sin and brought even more sin upon them.

When the people demanded the calf, that sin was in their mind, it has not became a reality. This is similar to us having the urge to punch a person. No one can be arrested for having the urge to punch someone. For the assault had not taken place, there is still a chance to correct our attitude.

At that point of time, if Aaron were to correct the thinking of the people, and rebuke them. He would have prevented  the sin . But here he chose to turn their fantast into reality. If Aaron were to take a stand against the people the outcome of that story would have changed greatly  

But Aaron  was afraid of offending the people, therefore he choose to offend God. His actions turn him into an unfaithful servant.

Turning Sin Into A Miracle

Aaron went one step ahead to defend himself that is illogical and funny . Let us compare 2 verses side by side

Actual Account Aaron Narrative
And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.(Ex 32:2) And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ “

So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  (Ex 32:3) So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire,
And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. (Ex 32:4) and this calf came out. 
(Ex 32:24)

 

Aaron made the creation of the calf sound miraculous. In his story, he told the people to take off their earrings, threw them into the fire and a calf miraculously appear. Can gold rings turn into a golden calf?

If we compare the truth against Aarons Narrative, you would realise that the calf did not appear miraculously. Aaron had to cut a mould, pour the molten gold into it to cast out the basic shape. The there is a need to engrave and polish in order to make it shiny and pretty.

Aaron had taken part in the construction of the calf. He mystify the event to make it look like a miracle from God. This added to his sin . For he had now pushed the blame onto God, claiming that it was Gods will for the calf to appear. The fact that the calf so miraculously appear tell us the will of God is working . It becomes a sign that God had allowed it.

He may be able to lawyer his way out before Moses. But he cannot escape from that sin before God.

Conclusion So Far

We have look at the 3rd mistake of Aaron. How he brought sin upon himself by declaring the feast to the Lord and calling the calf the Lord. We learnt that Aaron ought to have stood up against Israel and prevented them from sinning.

The 4th mistake is a warning not to mystify our sins to justify it. Aaron turn the construction of the calf into a miraculous event. By doing so he had indicated that God had a had in allowing it to happen.

Introduction

In Part 1 and Part 2, we have talked about the first and second mistake of Aaron. He did not rebuke the Israelites when they wanted to build the golden calf. He had also built the golden calf for them.
We have also drawn lessons from his mistakes and talks about the potential golden calves that we have in our modern world.

Now let us consider his second mistakes

3rd Mistake  : He built an Altar And Declare A Feast To An Idol

“So when Aaron saw it, he built
  an altar before it. And Aaron
  made a proclamation and said,
  “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.”

  Then they rose early on the next
  day, offered burnt offerings, and
  brought peace offerings; and the
  people sat down to eat and drink, 
  and rose up to play.” – Moses (Ex 32:5-6)

Aaron built and altar and declared a feast. By doing so he had corrupted his service before the Lord. This corruption can be viewed from many aspect.

1. Aaron was the high priest of God, now he became a high priest of the calf
2. While God is creating priestly garment for him, he is busy building the calf
3. He lowered to Almighty God into a image of a calf

All these tell us his foolishness and his erroneous attitude. He was suppose to teach the truth of God but now he is teaching an impure truth. How can you equate the worshipping of the calf as keeping a feast to the Lord. He had went against God personally by declaring this feast.

He knelt down before a calf, and yet he think he is being zealous for God. He even went ahead and called the calf, the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. He is corrupt in his service and he is unaware of it. This is the worst form of corruption for one to be in.

For if Aaron is aware of his mistake he will have a chance to repent and turn back. But the worst form of corruption is when we are unaware of our mistake. That will turn us from bad to worst.  By building the altar and declaring the feast to the Lord. He had turn his  unintentional sin into a sinning wilfully against the Lord

Aaron did not initiate the work to build the golden calf, it was the children of Israel who wanted it. Aaron created the calf out of compulsion and in a moment of weakness. But by legalising the worship Aaron had sin against God directly.

There is a chinese Idiom that illustrate this perfectly.

(gū xī yǎng jiān)

There was a man who was born in the year of the rat. As the result he likes rat. So he instructed his family not to kill the rats in the house at the same time he forbid them to drive the pest out of the house. As the result the rats started to do as they please, they stole rice and other food from the kitchen.

When the man saw it, he was worried that the rat had nothing to eat. So he deliberately left food all around the house. So more and more rats appeared in the neighbourhood. As the result everyone is affected by it. 

Aaron had allowed evil to continue and he had allowed it to grow even stronger.

4th Mistake : He Denies Responsibility, Refuses To Confess 

Aaron 3rd mistake is recorded in Ex 32:21-24

Moses: “What did this people do to you
                 that you have brought so great 
                 a sin upon them?”

Aaron  : “Do not let the anger of my lord 
                  become hot. You know the people,
                  that they are set on evil. 
                  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods 
                  that shall go before us; as for this
                  Moses, the man who brought us out
                 of the land of Egypt, we do not know
                 what has become of him.’

When Moses confronted Aaron, he denied the responsibility of his mistake. He refuse to admit his wrong and this could be seen clearly in this dialog. Aaron blame it on the people, and he pointed out the fact that they are evil. This is something Moses knew.

Moses had experienced many of their attack and their comment. But that doesn’t justify the creation of the calf. Aaron is trying to say that he is afraid of going against those who are bent on sinning. He is afraid that they might attack him so he did it to protect himself.

It appears as if Aaron was force to commit the sin out of fear. Moses rebuke him for he is a leader who lack the moral principle. He is just like a police officer who refuse to help the weak when they are bullied. He just stood in the corner and lament “There’s nothing I can do, he is evil, allow it to continue, better you get hurt instead of me”

Nipping Sin In The Bud

Isn’t it their work to maintain order in society? Isn’t it their duty to protect the citizens, uphold the law and preserve the peace? That is why Moses rebuked him. Aaron fault lies in the fact that he is the leader who did not correct the mistake of the people. Instead of stopping them, he took part in the sin and brought even more sin upon them.

When the people demanded the calf, that sin was in the mind and has not became a reality. This is just like us having the urge to punch someone and we will not get arrested for it. For we had not taken action to assault the other party. There is still chance to change our mind and correct our thinking.

In the same way, if Aaron were to correct the thinking of the people, and rebuke them, the sin would have stopped. But instead he turn their thinking into reality. If he would have stop them the story would have changed greatly.

But instead, Aaron did not, he was afraid of offending them. As the result he choose to offend God, that makes him an unfaithful servant.

Turning Sin Into A Miracle

Aaron went one step ahead to defend himself that is illogical and funny . Let us compare 2 verses side by side

Actual Account Aaron Narrative
And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.(Ex 32:2) And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ “

So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  (Ex 32:3) So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire,
And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. (Ex 32:4) and this calf came out. 
(Ex 32:24)

Aaron made the creation of the calf sound miraculous. He told them to take off their earrings, he threw it into the fire and the calf just miraculously appear.  How could gold rings burn into a golden calf?

If we compared the truth from Aarons narrative we will know that the calf did not appear miraculously. He need to cut a mould, pour the molten gold into it, to provide the basic shape, and then they will have to engrave it, polish it and make it shiny and pretty.

Aaron had taken part in the construction of the calf. He mystify the event to make it look like a miracle from God. This brought his sin further. For he had now pushed the blame onto God. Saying that it is Gods will for the calf to appear. The fact that the calf so miraculously appear tell us the will of God is working . It becomes a sign that God had allowed it.

He may be able to lawyer his way out before Moses. But he cannot escape from that sin before God.

Conclusion So Far

We have look at the 3rd mistake of Aaron. How he brought sin upon himself by declaring the feast to the Lord and calling the calf the Lord. We learnt that Aaron ought to have stood up against Israel and prevented them from sinning.

The 4th mistake is a warning not to mystify our sins to justify it. Aaron turn the construction of the calf into a miraculous event. By doing so he had indicated that God had a had in allowing it to happen.

In our previous post. We looked into 2 mistakes of Aaron

1st Mistake :  He did not rebuke Israel When they Sinned
2nd Mistake:  He built the golden calf

We have looked deeper into the golden calf and we have understood the significance of having the golden calf in our lives. 

Today if we are not vigilant in our service. We can create invisible Idols for ourselves. Jesus mentioned 2 types of Idols that could destroy our spiritual lives.

Mammon

“No one can serve two masters; for
  either he will hate the one and love
  the other, or else he will be loyal to
  the one and despise the other. You
  cannot serve God and mammon” – Jesus (Matt 6:24)

Money could become our idol and many will worship it. Many Christians will betray Christ for the sake of Money. That is when  money becomes their master and they are willing to betray friends and family for the sake of it. That is when we read of court cases where people sue their relatives and friends for money. What is worst is when one betray their souls for the sake of money.

That is why the bible tells us not to long for riches or be covetous. For that longing will lead us to use underhanded means to achieve riches. That is why we need to use wealth carefully and not allow money to rule over us. For it will lead us away from the truth and be ensnared by riches.

To idolise Someone Or To Become an Idol

There is another idol mentioned by Jesus

“Therefore, when you do a charitable deed,
  do not sound a trumpet before you as the
  hypocrites do in the synagogues and in
  the streets, that they may have glory from
  men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have
  their reward.

  And when you pray, you shall not be like the
  hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in
  the synagogues and on the corners of the streets,
  that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say
  to you, they have their reward.” – Jesus (Matt 6:2,5)

It is a good thing to do charity and perform charitable deeds. But one should never do it for the sake of getting praises and glory from men. For if we do so we create for ourselves an invisible Idol. On the worst scenario we made ourselves into an idol for others to worship.

Men had the tendency to worship an idol, someone whom they regard as great.  When there is no one greater than us, we would become an idol for others to worship.

These are 2 attitude that is against the teaching of God.  A man ought to fear God and not worship others. He must not allow himself to become an idol and an object of worship. He must have the heart to worship God and to give God the glory

The Example Of Jesus

For Jesus once taught us to worship God and to serve him only. Therefore whenever we idolize others in our service and to allow ourselves to become an idol. We have created an unseen idol and have went against God. We need to learn from the example of Jesus

“I do not receive honor from men.” – Jesus (Jn 5:41)

When Jesus performed the miracle to feed the 5000. (Read about it here Part 1, Part 2

There were many in Israel that idolized him, they wanted to give Jesus the highest honour and to force him to become their king..Jesus did not want glory from man but he was unable to stop them from idolising him. Therefore he refused them, he departed from them and he retreated to the mountain to pray.

The words  “I do not receive honor from men.” should be our motto in life as well. We cannot control the reaction of the others but we can control how we react to it. We can choose not to receive honour from man.

Let us not deceive ourselves saying that we are unable to do anything about it. Let us not deceive ourselves and think that the honour was a blessing from God. For if we glorify ourselves, we cannot give God the glory.

It is a contradiction and people who believe in God will always glorify God. For without God we are nothing. We have nothing to boast about and we have no reason to receive any glory.

That is why we must not idolize people or to make ourselves an object of worship.

The Example of Paul

Once Paul performed a miracle and healed a lame man. His action stirred the city. It stirred the city so much that they brought a calf to sacrifice to Paul. They even brought him flowers. How did Paul react to it?

Paul did not enjoy the moment and just be quiet.  Instead he tore his clothes and ran away crying out

“Men, why are you doing these
  things? We also are men with the same
  nature as you, and preach to you that you
  should turn from these useless things
to the living God, who made the heaven,
  the earth, the sea, and all things that are
  in them”- Paul (Acts 14:15-16)

In those day tearing of clothes is an expression of grieve, for how could these people do this that are against the word of God? Paul did not condone their actions or receive their worship, he instead reprimanded them and gave the glory to God.

A man who is faithful to God will never worship man nor will he accept worship from men. They will be careful when they serve God. They will not allow themselves to become an idol. Many workers o f god were not vigilant and they fell from faith. They ended up seeking man’s applause, praise and glory. For the sake of those they are even prepared to go against the teaching of God. 

Why Golden Calf and Not Some Other Animal?

Now lets take a step back and consider, why did the Israelites choose a golden calf? There are many other animals on earth, why not a lion?

A Lion is the king of the jungle, he will never be subjected to man. Perhaps the people are influenced by the Egyptians. The Egyptians are an agricultural society, to them, grain and herd are symbols of fertility. The ox is an important tool and a great help to the farmer. What is best about it is that he will only listen to your orders, and will not instruct you to do anything. He will not complain if you are a bad master

That is probably why they choose a calf to represent God. They wanted a God that can help them to do what they cannot do, but they did not want a God that will rule over their lives and they need to obey him. They wanted to make a god for themselves. Even though they called him the Lord, but their relationship with him is corrupted. He is no longer the Lord of their heart. they do not need to obey him or follow his instruction,

Today there are many Christians who claim to worship God, they called Jesus their Lord, but is he truly their Lord? They have made a golden calf in place of God, they wanted a God that will obey them.

Christians And The Bronze Bull Of Wall Street

On 29th Oct 2006, there was an incident of the golden calf in wall street. There was a lady Pastor who called for a day of prayer for the worlds economy. They choose the day of Oct 29 as Oct 29 1929 was the date of US Stock market crash that led to the great depression.

She claims that the Lord move her and told her that it will happen again. So she made a proclamation to pray for the word economy , he gathered Christians before the bronze bull of wall street to pray. They chose to pray at wall street as it is the financial centre.  They choose to pray at the bronze bull for it is a representation of a bullish market.

So they gathered before the bronze bull to pray and sing hymns. They told God that they did not want a bull or bear market, but they want lion market. For Jesus is the lion of Judah and he will not let the stock market crash.

As we are doing this, are we worshipping the golden calf? Are we turning people away from God?

 Jeroboam’s Golden Calf

But history tell us that it is away repeating itself. Aaron builds a golden calf, later on in time there was 2 other golden calf constructed. they are created 500 years later after the kingdom of Israel broke away from the Kingdom of Judah.

The first king of Israel, Jeroboam, constructed 2 golden calves. They are recorded in 1 Kings 12:25-33. The two calves are found in Bethel and Dan, in the northern end and the southern end of his kingdom. When he finished them he made the same proclamation

“It is too much for you to
  go up to Jerusalem. Here
  are your gods, O Israel,
  which brought you up
  from the land of Egypt!”- Jeroboam (1 King 12:28)

He did not want the Israelites to go to Jerusalem to worship God, they only need to stay within his kingdom and worship the calves. They are representative of God. Didn’t he know about the history of Aaron and the golden calf? Why did they allow history to repeat itself.

they do so for they feel their hidden agenda is more important. In order to achieve their motives to be independent form Israel, they are willing to go against God. They pretend to say that they have not forgotten God, for the calf is called the Lord , he is the one who brought them out from Egypt.

Perhaps they feel that their motives are right, it is out of a good will. They have not change their faith for they still believe in the Lord God. But they are in fact deceiving themselves, thinking that they have done nothing wrong.

They claim to have faith in God but they did not want to go down to Jerusalem for worship. Today there are people who think that as long as you believe in God, it doesn’t matter how you worship him. They believe they are obeying the word of God even if they worship at home away from church.

But God had instructed us to gather an worship. Unless we are not Christians and we do not believe in the word of Jesus. Than we do not need to follow it. There are many who are not careful in serving God. They wanted to achieve their own agenda and they ended up making golden calves for others to follow.

Let us not rejoice when the calf is destroyed. For the next golden calf will come, let us not be alarm by it. For history will always repeat itself. there will be new golden calves that will appear. WE need to know who our real master is, we need to consider if Jesus is still our Lord.

If you believe in him, you will listen to him. You will choose to follow Jesus and not anyone else.  Let us not follow the world or emulate it.

Conclusion

So far we have look at the mistake of Aaron building the golden calf. WE knew that his first mistake is not to rebuke Israel for sin then we look at the 2 idols that could potentially destroy our faith. finally we look at the reason why man create idols for themselves. We are also aware that History will repeat itself.

We will continue our study on the next part. 

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. 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 these miracles 

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)
5. Jesus Walking on Water (Part 9, Part 10)
6. Jesus Healing A Blind Man (Part 11, Part 12)

We have finally reached the seventh miracle. That is the miracle that we are most probably most familiar with

The Raising Of Lazarus

https://i1.wp.com/www.crestinortodox.ro/admin/_files/newsannounce/betania-lazar-16.jpg
           The Traditional Site Of Lazarus’s Tomb

Now when He had said these things,
  He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus,
  come forth!”” – John (Jn 11:43)

Jn 11:38-45 Records of Lazarus being dead and buried. During that time Jesus told the people to open the entrance to the tomb. Martha his sister told the Lord

“Lord, by this time there is a stench,
  for he has been dead four days.”- Martha (Jn 11:39)

Yet Jesus cried out with a loud voice “Lazarus come forth!” and Lazarus came out from the tomb and he was raised from the dead. There were many who were present, and many believed Jesus upon seeing this miracle. For no man had the power and the authority to raised the dead. For only God is the master of life. It is God who gave life to human being and it is only God who could resurrect the dead. Today as we read this miracle, are we willing to believe that Jesus is truly God?

Worshipping the Lord Of Life

Man ought to worship the God who created life, for he is the reason why we could live and enjoy our existence. That is why we need to be thankful to the God who had given us life. While we should be thankful for our parents for giving birth to us, but they are not the master of life and they did not create life. For only God has the power to create and Jesus is non other than the Lord of life the only true God.

Jesus performed this miracle on Lazarus who was dead for 4 days, he does it to tell us that he is indeed the Lord of life and he is the one that created life. He said it with his own words

“I am the resurrection and the life.
  He who believes in Me, though he
  may die, he shall live.  And whoever
  lives and believes in Me shall never die.
  Do you believe this?”- Jesus (Jn 11:25-26)

Today he tells us the same, but are we willing to believe him? One day Jesus will come and judge the world, and those who are dead will resurrect. At that time those who believe in him and have their sin forgiven, will be able to enter heaven and enjoy eternal life.

Jesus came to tell us that he had the power to raise the dead and grant eternal life. Those words are true and it is only though Jesus one can receive the forgiveness of sin and to enter heaven. Those who believe in him will be raised and will enjoy eternal life.

Jesus had used his authority to prove this by commanding Lazarus to be raised to life. This is an intentional miracle with a purpose to testify that he is indeed the Lord of life.

The Intentional Actions From Jesus

At the very beginning of Lazarus illness , his sisters sent men to Jesus asking him to come heal their brother. But Jesus did not go immediately but he just  said

“This sickness is not unto death,
  but for the glory of God, that the
  Son of God may be glorified
  through it.”- Jesus (Jn 11:4)

On the surface it seems to say that the sickness would not  kill Lazarus and he would not die from it. But the truth is, Jesus already knew that Lazarus will die of it.  This can be seen in his conversation with his disciples

(Extracted from Jn 11:11-15)

Jesus      : Our friend Lazarus sleeps, 
                   but I go that I may wake 
                   him up.

Disciples : Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.

Jesus        : Lazarus is dead.  And I am glad 
                     for your sakes that I was not there, 
                     that you may believe. Nevertheless 
                     let us go to him.

So was Jesus lying when he said that the sickness is not onto death? It appears as if he had shot himself on the foot by  saying it earlier. It is even more ironic to claim that Lazarus was sleeping and he needs to be woken up. It looks as though Jesus was unable to differentiate between the living and the dead.

But when Jesus says that Lazarus is sleeping, he already knew that he will die. When he said that he needs to go wake him up, he is saying that he wanted to wake Lazarus from the dead. He will  perform this miracle as if he is waking someone who is asleep.

He deliberately choose to perform this miracle  for the sake of the disciples. He wanted Lazarus to die for four days before he raises him out from the dead. He wanted to do it so that they will believe that he is the Lord of Life and the resurrection.

Death Comes To All And After That Judgement

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote a book titled “Sickness onto death” and from that book he claims that man is stricken with a illness onto death, and that is why many despair. For they know that whatever they do will lead to eventual death.

But here we read of Jesus coming  with a good news saying “This illness is not onto death, though you may die, I have the power to raise you up from death. Those who believe in me will live forever”

So we ought to believe in the words of Jesus and know that he will save us from judgement. We need to believe that he had the power to raise us up from the death and bring us to the kingdom of heaven. This is the greatest grace God had given to man kind

Indeed, all man must die and after death comes judgement (Heb 9:28) but those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead into eternal life. But sadly not everyone is willing to accept this.

Conclusion So Far

We know that Jesus performed this miracle by intentionally delaying himself. He wanted Lazarus to be dead for more than 4 days. This is because the Jews during the time of Christ have a superstitious belief saying that when a man dies, his spirit will hover around the body in the tomb for at least 3 days.  They think that the soul will depart from the person and after that it would start to smell. 

Jesus performed this miracles so that all of us who read of it today can believe of his power with assurance.

John recorded this miracle to tell us that Jesus is indeed the Lord of Life. Therefore we need to seize this opportunity to believe in him.

Introduction

The first week of 2016 had passed. Let us resolved to make our faith our priorities. Let us ask God to bless and watch over our resolutions and our family. We all hope for a new beginning in this new year. Many of us would repaint our houses and wear new clothes for the new year.

We all hope to renew our living environment. But as we renew our surrounding let us learn to renew our spiritual life as well. I would like to share 3 areas that need to be renewed.

Pt 1: Renewal In Spiritual Knowledge

Paul reminds us

“Do not lie to one another, since
  you have put off the old man with
  his deeds, and have put on the new
  man who is renewed in knowledge
  according to the image of Him who
  created him,” – Paul (Col 3:9-10)

Here it tells us to be renewed in spiritual knowledge, to put on a new nature. The new man is renewed in knowledge and  it in the image of his creator. That is why we must put off our old nature and its practice. ‘’

We all have experience taking showers.  We put off our dirty clothes, clean our body and put on a new set of clothing. It makes us refreshed and comfortable after a bath. We will not put on our dirty clothing after our bath. We will choose to put on new clothes and remain fresh.

In the same way, we must learn to put away our old self in our pursuit of faith.  The old nature that Paul is referring to is our desires of the flesh. They are the evil thoughts and evil passion within us. That is why Paul tells us to put these members on earth to death. He said

“Therefore put to death your members
  which are on the earth: fornication,
  uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and
  covetousness, which is idolatry.” – Paul (Col 3:5)

At our baptism, our old man(Rom 6:1-10)  was crucified and our life is now hidden in Christ and in God. That is why we must curb our desires. Paul tells us to put it to death, to treat it as if it is dead. A person who is dead cannot feel anything nor does he knows anything. We need to cut off these natures that corrupt our spiritual life.

To Remove Sin (Leaven)  In Our Lives

That is why Paul continues to tell us 

“But now you yourselves are to put off
  all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
  filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie
  to one another, since you have put off the
  old man with his deeds "- Paul (Col 3:8-9)

Paul had told us to remove these things that are filthy and prevent us from achieving perfection in faith. If we could remove them, we could put on this new nature in Christ. Indeed, at our baptism, our sin are forgiven. Whoever who is baptised in the name of Jesus had their sins forgiven and we are all born anew after that. But this does not guarantee that our hearts will remain clean and sinless until we die.

That is why Paul said in Titus 3:5

“not by works of righteousness which
  we have done, but according to His
  mercy He saved us, through the washing
  of regeneration and renewing of the
  Holy Spirit, “ – Paul (Tit 3:5)

Besides the washing of Regeneration (Baptism). We need the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew us in our spiritual life. After we receive the words of God through hearing his words. We need to let it change our lives, then we will be a true Christian.

If we want to be a true follower of Christ, we need to put away our old nature and its practices. That is why Paul says “put off the old man with his deeds”

The Jews keep the feast of the unleavened bread. During that time, they will remove all leaven from their house. The leaven of the old testament is often described as sin in the new testament. When we are baptised, our sins are washed away and forgiven. But as we continue in life we commit sin once again

To Change Our Habits

Often, we allow sin to become a habit in our life. Likewise, we have cultivated many habits, the young children like to use their mobile device all the time. As a South East Asian, we love spicy food and we would eat everything with Chilli.

Once I have an Indonesian friend who went with me to a Ramen store. He ordered a Ramen that comes with a spicy sauce. The sauce is called, “The Volcano Sauce” it is so hot that I have the problem eating it with noodles.  But yet that friend of mine can finish the entire plate of sauce.

It is surprising that the same sauce will taste different to different individuals.

Indeed, our habits and taste had always been a part of our life. But if our habits damage our health, we would make adjustments in our life and our health. Even if we love food that are spicy,  we will choose to eat less of it.

These same principles apply to our life of faith. We want to pursue holiness, but our habits make us commit mistakes after mistakes. That is why we need to be renewed in the knowledge of the Lord. We need to move in the right direction and to align our goals towards it.

We may appear healthy and we do not feel sick, but we go for medical check up on the regular basis. If the doctor tells us to change our habits we would change it for our health sake. In the same way, whenever we listen to the word of God. and it tells us the direction and areas we need to change in life. We should change.

This is what Paul means by being renewed in knowledge. This is something that requires us to put in our effort. We need to work hard to take up the image of our creator. It is an image of true righteousness and holiness. It can receive the truth.

“But you have not so learned Christ,
  if indeed you have heard Him and
  have been taught by Him, as the truth
  is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning
  your former conduct, the old man which
  grows corrupt according to the deceitful
  lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of
  your mind, and that you put on the new
  man which was created according to God,
  in true righteousness and holiness.”- Paul (Eph 4:20-24)

If we want to learn Christ, we must be heard and be taught by him. We need to know the truth that is in Jesus. Verse 22 remind us to put off our old nature, that is to change ourselves. This is important for if you have learnt the truth but did not change we will still be our old man.

We need to establish a good habit in faith, we need to start by learning about Jesus. We need to change our way of life and move out of our comfort zone. For we all have many bad habits, they are the result from our own laziness. As the result, we are the same day after day, year after year.

Let us strive to make improvement in our life. Let us renew our spirit and establish new habits. One of the first habits we need to cultivate is to attend service regularly. If we want to know Christ we have to continually strive and learn to know Christ. We need to come for service in order to renew this knowledge.

Pt 2: Renewal In Our Inner Nature

Paul once said.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.
  Even though our outward man is
  perishing, yet the inward man
  is being renewed day by day.”  – Paul (2 Cor 4:16)

Why would we lose heart? Sometimes we lose heart because we saw our body perishing day after day. We also encounter affliction and pressures in life. Sometimes we encounter difficulties as well. These difficulties prevent us from achieving our goal to enter the kingdom of heaven.

There are many things that worry us in life. They rob us of our heart to pursue God. That is why Paul tell us not to lose heart, for all these pain and suffering cannot outweigh the glory that God had prepared for us in heaven.

We often allow the things on earth to pull our faith down. We only notice the dark clouds that hang above us., we are unable to see the sun that is beyond the dark clouds. Those who had taken a flight will experience this. There will be times before take off we may encounter a storm or heavy rain.

As the plane takes off, it will rise and enter the clouds. The plane will vibrate and shake in the process but as soon as the plane rise above the crowds, we will be able to see the sun. Indeed, below the clouds, there are bad weather, storm and rain. But beyond the cloud, it is blue and beautiful.

God will not make the sun disappear just because of the black clouds above us.  The sun will always be there, let us not focus on the dark clouds only. Let us look further and behold the sun God had prepared.

I remember once I was learning driving back at home in Singapore. During the practical class, we are often taught to look far when driving at high speed. If we lower our head, we may not be able to see the dangers before us. At the same time, we would miss the beautiful sceneries around us.

The same applies in life, we need to develop the habit of looking up. If we do not lift our eyes to look upon God in heaven. We will find it hard to be joyful, we will always focus on our suffering and our problem. But if we have the faith to look upon God, we will find him ahead of us and watching over us.

That is why we need to renew our inner nature daily. That will prevent our spiritual life from withering away. Then we can continue our journey of faith with a joyful heart.

How Do We Renew Our Inner Nature.  

Paul once said.

“knowing that He who raised up the
  Lord Jesus will also raise us up with
  Jesus, and will present us with you.” – Paul (2 Cor 4:14)

The first thing we need to know is that our Lord who had called Christ to rise again will make us rise again as well. He will bring us into his presence so that we can be renewed daily. That is why Christians have the hope of Eternal life, it is a promise from God.  It is something we need to remember,

Just as Paul also writes 

“For we know that if our earthly house,
  this tent, is destroyed, we have a building
  from God, a house not made with hands,
  eternal in the heavens.” –Paul (2 Cor 5:1)

Paul says that if our earthly tent is destroyed. We will receive a building from God. This is something a Christian ought to remember. We need to tell ourselves that our lives on earth are just like living in a tent. It is temporary and it is not as comfortable as a house.

I remember that when I was 11 I went camping with my school mates. We need to pitch our own tent and we have to sleep in the open. It was fun and it is a novel feeling. Everyone looked forward to the camping trip. But those who have camped before know that it’s hard to sleep well in the tent.  There was one night where there was a major rainstorm, the teachers are worried that we would fall sick. So we have to sleep in the hall on the last night. While we are sleeping there are many mosquitoes that disturb our rest.  They are able to bite us even when we use insect repellent.

But as we lived in the tents, we know that one day we will return home. In the same way, our life on earth is like living in a tent. We would eventually return to our heavenly home where it is more comfortable. That is why we need to renew ourselves with this living hope.

As we live another year let us be one step closer to that living hope. For our life of faith is just like a race. There are a starting point and an ending line. When we depart from the starting point, we are one step closer to the finishing line. Unless we are running on the spot then there will be no progress.

That is why we need to progress in faith, we need to have this hope of enteral life in our heart. Especially when we remember the kingdom of heaven where God had prepared for us. Even though our body is perishing daily. Let us remember that we are one step closer to the kingdom of heaven. Then we will walk with more strength and with more energy. We need to be renewed in our life of faith.

 

Pt 3: Renewal Of Our Mind

Paul once mentioned in the book to the Romans

“And do not be conformed to this world,
  but be transformed by the renewing of
  your mind, that you may prove what is
  that good and acceptable and perfect
  will of God.” – Paul (Rom 12:2)

Here it talks about a renewal of the mind. This is important for the world around us is constantly changing. It usually does not change for the better. The more it changes the more unstable it becomes. Many things that were old in the past are now becoming trends once again. There is nothing new under the sun.

Whenever we read the papers, we often read of news that saddens us, we heard of wars, terrorist states, economy crisis, the falling oil prices. We read of companies folding, retrenchment looming. It is hard for us to remain at peace when we think about this news.

So how can we renew our minds? how can we be at peace? Most importantly how should a Christian look at this issues?

We need to know that no matter how difficult the situation on the world become. God is in control of everything on earth. He is the one that ensure the rise of fall of kingdoms and nations. The bible records of rulers and kings who were in the plan of God

“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
  And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
  I will send him against an ungodly nation,
  And against the people of My wrath
  I will give him charge,
  To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
  And to tread them down like the
  mire of the streets.” – YHWH (Is 10:5-6)

“I have made the earth, the man
  and the beast that are on the ground,
  by My great power and by My
  outstretched arm, and have given
  it to whom it seemed proper to Me.

  And now I have given all these lands
  into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the
  king of Babylon, My servant; and the
  beasts of the field I have also given him
  to serve him. So all nations shall serve
  him and his son and his son’s son, until
  the time of his land comes; and then
  many nations and great kings shall make
  him serve them.

  And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom
  which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar
  the king of Babylon, and which will not
  put its neck under the yoke of the king of
  Babylon, that nation I will punish with the
  sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until
  I have consumed them by his hand. “ – YHWH (Jer 27:5-8)

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
  To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
  To subdue nations before him
  And loose the armor of kings,
  To open before him the double doors,
  So that the gates will not be shut:

  ‘I will go before you
  And make the crooked places straight;
  I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
  And cut the bars of iron.
  I will give you the treasures of darkness
  And hidden riches of secret places,
  That you may know that I, the Lord,
  Who call you by your name,
  Am the God of Israel.
  For Jacob My servant’s sake,
  And Israel My elect,
  I have even called you by your name;
  I have named you, though you have
  not known Me.

  I have raised him up in righteousness,
  And I will direct all his ways;
  He shall build My city
  And let My exiles go free,
  Not for price nor reward,” – YHWH (Is 45:1-4,13)

Can we see that the rulers of the world are all ruling under the watchful eyes of God?  The world, as chaotic as it is now is still under the control of God. That is why we must know the will of God. We must not allow the things in the world to affect our relationship with Good.

That is why a renewal of mind is to know the will of God. Not to allow the trends in the world to affect our faith. For human being are always changing. Let us make sure that our change is bringing us to the right direction and not drawing us away from God.

Concluding Thoughts

In this entry we studied 3 types of renewal we ought to have. We need to renew ourselves in the knowledge of Christ. That require us to put off our old man and put on our new man. It requires us to renew ourselves and to stop sinning.  It tells us to put on new habits and to listen to the words of God.

Secondly, we talk about renewal in our inner heart. It tells us to look beyond the troubles around us and to look upon God. IT require us to constantly remind ourselves that we have a home in heaven. It can give us the strength to continue in this heavenly journey.

Finally, we talk about renewal in the mind. We need to remember that God is in control of the events in the world. We need to keep our mind focus on the will of God and to head to the right direction and draw near to God.

In this new year, let us draw closer to God and strive to renew ourselves in these 3 areas. For God had prepared the kingdom of God and is there waiting for us. May we all be blessed in this new year.

Introduction

The modern men seldom look back nor do they look up. Today if we were to hit the streets, we often see them looking down. It doesn’t matter if they are in the mall or on the road. They will tend to look down all the time, with their eyes fixated on their phones. What is scarier is when they do that even as they are driving. In the Chinese language, we nicknamed this generation as “底头族” which literally translates to “A tribe that lowers their head”.

But if we choose to look back we may realise that we have lost a lot of beautiful sights which pass us by.  That is when we realise that time had passed quickly. The year 2015 is about to pass and we are about to enter a new year. That is when we realise that time had indeed passed us by quickly. That is when we become concerned and we regret not looking back or looking up.

How does that apply to us today? Especially as the current year draws to a close.  To some of us, it does not make a difference. But to many others it seems to matter a lot. Let us take a look at two reflections and learn from them

The Reflection And  The Song Of Moses

Moses reflected on his life as such

“The days of our lives are seventy years;
  And if by reason of strength they are 
  eighty years,
  Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
  For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
  Who knows the power of Your anger?
  For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
  So teach us to number our days,
  That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Moses (Ps 90:10-12)

As Moses looked back at the days he had spent on earth. He felt that life on earth is short and it is full of labour pain and sorrow. As he looked back, he saw the darker aspect of the life of men. But as he looks upwards, he saw his eternal home up in the heavens. He is able to see the bright future ahead of him.

That is why he said “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”

The Importance Of Looking Back

As we step into the new year, let us take the time to reflect on how we spent our last year. Let us make new plans for our life. Have we used our time to prepare to enter our home in heaven?

These are important question for the kingdom of heaven is not open to everyone

“Not everyone who says to Me, 
  ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom 
  of heaven, but he who does the will 
  of My Father in heaven.
 
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, 
  Lord, have we not prophesied in Your
  name, cast out demons in Your name,
  and done many wonders in Your name?’
  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never
  knew you; depart from Me, you who practice
  lawlessness!’”- Jesus (Matt 7:21-23)

This is why Christians ought to follow God now, let us not wait  until the door is closed before we knock. For right now, when the door is open for us, we could knock and enter. But if the door is closed no amount of regret could let us enter into the Lord.

That is why we need this heart of wisdom to prepare for our home in the future. We need to make use of our remaining time to draw close to God and to walk with him.

Reflecting On Our Past Mistake

Sometimes as we reflect on the year, we may encounter occasions that sadden us. When our health is not as good as before, when we encounter events that take away joy from our heart. When our hearts are weight with many anxieties, vexing problems that clause sorrows.

These are things which we do not want to encounter, it may happen in our work, in our families as well as our church ministry. They appear as if it is a black spot causing much sadness and regret.

That is when we need to look up and look at God. For only by looking upwards can we experience hope and comfort. For we are assured that there is a place of eternal joy and peace prepared for us.  We need to have the heart of Wisdom to prepare and enter that rest. For we know that Christ is at the door waiting to welcome us there.

But are we truly able to get to that rest? It depends on how we prepare for it today. In Psalm 90 Moses said

“Who knows the power of Your anger?
  For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.” – Moses (Ps 90:11)

Today in church many pastors refuse to talk about judgement and wrath. They wanted to bring messages of love and hope, messages to give warmth and happiness. Many would not prefer speakers who talk about God’s wrath and judgment.

We believed that we have toiled hard for 6 days and were carrying lots of burdens. We need more messages of warmth and comfort and not words of rebuke and Gods wrath. We often think “God is Love, why would one talk about the wrath of God?”

It sound reasonable, but is that the only message from the bible?

Indeed, God is love and he wanted us to draw close to him and experience his love and be saved. But likewise, God is also a consuming fire. For when the day of Judgment is here, then we will see the fire and his wrath. Anyone who went against the word of God will be judged.

If everyone only wants to talk about the love and peace of God and no one is willing to talk about sin and judgement. How could one prepare for the coming of the Lord? Will it be too late if we start preparing only when he comes?

Therefore, the song of Moses reminds us that we will all face judgement from God. That will be a time when we are forced to look back and consider how we lived our lives. God will show us the things we did that incurred his wrath. Likewise, God will also reward those who did things that glorified his name.

The Importance Of Doing Right

That is why Paul tells us

All things are lawful for me,[
  
but not all things are helpful;
   all things are lawful for me,
  
but not all things edify.

  Therefore, whether you eat or
  drink, or whatever you do, 
  do all to the glory of God. “ – Paul (1 Cor 10:23,31)

It is true that we have the liberty to do everything we want. Back in the military, they often say, “Do but don’t get caught”. But Paul reminds us that “everything is lawful. but not all are helpful and edifying”. That is why on top of everything that typical man would review in his new year. Christian ought to consider if their actions brought glory or shame onto God.

Perhaps we may not be breaking the law, and the courts will not question our action. But God will definitely question us on the last day. That is why the preacher in Ecclesiastes tell us that we could do all our hearts desire and see what we want to see, but know this that we will be judged eventually.

That is why he concluded saying

“Fear God and keep His commandments,
   For this is man’s all.
  For God will bring every work into judgment,
  Including every secret thing,
  Whether good or evil.” – Solomon (Eccl 12:13-14)

This is why Paul reminded the church in Corinth that in everything they do, they must give glory to God.

Perhaps by now we would have recalled many things that happen within this year. The many occasions where we are tempted and we sinned against God. IT makes us sad and regretful. But we need to remember the lessons we learnt from these mistakes. Perhaps we may be able to rectify some of them, but there are many which are irreversible.

We need to know that a moment of folly can lead to years of regret.

Moving Forward With Repentance

That is why we must be careful and mindful over how we should lead this coming year. Let us not repeat these mistakes once again.

As we reflect on the year 2015, we would remember our mistakes and the areas we need to improve. We would also see the things that we have done well. Let us resolve to continue in the things that are right before God and let us have the courage to repent from our mistake and resolve not to continue in the error. For the only way to escape the wrath of God is to turn back and repent.

For God said

“Therefore I will judge you, O house
  of Israel, every one according to his ways,
  Repent, and turn from all your transgressions,
  so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away
  from you all the transgressions which you have
  committed, and get yourselves a new heart and
   a new spirit. For why should you die, O house
  of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death
  of one who dies,Therefore turn and live!” – YHWH (Eze 18:30-32)

This is why we must repent, and look back to check if we have sinned against God. For Jesus tells us.

And if anyone hears My words
  and does not believe,[ I do not
  judge him; for I did not come to
  judge the world but to save the
  world. He who rejects Me, and
  does not receive My words, has
  that which judges him—the word
  that I have spoken will judge him
  in the last day.”- Jesus (Jn 12:47-48)

Here Jesus tells us that his words will judge us on the last day. We often think that the word of Jesus is only the words of salvation. In fact they are more than that, they are also the words of Judgment. Let us not just call him “Lord Lord” and yet disobey his commands and instruction.

Those who are wise and God-fearing will choose to follow his words. For they know that his word will judge them. That is why we need to let go of our sins and receive a new spirit and a new heart. For why should we die? Why don’t we turn back?

It is our choice and God will not force us to repent. He hopes that we will turn back to him he hopes that he will repent by our own free will. He never desired the death of the wicked he would rather that they turn back and lived.

Looking Back At Our Direction And Goals In Life

Now let us take some time to reflect on the goals we have set for the year 2015. Sometimes we as adults are guilty of leading a life that is aimless.

That is why Paul tells us

“And everyone who competes
  for the prize is temperate in all
  things. Now they do it to obtain
  a perishable crown, but we for
  an imperishable crown.
  Therefore I run thus: not with
  uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as
  one who beats the air. But I
  discipline my body and bring it
  into subjection, lest, when I have
  preached to others, I myself
  should become disqualified.” – Paul (1 Cor 9:25-27)

When Paul looked back in his life, he can say with confidence, that he is not running aimlessly in life. He had the right goal and he is running towards it.

Today many Christian work hard and run their race with all their strength. But are our goals correct? Are we running at the right direction?

I remember six years ago I shared the lyrics of the song. “Nowhere Man”

Let us not be like the nowhere man who laboured so hard without any result. There was a Chinese Poet who describes this aptly. “ “采得百花成蜜后,为谁辛苦为谁忙”(Translated “After turning a hundred flowers into honey. for whom are they toil and suffer for? “)

Indeed, we work harder than bees, who are hard at work creating honey as we are sleeping at night. Just when we think we could enjoy the fruit of our labour, we encounter unfortunate events. That is when we wonder, “Why are we so busy all the time? What’s purpose does it serve?”

The Old Man And The Sea

This reminds me of the work of Mr Ernest Hemingway. He spent much of his life pursuing one objective after another. He achieved fame and status, he worked hard and played hard. He was a wartime reporter and he is known for his fighting spirit, especially against all the challenges he encounters in life.

At the end of his life, he wrote the book “The Old Man And The Sea”

The book talks about an old Cuban fisherman who went out into the deep to catch fish. While everyone says he is unlucky, he decided to venture out on his own to fish. On that trip, he caught a giant Marlin fish, one that is so huge that he was unable to put it on his boat. Therefore, he had to tie it at the side of his boat as he returns to shore.

He wanted to show the fish to those who mock him and he wanted to celebrate his great catch. But as he was returning to show, the sharks came and they wanted to eat his prize. He fought them off and used his oar to hit them. He scolded the sharks for being bullies, for they wanted to eat the fruit of his labour. He used everything that is in his disposal to fight off the sharks. He tried to row back to shore as fast as he can. But at the very end, he realised that his prized catch is merely a dead carcass and a huge skeleton.

Hemingway was referring to himself in the story. He had worked so hard his entire life and he caught a huge fish. After a while, the fish became bones and then he realise that all the things he achieves are temporary. In a twinkling of an eye, it will disappear. That is why he was disappointed with life and he cannot see the point behind his hard work.

We know that at the very end, he committed suicide. He felt as if his life was just like beating the air. At the very end, all that he received were fish bones.

Finding Meaning In Life Struggles

But Paul said that he was fighting not as one who beats the air. For he is able to see the values behind his struggles. He did not fight for the things of the world but for the things in heaven. He is not fighting to receive a perishable crown but he wanted to get the imperishable crown from heaven.

As the result at the end of his life, he can say with confidence.

I have fought the good fight,
  I have finished the race,
  I have kept the faith. 
  Finally, there is laid up for me 
  the crown of righteousness,
  which the Lord, the righteous
  Judge, will give to me on that Day” – Paul (2 Tim 4:7-8)

Here it presents to us two choices we can take in life. We all toil and struggle in life and sometimes we become tired. But what do we want to achieve in the end? Do we want to just receive fish bones, that will disappear in the twinkling of an eye? or do we want to be like Paul who sang the song of victory at the end?  For we know if we continue to strive in this race and to finish the fight. There will be a crown of righteousness waiting for us.

The Reflection And  The Prayer Of David

“Lord, make me to know my end,
  And what is the measure of my days,
  That I may know how frail I am.
  Indeed, You have made my days 
  as handbreadths, And my age is as 
  nothing before You;
  Certainly every man at his best state
  is but vapor.”– David (Ps 39:4-5)                                                

The prayer of David is similar to the prayer of Moses. For be it a prophet or a king, our work will finish one day and it will come to an end. The only thing that is eternal and will never end is found in heaven and not on earth.

That is why we need to have the wisdom from God to see it. We need to pray to God make us know our end. But as I read the two prayers. There is something that baffled me.  The fact is, everyone including children knows that life on earth will end one day. Why then did David and Moses ask God to let them know their end? Even if we know our end there is nothing we can do about it.

Both David and Moses is trying to know the measure of their days. They wanted to be reminded not to waste their time over vain pursuits.   For David continues saying

“Surely every man walks about like
  a shadow; Surely they busy
  themselves in vain; He heaps up
  riches,  And does not know who will
  gather them.” – David (Ps 39:6)

David wanted to adjust his direction in life. Perhaps in the past, he was busy chasing after riches, fame, status and success. Are these not the things we desire today?  We need to know that at the very end it would all be empty. Therefore, we need to have the same understanding as David. For he said

   “And now, Lord, what  do I wait for?
   My hope is in You.”” – David (Ps 39:7)

David mentioned in another psalm

“Arise, O Lord,
  Confront him, cast him down;
  Deliver my life from the wicked
  with Your sword,

  With Your hand from men, O Lord,
   From men of the world who have
   their portion in this life, And whose
   belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
   They are satisfied with children,
   And leave the rest of their possession
   for their babes.

   As for me, I will see Your face in
   righteousness;  I shall be satisfied when
   I awake in Your likeness.”- David (Ps 17:13-15)

David wanted God to save him from the people in the world, from the ones whom God had filled their stomach with good things. Those who can leave their possession for their children. These are things we desire and things we hope for, but yet David wanted God to save him from these. He would rather hope in the Lord.

For one day we will know that when we leave the world, everything will be empty. It is a fact that we know, but we pretend as if we want to forget it. Therefore, let us be like Moses and David let us not be busy with our heads bowed looking at the things of the world. Let us learn to look up, for we are the citizen of heaven and we need to look upon our heavenly home.

For we are but sojourners on this earth, we came to earth as if we are travellers. We are a temporary guest on earth and one day we need to return home. Will the heavenly kingdom be opened for us? It depends on how we prepared ourselves on earth.

Looking Back At What We Prepared

As human beings, we often prepare for many things. What have we prepared in the past year? People in the world often prepare for many things in life.

Jesus once talked about a rich fool who had prepared many things in life. He was well prepared for retirement and he was contented. For he told himself

“Soul, you have many goods laid up for 
  many years; take your ease; eat, drink,
  and be merry.” – Rich Fool (Lk 12:19)

He thinks that he could enjoy the fruit of his labour it would be a waste not to enjoy. But God said to him.

“Fool! This night your soul will be required
  of you; then whose will those things be
  which you have provided?” – God (Lk 12:20)

A rich fool is a smart man, he knows how to prepare for life and he knows how to make money. But he had forgotten what he really need to prepare. Jesus reminds us through that parable and he asked, “What are you busy preparing for the past year?”

Actually, sometimes we prepare hard for old age and retirement when we are down doing that we even prepared for our own death. We draw up wills and we divide the possession among our children. This preparations are necessary.

But what is more, important is to prepare to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus reminds us of two things that we ought to prepare.

  “And while they went to buy,
    the bridegroom came, and those
    who were ready went in with him
    to the wedding; and the door was shut. 

  “Afterward the other virgins came also,
    saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
   
But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly,
    I say to you, I do not know you.’

  “Watch therefore, for you know neither
    the day nor the hour in which the Son of
    Man is coming.” – Jesus (Matt 25:10-13)

In this parable, the 5 foolish virgins did not prepare extra oil. When the door was shut they were shut out of the door. The oil is often referred to the Holy Spirit, it is the spirit of God dwelling with us. It is something we need to pray for it is not received at the point of Baptism or when you believed.

That is why the apostles need to pray for it, even Mary the mother of Jesus needs to pray for it. It is the guarantee of our inheritance as Paul said it in Eph 1:13-14. 

Besides this Jesus reminds us of one more thing from the book of Revelations.

“Remember therefore how you have
  received and heard; hold fast and repent.
  Therefore if you will not watch, I will
  come upon you as a thief, and you will
  not know what hour I will come upon you.
  You have a few names even in Sardis who
  have not defiled their garments; and they
  shall walk with Me in white, for they are
  worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed
  in white garments, and I will not blot out his
  name from the Book of Life; but I will
  confess his name before My Father and
  before His angels.” – Jesus (Rev 3:3-5)

Here Jesus remind us to look back and remember what we have received and heard. We need to hold fast to that truth that we have learnt initially. Do we still believe in them or have we start to doubt the words of the Lord? Jesus knows who had held on to them and who had left the initial faith.

It is our choice to hold on to our beliefs or to leave them. But our choice will affect our future.

That is why Jesus reminds us to hold fast to what we have heard and to put on our white garments. If we choose to defile our garments we will be rejected. Those who overcome their obstacles and are victorious will be cloth in white and God will not blot his name from the book of life. He will confess him before the Father and before his angels.

Concluding Thoughts

As the new year approaches. We know that there are many uncertainties ahead. We are unsure of what lies ahead but we can ask God to guide us every day. We do not know what troubles we may meet or when we will be deceived and fall from our faith.

But we can ask God to preserve us daily and we can ask him to guide us every day in this new year,

As we celebrate this new year, let us reflect on the previous and let us continue to look up and remember God. May God guide us in this new year and bless us and keep us in the faith.