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According to Google Maps, the distance from Cana to Capernaum, on currently existing roads, is 37.4 kilometres (23.2 miles). Google suggests that you can walk it in 7 hours and 40 minutes, but warns that “this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths”. I don’t know about you, but I think that I would have trouble keeping up a 5 km/hour (3 mph) pace for 7 hours and 40 minutes even in the most ideal conditions. This route is in mountainous terrain, and Capernaum is approximately 200 metres (700 feet) below sea level. Even Google Maps realizes that it will take longer to go from Capernaum to Cana than the other way around, and estimates that the same route up will take 8 hours and 19 minutes. They do offer other routes, but each requires going around Mount Arbel.

When Jesus had returned to Cana after His time in Samaria, a royal official with a sick son was desperate enough to see Jesus that he made the trip up from Capernaum to find Him. Some people read the Biblical account of this event (John 4:46-54) and think, based on what Jesus said regarding the people not believing without seeing signs and wonders (John 4:48), that this royal official had no faith. I think that if he left the his family’s side during this uncertain and difficult time, he had to have had some faith, imperfect though it was. What is not evident in all English translations is that the you in John 4:48 is plural. It wasn’t just the man that Jesus was speaking to, but the crowd. The father with the sick child had enough faith to realize that Jesus could help him, but did not understand that He had the power to do so from a distance or even after the child died.

Jesus could have gone with the man and healed his son in person, but He chose not to perform this miracle publicly. If He had gone home with the official, surely a crowd would have followed to witness it. But Jesus is not limited to healing only those in His presence, and so He healed the boy from a distance, and required the official to choose to have faith in His word (John 4:50), rather than a visible sign. What a difficult choice for that anxious father. After all, he couldn’t just call home, or even run home, and check to see if Jesus was telling the truth. He had to choose to believe or not believe.

People today also ask for proof that God is really God. They want to see signs, but God won’t always give them. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) Interestingly, those who choose to believe first, often get to see and understand later, just as the royal official did. Some things are made clear to those who are willing to see, and some things will have to wait until we are permitted to know fully. (I Corinthians 13:12) The choice is yours though. If you refuse to believe, if you fight against believing, don’t expect God to make understanding easy for you. He requires us to have faith.
This post was inspired by a sermon by Rev. Danny Smith of Middleton Baptist Church.

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
“Who said, ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’?” asked Chris Matthews on his MSNBC-TV program Hardball.

Matthews had been discussing evangelical Christians’ economic views with CBN News correspondent David Brody. In response, Brody did not name the quote’s source, but playfully protested being asked a “church history” question.

Shakespeare may or may not have been flattered. In Hamlet, Polonius offers the famous advice to his son Laertes.

Given Hardball’s rapid-fire nature, Brody’s misattribution of the quote to church history is understandable. Matthews, with his heartfelt and penetrating style, speaks 200 words per minute – with gusts up to 400 – and interrupts often. The crossfire could momentarily confuse anyone.

Misattributed Sayings

But famous sayings often get misattributed. Materials at an annual national student leadership conference in Washington, DC, regularly attributed to Thomas Jefferson the aphorism, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Now, Jefferson may have agreed; he mistrusted strong centralized government and advocated states’ rights. But Lord Acton, the 19th Century British statesman, scholar and aristocrat – born eight years after Jefferson died – is the actual source.

When I noted the problem, the conference moderator readily agreed to edit their materials. But I had erred, too. Acton’s actual wording: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” [Emphasis mine.]

“Cleanliness is next to godliness”

Even experts goof. In Dallas’ Cotton Bowl in 1972, I remember Billy Graham passionately telling assembled thousands that the Bible says “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Yet, Graham’s website (correctly) attributes the statement to 18th Century minister John Wesley.

In fact, many popular sayings get misattributed to the Bible. How about, “This above all – to thine own self be true”? The Bard again, Polonius to Laertes, a few lines after “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

What about “No man is an island”? English poet John Donne.

“Money is the root of all evil.” That must be biblical, right? Close, but the actual biblical text contains significant qualifications: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil….” [Emphasis mine, again.]

“God helps those…?”

Here’s a common one. A university administrator once told me his life philosophy was summed up “by that famous statement, found so many times in the Bible: ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” White House press secretary Jay Carney also once attributed this statement to the Bible. Forms of it exist among Aesop’s Fables and in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, but it’s not in the Bible. I was surprised to learn it actually contradicts a core biblical teaching.

Certainly biblical authors advocate acting responsibly. But on the crucial issue of how humans can connect with God and gain strength for responsible living, it’s not human effort that counts, I discovered to my chagrin. It’s a free “gift.”

Now, this violated my sense of justice. It seemed only fair that my good deeds should earn me a place in heaven. Then I learned that trying to earn eternal life was something like trying to swim from California to Hawaii. Some people will get farther than others, but no one would make it on their own. No matter how good I tried to be, the moral/spiritual gap between my behavior/character and God’s remained infinite.

Apt Words

That’s why, the biblical documents indicate, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us,” (Romans 5:6) bridging the infinite chasm that we humans never could.

I guess the common saying might better read, “God offers to help those who recognize their need…and ask.”

What a difference. I realized that it’s important to learn not only “who said that,” but also what the speaker/writer actually said and meant.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
Copyright © 2012 Rusty Wright


For the last couple of weeks I have been talking about various aspects of the passage of scripture found in John 15:1-17. Two weeks ago I spoke about John 15:13, and how the greatest act of love is to give up your life for another. Last week I spoke about abiding, remaining, in Jesus. (John 15:4-5)

This passage is the one in which Jesus tells the parable of the vine and the branches. The concept of healthy vines would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners, since growing grapes was a common agricultural activity, and it would not have been the first time that the vine was used as an allegory. Just as it is necessary for a branch to be connected to a vine to survive and bear fruit, we need to be connected to Jesus in order to bear spiritual fruit, to do things that will bring glory to our Heavenly Father. In order to bear the best fruit though, we must go through the pruning process.

The term translated as “takes away” (John 15:2) can also have the meaning of “lifts up”. If a branch was not producing fruit as it should, the gardener would lift it up to get more air and light and would prune away the dead wood of the branch. The word translated as “prunes” (John 15:2) has the meaning of “cleanses”. Pruning is not limited to cleaning away the bad parts of the branch; it also sometimes requires removing good parts to allow for better, and removing better parts to allow for the best. When our Heavenly Father, as our gardener, cleanses parts of our lives by changing our circumstances, it is because He has a better plan for us. He is helping us to produce not only more fruit, but much fruit, (John 15:5) fruit that will have lasting spiritual value, and will glorify God.

In last week’s post I talked about the greatest love that one person can have for another, and that we are commanded to have that kind of love. Love can be commanded because it is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling, but an act of the will. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be easier with the warm, fuzzy feelings, but we are nevertheless commanded to love. How can we do it if we don’t feel it?

The answer is found in verses that precede last week’s passage, John 15:4-5. It is simple and complex all at the same time: abide. That is the word used in many translations. Many others, including the NET Bible (the version you see when you scroll over a reference in this blog) use the word remain. Remain is used 12 times within verses 4-16. (John 15:1-17) Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4) We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Him. That does not mean that we are completely helpless. There are a lot of people in this world who do not acknowledge Jesus at all, but who still manage to function. Some are quite successful. But nothing we do will have lasting spiritual value, eternal value, if we do not abide in Him.

How do we abide, remain, in Jesus? John 15:7 gives us the clue: if His words remain in us. The best way for us to remain in Jesus is through scripture reading and prayer, prayer that includes taking time to listen and allowing the Lord to speak to our hearts. Any strong relationship requires time and attention, not just a quick hello (or call for help) now and then. It is by building this close connection that we will bear much fruit--accomplish deeds of eternal spiritual value--and bring honour to our Heavenly Father. (John 15:8)