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Category Archives: Bible

The Revelation will not be televised

One of the quickest ways to start an argument, … er, um … lively debate, among Christians is to bring up the book of Revelation. For some reason great charity and flexibility is accommodated on a whole host of bible teachings and topics but if you step out of line with your view about this book, look out! Heretic! Liberal! Fundamentalist!

Most believe and accept that Revelation combines literary genres and most agree that apocalyptic is the major genre. But what is apocalyptic? For some Mad Max or Zombie Apocalypse come to mind and, sadly, that is usually reflected in how they teach the book. For others a more scholarly definition might be used where apocalyptic isn’t necessarily about a nuclear holocaust. It’s a story involving supernatural symbolism. Apocalyptic books (like Daniel in the Old Testament or works such as 1 Enoch and The Apocalypse of Abraham) gave a minority audience, under duress or persecution, reassurance to hang in there and anticipate vindication. The books rely heavily on symbolism and cultural allusion to get the point across. A close idea in concept today might be the way comedians use satire, innuendo and double entendre to ridicule politicians. In the West of course they aren’t subtle because they’re not going get crucified upside down or thrown into a colosseum and ripped apart by wild animals. But, in the first century, the way to get your point across that the little guy can stand up to the man, is via an apocalyptic narrative.

Revelation fits this method. It’s a story; it involves lots of cultural and religious symbolism; the recipients were facing constant danger; it uses coded satire and parody to portray oppressive authority figures who get their comeuppance. Reading it this way, instead of as a codified prediction of microchips, atomic bombs and bar code technology gave a sense to Christians in Asia Minor that the abusive intolerant Roman officials and sectarian Jews didn’t have the last say in how the world will turn out.

Today instead of parodying Rome the writer might have included media infotainment personalities and lifestyle reality show comperes. After all, these are the dominant figures that control the opinions and mood of the public. Today going against the tide of popular opinion as perceived and broadcast in mainstream media will result in ostracism, exclusion and derision. Don’t believe me? What’s your view on changing marriage laws? How about the solution to management of boat people? Now, what’s your real view compared to the one you “share” with your workmates? Well, of course they’re the same, aren’t they? You’re not a racist bigot after all, are you? Well, not so long as you stay quiet about the idols and altars of the MSM.

And behold I was seated in lounge and the TV came on and I looked into heaven and heard the introductory theproject_panel1_300fanfare and I heard the voice of the great host say, “Sit down and I will show you news, done differently, and you will know what to think about the things you have seen.” There was a panel in the centre of the vision with four great co-hosts each one beautifully styled and surrounded by a great audience. The audience clapped and cheered every time the co-hosts spoke. One of the co-hosts was a comedian who belittled the prime ministers and presidents of the world with his razor wit. Another, next to him had the face of a maiden and laughed at all the comedian’s jokes. The third was a special guest brought into the studio to be a foil for the fourth co-host. Night and day the fourth co-host asserted his dogmatic opinion. His opinion was superior to all others and no other opinions would be tolerated, not on his watch and not in his country. And the audience members all bowed to the wit and charm of the co-hosts and surrendered their will to those who sat at the news desk for the co-hosts are all-knowing and none dared disagree with them. Their words are all-powerful, just and true.*

Revelation is not about zombies with microchips in their foreheads. It’s a satirical parody of the infotainment masters of the first century. Their dominance of the ratings wars will not last and their coronation will not be televised.
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* Check out Revelation Chapter 4 to see how the original author did it.

 

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The Bible in 3D – Press Release

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The full website and details are here. Below is the press release which was prepared today after we did the photo shoot.

For most people, reading the Bible is like watching a foreign movie with no subtitles. A seminar in Katoomba on 22 March 2014 will take the mystery away and make it jump off the page… in 3D.

Doug Haley and Mike Bull, both from Katoomba, and Albert Garlando from Sydney, are holding a one day seminar in the ballroom of the Carrington Hotel for Bible readers and lovers of great literature. It is designed to show how the ancient texts use the same techniques to connect with people as the screenwriters, directors and musicians behind today’s pop culture.

“Modern readers see texts as flat transmissions of data, so they miss a whole channel of communication,” said Mike Bull. “To compensate, Bible scholars have given us a list of rules which is as long as the Bible itself! But the Bible is just like any other well-crafted book. You just dive right in and let the author fill you in as you go along. We’ll show you how the ancient writers added depth using clever tools like symbols, symmetry, repetition and fractals.”

“The good thing is that the best TV shows and movies are using these sorts of things more and more in their stories. The Bible is a very visual, artistic and musical book, so this new generation raised on visual media already has all the skills they need to understand and enjoy it.”

“The most surprising payoff is the book of Revelation. Readers don’t get what it’s about because they don’t have the books of Moses under their skin. It’s like watching Shrek with no familiarity with the fairy tales, nursery rhymes or pop culture behind its clever references and ironic jokes. Watching Shrek is good training for Bible study!”

Doug Haley, who is doing a PhD on Isaiah and tutoring in Old Testament at the University of Sydney, will introduce the Bible’s visual language. Mike Bull, a local graphic designer and theology blogger, will explain the literary devices. Albert Garlando is the pastor of Marsfield Community Church in Sydney, and he will talk about how all this highbrow stuff plays out in life and ministry.

For info on the seminars and a free ebook, visit www.readingthebiblein3d.com

Full contact details:

Michael Bull
PO Box 331
Katoomba NSW 2780
T 0419 415 056
info @ readingthebiblein3d.com

 
 

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Reading the Bible in 3D

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I am the lesser of 3 speakers at a conference in March next year. There is a website with the details, background, booking information etc. There is also a blog that we will post to in the lead up to the conference next year.

A bit of my bio was recently posted on the blog, a copy is below. Add the Blog to your feeder or watch list and stay up to date as things unfold in the months ahead.

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“I was relying on techniques and strategies, not on the God who revealed himself in Scripture and in Jesus.”

It might not have been the best career strategy, but when I finished high school I went directly into Bible college to train for pastoral ministry. I wasn’t a red hot brand plucked from the fire, I was the red hot brand that was going to start the fire… a bonfire: Elijah versus the prophets of Baal style. Or so I thought. But there is only so much momentum that youthful zeal can provide. Sooner rather than later wisdom is needed, but very often reneging on “naive” youthful absolutes is misinterpreted as wisdom. Instead of allowing God to shape you and recreate you through death to self and new life, many opt to abandon the Bible and quench their desire to achieve something for God. I didn’t have that option.

A few short years after finishing my initial training, I went to Africa to serve in a preaching and teaching role. I was a sort of travelling trainer of local Church planters. At the time I thought nothing of the fact that I was only 26 and was holding weekly seminars to tens and hundreds of men many years my senior, telling them, “This is how it’s done!” Over and over again I encountered situations that I had no idea how to handle: Cultural problems, medical crises, financial administration, political unrest, murders, witchcraft (not the Hollywood stuff, the real thing), along with all the rest of the issues preachers and missionaries have to deal with in third world countries. It was great. I was having a ball!

In the middle of all of that though I discovered that I needed to reassess my grasp of how the Bible works and how it applies to life and ministry. The techniques and strategies that I had absorbed and assumed as a teenager just didn’t work. But that is the point of my story. I was relying on techniques and strategies, not on the God who revealed himself in Scripture and in Jesus. I was forced to go back and rebuild a theology that is for all of life not just a lecture hall.

I am not speaking at the 3D conference as a scholar or a tried and tested veteran of ministry. If this seminar needed another slogan, it would be, “Blokes punching above their weight”. Certainly, I have completed the odd tour of duty here and there and maybe even earned a stripe or two, but I am no expert. Rather, I position myself more as the lowest common denominator. This is to say, if I can get this stuff then so can you.

The idea that God reveals himself in the Bible as a Covenant maker and continues to work out that same process in his providence is shaping the way I live, think, read, do theology and serve the Church. It is intensely practical. I am finding that I am increasingly pressed to study the Bible in more detail and to love God more deeply as he constantly breaks me and remakes me.

I hope the 3D seminars light a fire in you as well, and give you greater momentum and vision to live for the glory of our Lord and Saviour.

Albert Garlando
Pastor, Marsfield Community Church

Biblein3D-SEMINARS

 

 

 
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Posted by on 13/07/2013 in Bible, Hermenutics

 

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Abra Kadabra … Whamo! You’re a Christian

There is a type of thinking that is popular among Christians that says you become a Christian simply by repeating the words of a prayer to God. This prayer varies in exact wording among different denominations and branches of the Christian Church, however the basic elements are all the same. Say the prayer, and hey presto you’re now a Christian. If you ever struggle with your faith in the future or fall away completely, that’s OK, because once upon a time, you prayed a prayer so you have a spiritual insurance policy against fire damage.

One of the problems with that idea is there are no examples of it in the Bible. Another is that it is not a common practice throughout Church history until very recently (last century). But, the biggest problem is when you base your spiritual confidence in something you do instead of something God has done in the person of Jesus then you are “placing all bets” on your own personal worth and accomplishments. If that’s the case, you had better make sure your record is completely, 100%, perfect.

I prayed a prayer, therefore I am going to heaven. In other words, I’ve paid my dues, so God owes me one.
Christianity is never presented this way in the Bible. Instead what we see is Jesus calling people to repent of self-confidence and self accomplishment and instead trust in his accomplishment on their behalf. i.e. to trust in his completely, 100%, perfect record and perfect offering of himself to satisfy the justice of God on your behalf.

My self-confidence and sense of personal peace or enjoyment of my faith will vary all the time, but the accomplishment of Jesus stands and remains consistent. If I doubt my sincerity when I prayed such and such a prayer, my confidence could waver. But, if I doubt, or am discouraged, defeated, depressed or disillusioned in myself Jesus has called me to look away from myself and look to him. I am not a Christian because of something I have done or haven’t done. Rather I am a Christian because I am relying and trusting in what the Bible says Jesus has done on my behalf.

J.D. Greear has written a little book called “Stop asking Jesus into your heart”. He explains the difference between relying upon Jesus and “praying a special prayer”.

“Repentance and faith are heart postures you take toward the finished work of Christ. You might express the beginning of that posture in a prayer. But don’t make the mistake of equating that prayer with the posture. The sinner’s prayer is not a magic incantation or a recipe you follow to get a salvation cake. The real stuff—the stuff that matters—is the posture of repentance and faith behind the words you speak. The prayer is good only insofar as it verbalizes the posture.

we might express our assumption of that new posture in a “sinner’s prayer”—or by “asking Jesus into our hearts,” or some equivalent thereof—but just because we’ve prayed that prayer doesn’t necessarily mean we have repented and believed. The flip side is also true: just because we haven’t prayed that prayer (or can’t remember praying it) doesn’t mean we haven’t repented and believed. “Repentance and belief” and “asking Jesus into our hearts” are not always interchangeable.”

~ Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear

Are you repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus or are you trusting in some words you once recited as a prayer?

 

 

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Reading the Bible? You must be out of your mind!

When responding to a proposal to distribute Bibles to school children in the UK as a way of marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible translation a couple of years ago, Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, said: “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.”

Reading the Bible is one thing. Obtaining something valuable as a result of the reading is another. In Dawkins opinion, reading it would “disabuse [the reader] of the pernicious falsehood” that the Bible is a moral book.

I agree with his statement. The Bible is not about morals, nor is it an polemic on how to be more moral. It simply is not so. However, if you have never read it before, it can baffle you considerably. Yet, so many who do read (some of) it, still insist it is a moral story. This ignores the authors intent because the Bible is not a moral book teaching a behavioural code. It is God revealing himself.

as it is written:

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9-11

Because he is revealing himself, he is the one that gets to decide the meaning of what he says. Without God setting the agenda for what the Bible means, you become a bit like a sighted person trying to tell a blind person what colour looks like. You have no frame of reference. God gives us his frame of reference in the Bible.

Related Article:

Why words are adequate

 
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Posted by on 18/02/2013 in Bible, Hermenutics, Reading

 

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You have to be blind to see it

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What does God owe you and I? How about someone who has given their life to the service of God? What is the obligation on God’s part to repay that person for their service and sacrifice? What can be said to someone who pours out their life in some far off country caring for terminally ill patients without any access to modern western medical technology or perhaps works in a refugee border camp providing education to children? Surely such saints will call for some sort of reward from God?

In Matthew’s gospel, the Apostle Peter seems to ask a similar question;

See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?
~ Matt 19:27

In response to that Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. You might think that was the end of it, if not for the way Matthew continues to build his narrative. Following the parable, Matthew relates Jesus third and last prediction of what will happen when he reaches Jerusalem. What follows after that are two accounts of people asking Jesus for something. As you compare the two accounts a sharp contrast is clear in how they respond to Jesus and what they think God owes them.

In the first account, the Sons of Zebedee, James and John, have their Mother ask Jesus to give them the highest positions of honour in his future kingdom. Evidently it was insufficient for their ambition to be promised “thrones“. They wanted much more; to make sure they were above their peers, the other 10 apostles.

The second account also is about two men, this time both are blind beggars. Their wish is that Jesus would show them mercy and that they might be able to see.

What a vast difference. James and John assume a posture of entitlement and Jesus corrects their view of themselves and their view of him. What they couldn’t see, or didn’t hear, was “the last will be first and the first will be last.”

The blind men, however, have a posture of penitence and desperation. In response, Jesus also corrects their ability to see, by healing their physical blindness.

The reactions of those nearby each pair is also illuminating. The remaining 10 apostles are indignant that James and John would dare ask such a question. After all, it’s what they wanted ask (as indicated by Jesus calling them all together to teach some more), but James and John got in first. In the case of the blind beggars, the surrounding crowd is embarrassed and upset with the beggars because they seem to be asking the wrong question. When the crowd tries to silence them they only scream out even louder.

Some, it seems, follow Jesus to manipulate God and others. They may disguise it as leadership or influence, but it’s all about their ambition to be the big men on campus. The argument they use is, similar to Peter’s earlier question, “I follow you, therefore you should give me …fill-in-the-blank…

Others, like the blind beggars, follow Jesus because they have received his mercy. Rather than seeking to make an exchange with God; their performance for his reward; they rely solely on his mercy because Jesus has already made the exchange by giving himself as a ransom for sinners.

Are you in one of these two groups? Or, perhaps, do you identify more closely with those who observed the pairs of men interacting with Jesus?

 

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The wasted virtue of self denial

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When Oscar Wilde said that “Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity” he could easily have observed almost any professing Christian in any age or place who mistakenly believe their abstinence was the key that unlocked all the blessings of heaven. In Matthew’s, “proof text” for Christian self-denial there is a preposition that is often overlooked in practice and lifestyle that is responsible for spiritual leprosy.

The preposition Wildes’ lepers have ignored is in Matthew 10:39, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it“: or “because of me“.

There is no gain or merit in a life of self denial, strict discipline, adherence, stoicism, charitable works and the like outside of Christ. If the sacrifice in possession, place or relationship is done now to manipulate or bargain a greater inheritance in eternity, then it will fail. We cannot merit grace. We cannot earn God’s favor.

Rather, if, in the pursuit of Christ, to gain more of him, to know him, love him, serve him or to, in the John Edwards sense, deepen my affectation for him, by him and to him, I suffer some loss here and now in relationships, recognition or reward that will be to my eternal gain. For though I may have lost those things I gained Christ. He is my exceeding great reward; to know him and to experience the power that was at work in his resurrection in my life; that is a true and elegant sufficiency.

The call is not to suffer for sufferings sake as though by my suffering I repay part of an impossible debt. It is a rejoinder that as you suffer “because of me” you are, in fact, finding your life not losing it. Don’t seek to suffer, but when it comes receive it gladly “because of me” and rejoice in the eternal life that Christ has given. Self denial is a wasted virtue because so many think that through their efforts, they achieve or earn God’s gift. “I have suffered so I deserve better.” When that is your posture you are seeking your life on your terms and you only have loss waiting for you. Write it all off for the sake of Christ and gain everything.

 
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Posted by on 13/01/2013 in Bible, discipleship, Jesus

 

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