Similiar Proverbs in Ancient Chinese and the Bible - Man Proposes and God Disposes

'Man proposes and God disposes' is a common saying in English. It can be inferred from Proverbs such as 16:9 and 19:21. Ancient Chinese has an equivalent saying as in 谋事在人,成事在天”.
'Man proposes and God disposes' is a common saying in English. It can be inferred from Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21.
  • Pro 16:9  The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. 
  • Pro 19:21  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. 
  • Pro 16:1  The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
Ancient Chinese has an equivalent saying as in “谋事在人,成事在天”, Planning belongs to the man, but God determines its success. If you use Google translator, it gives you exactly, 'Man proposes, God disposes'.  The source of the Chinese statement comes from the book "History of the Three Kingdoms".(明·罗贯中《三国演义》第一百三回). The source is actually longer, "谋事在人,成事在天”,不可强也。It has an additional phrase of 'one cannot force it'. 

What can we learn from it? 
  1. God's way and plan overrides man's plans.
    • Pro 21:30  No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD. 
  2. It is better at the very start to consult God as to His will and plan. 
    • 1Pe_2:15  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 
    • 1Jn_3:23  And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 
    • Pro 3:5-8  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  (6)  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
  3. The very least is to stay in the path of righteousness and turn away from evil.
    • Prov 3: (7)  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  (8)  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
  4. It does not teach us to just do nothing and not to plan at all. No planning and doing are laziness that will lead to poverty. We are created for good work, to be the salt and light.
    • Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 
    • Mat 5:16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
    • Augustine has a quote, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you". 
We can perhaps change it to , God will it and man follows it counting also on the grace of God that enables me to Php 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me

Joh 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Lim Liat (c) 24 Dec 2013


Bible Study Methods

The basic method of Bible Study is the Inductive Bible Method of ODA making up of Observation, Discovery and Application.

  1. Observation: Look for the facts recorded. Try to find the answers for the 5W1H questions. 
  2. Discovery of Meaning or Interpretation: What do the observed facts say. 
  3. Applications: How do I apply what I learned in my life. Why are the promises to hold on to, the commandments to obey, and the specific actions to take in my present situation? 
  • There is one caveat, that is not to over generalized nor over spiritualize on the text. Please follow the hermeneutic principles.
Here is the list of blog posts that cover Bible Study Method.
  1. Effective Bible Study with Mind Mapping Method using Ps 48
  2. Meditating on God's Words using Mind-mapping
  3. Meditation on the Bible by Reduction
  4. Understanding a Passage in its Context - Illustrat...
  5. How to Meditate on God's Word
  6. The True Gospels of Blessings including Prosperity using 5WH2
  7. Bringing the Words from the Mind into the Heart

5 Keys for A Happy & Good Life

The 5 keys for a happy and good life as prescribed in the Bible are not speaking evils, not telling lies, not doing evil, doing good and striving for peace. The prescription is stated the Old Testament Psalm and quoted again in the New Testament by Peter showing its importance and applicability. Most importantly, God will ensure that it happens as promised.
Here is the mind-map showing the 2 bible references and the assurance that God will make sure it happens as prescribed:

 Here are the take away:
  1. The Objectives
    1. Enjoyable, Pleasurable, Vitality in Living.... loving life.
    2. Long Healthy Life
    3. Good, Happy, Blessings.
  2. The Methods - 5 Keys:
    1. Speech
      1. Not speaking evil.
        1. speaking evil of and about people and against God
        2. speaking words of discouragement and not of faith
      2. Not telling lies.
        1. Not telling lies include not telling so called white-lies.
        2. We need to know that we have the right and the obligation to keep quiet. There is the right time and situation and the right way to disclose the truth to the right person.
    2. Acts
      1. Not doing evil work. 
        1. By what standards do we use to judge evil or good? By God standards according to the Bible. 
        2. By motivation and not superficial actions too.
        3. Work of disobedience, work that causes others to sin are evil.
        4. We have to be careful of the impact of our behavior on others. 1Co 10:23  "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. 
      2. Do Good
        1. This is the opposite of 'not doing evil'
        2. Being neutral, not doing evil is not good enough. Doing good work, set the examples, for others to follow is lot more powerful and useful.
      3. Strive for Peace with all your heart 
        1. Peace does not come easily. It takes striving for ... hard work and sacrifices and much wisdom in resolving conflicts, communicating clearly, and coming out with win-win solutions, persuasion and changing of expectations etc.
        2. It should comes from our heart and not just the mind. Peace takes lots of will and love. The peace between God and man is achieved at the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.
        3. Peace within our heart comes from freedom from accusations of sins. Peace with others comes from good relationships with them. We are also often called to be the peace-maker for others, essentially bring peace within the family, work place and even the world.
  3. The Assurance
    1. How can we be sure the prescriptions work? Who is able to guarantee it? God said He will fulfill what He said. 
  4. Not just long but a meaningful and fulfilling life.
    1. When Peter quoted from Psalm 34, he dropped the long or many days and shortened it to a good time. A long life deprived of meaning and fulfillment could be a wasteful life.
Please reflect on these five keys and see what specific actions you can take to have a more fulfilling life. Are you suffering from the guilt and consequences for the past evil you have said about others, situations and even yourself? Are there the needs for telling lies to get something? Are you careful in disclosing the truth? What evil acts should you stop doing and make remedial work? What good work and examples have you done recently? Are you fighting for your rights or pride rather than making peace? Can you be more understanding and patience towards others especially your spouse and children? Have you been listening to them?

May God bless you and empower you to enjoy life in the midst of this challenging times. Let your light shine forth in this difficult times.

Lim Liat (c) 15 Dec 2013


Life is about Living to Die Well -Ecclesiastes 6

A study on Ecclesiastes 6 shows us that life is about how to live so as to die well. It is being able to have no regrets, die in peace and be ready to meet our Creator. This is also the essence of the message of the book of Ecclesiastes even though it starts with 'Vanity and Meaingless'.  Do we have a plan now to die well?
I have two private Bible Study Groups meeting regularly at my home, one in English and one in Mandarin. They used to cover different topics in the past. But few months ago, both groups decided to study on this seldom studied book, the book of Ecclesiastes. I usually prepared the study months before and blogged in FBSG Friday Bible Study Group. Then we will have the discussion, and I will update the blog with the new discoveries from our discussion. It is interesting and beneficial as we continue to learn more everytime go through the same chapter. Last week, the Chinese group had a discussion on this chapter 6. The Bible Study on this chapter can be found in The Ironies of Life and the Search.

In this week discussion, we found the following 5 regrets of life:
  1. A Rich and famous life that is short. Don't waste our health in pursuit of wealth and fame. Learn to have a balance life. Wealth and Fame without health to enjoy life is a waste. 
  2. Many Children and Long Life without peace and a tragic death. We learn that material wealth and long life (regret of point 1) has no meaning too. Life is much more than material wealth and fame. Just having many children without them being good and having good relationships are actually the cause of much headaches and heartaches. Good and peaceful relationships, especially within the family are important too. There are the materials needs and also the mental and social needs. Dying in peace, without regrets, without worries, and be ready to meet our Creator is a good life. 
  3. An uncontended life. Just working for money and trusting money to provide for satisfaction and meaning is actually a foolish and regretable act! We have the parable of the rich fool Luke 12:13-21. Wisdom is about how to live rightly and well and it better than being foolish and waste one life. Chinese Classics teaches us to know how to live rightly first before we pursue technical knowledge and skills. So we see knowledge is of two kinds - moral and technical knowledge. Right moral behavior is more important than material wealth.  Proverbs 28:6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse. We learn to be contented with one has than to be frustrated with one desires.
  4. Striving with the Unchangeables. Not knowing one's own limit and ability and think too highly of oneself and wanting even to challenge the natural order, and even the Creator will lead to frustrations and sorrows. Lots of bombastic talks with very little execution is waste.
  5. Not knowing the future especially the afterlife. The greatest worry that a man has is not knowing the future. He has no answer but believe not the gospel Jn 3:16?
The Take-away:

Life is about preparing how to die well. Dying well needs us to know the truth, to know and receive Jesus Christ as the Son of God into our life, and then to live out this Christ within us, then we may confidently depart this world at the time of death in peace.

For a practical plan to prepare for death when one is near death, see http://www.ted.com/talks/judy_macdonald_johnston_prepare_for_a_good_end_of_life.html

Related Issues on Death:

Dr. Anthony Campolo asked fifty people over the age of 95: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?”
The top three answers he received:
1. “I would reflect more.”
2. “I would risk more.”
3. “I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.”

Also read the details, not just the title of, Regrets of the Dying http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html

Here is the list, I added some comments to highlight the meaning given in the details (if you don't have the time to read the full passage)...

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Live out my dream - my calling.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard - Should have spent time with family.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. Resolve ill feelings for Better Relationships.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Lim Liat (c) 9 Dec 2013


Understanding a Passage in its Context - Illustration with Judge Not

A popular phrase nowadays is "Judge not, that you be not judged."(Mat 7:1). To understand it fully, we will need to use the context of the verse. Our understanding of it will be improved if we also lookup similar passages in the Bible and follow the hermeneutic principle of "letting the Bible interprets the Bible".

Last Sunday (1 Dec 2013) Mandarin Service Sermon by Pastor Jack Ng has the title "可以判断,不可论断'. Using Google translate, we get 'You can judge, can not judge'! The correct translation is "Can judge but not prejudge or condemn". Or 'Don't jump to conclusions without investigation". But how can we tell if it is the correct translation or interpretation? We need to apply the hermeneutic principle of context.

It is interesting that Ps Ng started with James 4:11-12 instead of the usual Mat 7:1.

Jas 4:11-12  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  (12)  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

How does 'speaking evil' tie-up with 'judging the law'? Whose standards are you using to judge?
It is about us using our own standards rather than the Biblical standards and then conclude and say that a person is evil (breaking our standards). When our judgment is based on standards that disagree with the biblical standards we are actually saying that the biblical standards are not good enough or even wrong, and our standards are better. We become the giver of the laws instead of God! But actually, our power and wisdom are limited. We are not God the life-giver and creator of all. Does that me that we cannot judge? No. It does mean that we must judge by using the standards of God, God's laws. We must also be able to see clearly, have a clear understanding of the 5W1H of the events and people. This point is pointed by Jesus in the Matthew or Luke discourse:

See clearly without Biases, Prejudices. Don't be blind. Discovery of 5W1H
Mat 7:1-5  "Judge not, that you be not judged. (2)  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (3)  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (4)  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? (5)  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Luk 6:37-39  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:  (38)  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.  (39)  And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?

Some people said that a judgment is making an assertion of the 'why', the motivation, the reasons for the action. The motivation is hidden, and we can never be sure. Even if we ask the person involved, we cannot be sure that he is telling the truth! We can only make the most carefully considered inference as to the motive behind the action. A judge is supposedly the wise person trained for doing this job. The punishment given by the judge depends must on his interpretation of the motive of the person concerned. For example, pre-mediated murder and impulse trigger manslaughter have different degrees of punishment.

So, these two passages show us that we can judge well but seeing clearly (finding out and examining all the facts, and making careful inferences as to the motives) and using Biblical Laws or standards. We are not to prejudge and then speak evil of another. Speaking evils can usually be found in gossiping. 

In some cases, the breaking of God's laws can be quite clear to see. Such as stealing or committing adultery. But again, please find the supporting evidence first before the accusation. The devil is the great accuser. See 1 Cor 5:1-5

We can draw the following picture to help us understand this judging issue:

Prejudging is the short-cut process of jumping to conclusions without careful and objective finding out of facts and analysis and often too without following God's standards but one own inconsistent or even double standards.

For more on how to judge wisely, please see :

Lim Liat (c) 3 Dec 2013