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Category Archives: General

Hidden In Plain Sight

AG:

My recent post on the ‘Reading the Bible in 3D’ blog.

Originally posted on readingthebiblein3d:

dolphinsby Albert Garlando

Having read the Bible through many times over many years in many different ways I’ve always been trying to improve my comprehension of how, if at all, the whole story fits together. And not just in a systematic or logical way, but in the sense of how it teaches me about who God is, why he acts the way he does and what, if anything, I’m meant to do in response. One can dismiss it as a haphazard sedimentation of religious manipulation collected to control the masses or pacify the minorities, but that doesn’t explain the impact it has had across diverse (and often opposed) cultures and social groups throughout history.

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Posted by on 28/03/2014 in General

 

John the Baptist – Doubting Prophet or Provocateur

beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-1610.jpg!Blog

During my study prep for a sermon from Luke 7, I had a bit of to and fro with Mike Bull about the structure of the passage and where it fits in both the flow of Luke’s narrative and the unfolding covenantal history of the New Testament history books (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts).

The literary structure of the Bible works like a fractal. Layers within layers or if you prefer to use the language of Ezekiel, wheels within wheels. And just like those funky 3D pictures from the 90′s, once you see the pattern you can’t un-see it. God is the greatest architect and the Bible is his handiwork. God also is a covenant maker. He reveals himself, explains how he will relate to men, gives his word (law, commands, promises), explains the consequence of accepting/obeying versus rejecting/disobeying it (blessings, curses, rewards) and then provides for the means for the next generation to inherit the promises and blessings.

Covenantally that looks like this:

Transcendence
       Hierarchy
               Ethics
       Sanctions
Succession

So what? Structurally, the first part of Luke’s gospel (4:14-9:50 after the intro and preamble) concerns the identity of Jesus. Who is he? Covenantally, that’s a role of hierarchy – i.e. how will the God who reveals himself relate to men, how and in whom will he visit his people to help them? So throughout this section of Luke, there are accounts of people interacting with Jesus and determining the answer to “Who are you?” Using a variety of mostly miraculous acts, Luke demonstrates Jesus is the one who has come from God and is the one to follow. The narrative has an interplay between these acts and the reactions and responses of the crowds and more particularly the leading disciples who will (later) become the primary witnesses of Jesus to the Church.

Luke used John the Baptist in his introduction (1:1-4:13) to act as an announcer (A.K.A. a prophet!). Now, midway through the next section, John shows up again, (7:18-35) in a similar role, with a slightly different approach – so it seems. Often described as doubtful and struggling, in a way similar to his Old Testament counterpart, Elijah; I think John is acting in that way, but, there’s a lot more to his role than merely a doubter that the modern reader can identify with and get some sort of consolation or excuse for their dissonance.

John’s role in sending the questions to Jesus helps fill out the answer to the “Who are you?” of this section of Luke. John is already convinced that Jesus is the Priestly King (i.e. the Messiah who will anoint his people with the Holy Spirit of God.) What remains is to confirm that Jesus is also the prophet who is going to inaugurate the new covenant. Jesus’ answer to him makes this plain and Jesus uses it as a teaching opportunity to awaken the crowd to something that John already understands but they don’t. When it comes to “Who is Jesus”, John sees him as King, Priest and Prophet. The people, with their fascination in his miraculous acts, are only seeing a powerful King. If they are going to commit to following Jesus, they need more than a King. They need the anointing empowerment of a priest and the direction of the prophet. John helps clarify the threefold role of Jesus. Jesus, proceeds in chapter 8, to lay down the prophets directions to his people: those that follow Jesus are those that put his words into practice.

When you ‘get that’ John becomes a provocateur among the Jews to agitate and incite them to realise Jesus full identity. It follows that if Jesus is really God’s final prophet, then why aren’t you listening to him and putting his words into practice? He who has ears to hear …

 
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Posted by on 22/07/2013 in General

 

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AG:

Conversations with Church friends often stay within polite and superficial boundaries. Yet, we know that when we are with the Church, of all places, we should be able to go a bit deeper and talk about genuine spiritual needs and help each other move towards godliness. What other helpful ways have you thought of to get yourself and others talking about something other than sport, politics or the weather?

Originally posted on andrewhong.net:

What are conversations like at church? are they encouraging – or superficial? do conversations at morning tea lead you to see the glory of God – or are they bland and predictable?

Fellowship is meant to do great things for us. It’s meant to encourage us, strengthen us, and fire up our love for God – but often the reality of our conversations falls far short, and that can leave us feeling alone and uncared for.

Lately I’ve been thinking about simple things that people can realistically do in conversation that contribute positively to the body life of the church. Here are the six things that I have come up with:

Ask about a situation you know about

“Hey, how have things been going with that guy from work you told me about? What’s happened?”

Maybe you know from a previous conversation how they have been struggling at home with…

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Posted by on 21/11/2012 in General

 

AG:

 

This article, originally by J. C. Ryle, is an excellent and practical approach to reading the Bible.

 

Originally posted on The J.C. Ryle Archive:

1.Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it; and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it , which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

2.Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant…

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Posted by on 12/08/2012 in General

 

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Sunday School with Gospel GRUNT

In leading and training Sunday School teachers in the past I have often found one the greatest challenges was helping the teachers stay away from soft polite moralism and instead teach kids the Bible and how Jesus and the Gospel explain all of it. Now, there are many reasons for this. Not the least of which is decades of Sunday School curriculum that is nothing more than a list of religious morals dressed up in Joseph’s splendid coat. As a result, we have generations of Sunday School teachers telling kids nothing more than God wants you to be good boys and girls, so sit quietly and colour in your picture of Joseph’s coat. Like moths to a flame, both the teacher and the kids are more fascinated by a colourful cloak than how and why God included the Joseph story in the Bible in the first place.

The idea of sitting quietly, not rocking on your chair, or otherwise not misbehaving lead thousands of kids each year to declare, (accurately IMHO!) that Sunday School is BORRRRING! Another problem, connected to this, is trying to encourage men to teach in Sunday School. Even those who aspire to leadership as Elders refuse to get involved (even though as Elders they are supposed to be able to teach!), and though they won’t admit it, for the same reason: Gluing coloured strips of paper to a paddle pop stick and calling it Joseph just doesn’t appeal to them.

Now, there’s much that could be said on this, and much that Pastors can do to make sure their people are better equipped with the gospel than just knowing how to use a glue stick. Here is a little prod from Peter Leithart to give a positive example of how you could ramp up your Sunday School class a little and actually teach the Bible instead of something that could easily be mistaken for Confucianism or a re-run of the Brady Bunch. Read the whole article and try it in your Sunday School or Kids Talk. He suggests using chants and clapping and yelling as a way to help the kids learn the information. Chants might seem a little weird, but did you think so the last time you were at a sports game and were cheering for your team? They’re not as weird as you think. Plus the active learning will help the kids retain the information in a way that isn’t BORRRRING!

I’m trying to embed certain basic biblical-theological structures and concepts by using chants, clapping and drumming along, acting out various stories and rituals, etc.

… I’ve decided to use the four faces of the cherubim as an overall template for summarizing the Bible.  The four faces are ox, lion, eagle, and man.  They correspond to the four major covenants of the Bible – Mosaic, Davidic, exilic/postexilic, and new covenant.  They also correspond to the offices of Christ: Oxen are sacrificial animals and thus represent priests; the lion is a royal animal; prophets soar and see like eagles; finally, Jesus comes to bring all those offices to their fullest expression.  The Mosaic covenant focuses on the work of the priests; the Davidic on the work of kings; in the exilic/postexilic era the prophets come into their own; the new covenant is the fully human covenant, the exaltation of humanity in the Man Jesus.  Here are the chants I’ve used, all of which need to be said rhythmically to have their fully hypnotic, mesmerizing effect:

OxLion, Eagle, Man

PriestKingProphet, Man

Moses is an oxDavid is a lion; prophets are eagles; Jesus is da man (for little kids, this is best done with hand motions – horns for ox, claws and a growl for lion, wings for eagle, erect posture for man)

He has several more ideas. If you follow a pattern like this you’ll be laying a solid foundation of Biblical Theology for yourself and your kids. Plus you won’t have to worry about finding enough glue sticks ;)

What other ways can you think of to actively engage kids in learning the Bible?

 
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Posted by on 14/06/2012 in General

 

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Heaven on Earth?

An idea often found in Christian devotionals is to equate the entry heaven with occupation of Canaan by Israel under Joshua. This creates a very confusing image of heaven. Surely heaven is not a place of conflict but a rest from all conflicts? This type of interpretation misses the point and purpose of the book of Joshua.

Drawing from my notes taken during my Bible College Old Testament History class way back last century I offer the following thoughts about the significance of the story of Joshua.

The occupation of Canaan is not representative of the believer entering Heaven. Canaan is inherited through testing that results in maturity and conquest leading to rest. Canaan is the picture of the believer’s present position and possession in Christ (Heb 3:1 – 4:16).

A Christian is not given a ticket that allows them to escape the singe of hell before they enjoy a free ride to heaven. Those who enter into covenant with God have received the Word of God, are called to obey it, or be rejected by it. The life of persevering faith will involve an active, intentional fight against sin as you strive towards holiness to appropriate what God offers you in Christ (1 Cor 10:1-14, Heb 12:14-17, 2 Pet 1:5-9, Phil 2:12-13, 1 Thes 5:24).

What should the Christian take away from the book of Joshua? We live and work from a position of victory, but we must not surrender to apathy and presumption (Rom 6:1-23).

 
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Posted by on 10/05/2012 in General

 

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