Every great public speech, presentation or sermon

Mr Bean in Church

That you’ve ever heard, if some recent chatter coming out of Sydney is to be believed, is at LEAST 45 minutes long. Or, however long you think a presentation, sermon or church talk ought to be so as not to be considered “short“.

The banter erupted when someone made a suggestion that Sydney based Anglican ministers limit their sermons to 20 minutes. Hilarity ensued as all sorts of “experts” protested that they couldn’t possible explain something so complex as a Bible passage in less than 40 minutes. Although the actual number of minutes varied, the general consensus was something along the line of, “If it’s too short than I’m not doing a good job as a speaker.”

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Martin Luther: What does it mean to have a god?

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People talking today about the 10 commandments often loosely quote* the reformer Martin Luther saying, breaking any of the commandments is always a result of breaking the first – i.e. in other words, idolatry – or trusting in and worshiping someone or something other than the personal God who gave Israel the 10 commandments.

Background to the 10 Commandments

The first time the 10 commandments appear in the Bible is when God gave them to Moses. Israel had just dramatically escaped 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The introduction to the first commandment mentions this, even though it is often left out.

Continue reading “Martin Luther: What does it mean to have a god?”

Oxygen 14 Conference Speaker Bryan Chapell and book review

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One of the key note speakers at the KCC 2014 Oxygen Conference is Dr. Bryan Chapell. Bryan is highly regarded in the evangelical community as a preacher, teacher, and author.  He became the Senior Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Bryan has written numerous books, including Christ-Centered Preaching, Christ-Centered Worship, The Wonder of it All, The Promises of Grace, Each for the Other, Holiness by Grace and Praying Backwards. In addition to works written for theological purposes, he also is the author of a children’s book, I’ll Love You Anyway and Always.

Bryan is married to his wife of 34 years, Kathy, and they have three married children (Colin, Jordan, and Corinne Mather), and a daughter (Kaitlin) who is a high school senior.

A recent review of Christ-Centered Preaching was posted by at 9 Marks by Phil Newton. This is a good primer for those already enrolled in the Preaching Elective at Oxygen. There are still a few limited spaces to enrol if you are coming but haven’t yet registered and chosen your elective stream.

Benefits of Leviticus

I am about to end a 7 week study of the first 7 chapters of the Old Testament book Leviticus. This section of the book deals with the sacrificial system of worship used in Israel from 1446BC when they left Egypt up to about AD70 when the last temple was destroyed.

This book has been ridiculed and attacked because of the strong indictments it makes against purification and ceremonial behaviours that Israel was to abstain from. These seem too harsh for the post modern sensitive eclectic spiritualists and anti-theists. Many Christians have shied away from the book instead of engaging it head on to deal with the counter cultural precepts it has.

My 7 week study didn’t get to the controversial personal purity laws – that comes later on, maybe next year 😉 Instead, I focused on the ritual sacrifice ceremonies introduced at the beginning and sought to understand how these fit into the overall story of the Bible and, what, if any, instruction or relevance they have for anyone today.

Why not teach something easier or a little more directly applicable to a modern hearer? Why not emphasise Bible stories or passages that have universal appeal on matters of peace, harmony and personal fulfilment? To answer that, a few months ago, before starting the series, I jotted down a few of the benefits of studying Leviticus. Some of these apply to any book of the Bible and some are specific to Leviticus.

1. All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable. Full stop. Period. c.f. 2 Timothy 3:16-17. If the reliability and authority of the Bible is impugned by Leviticus than the rest of it is worth kindling. So, it is a worthwhile exercise to wrestle with this book, in an honest way, to understand it through historical and grammatical interpretation to find the original authorial intent and the original audience expectation (as much as may be possible with available internal and external evidentiary sources, references and support).

2. Psalm 119:130The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” i.e. through the reading and study of one part of the Bible we will improve and increase our understanding of other parts of the Bible. Instead of quoting one or two selective verses from the book of Leviticus and making a biased criticism about how it is out of date, irrelevant, oppressive, sexist, discriminatory and contradictory, why not read all of it and see how it integrates with the rest of the Bible and perhaps resolves some of those concerns about the way some controversial topics are handled.

3. Leviticus provides an example of liturgy and right worship (by ‘right’, I mean both worshipping rightly and worshipping the right object). Leviticus shows that worship includes fear, confession of sin, death of a substitute in the place of the sinner, rescue and redemption of the sinner, praise and thanksgiving.

4. Leviticus reinforces the covenantal patterns of how God relates to his creation. In the process of creation, destruction and recreation we have vivid instruction that leads to a fuller understanding of life, death, resurrection and glorification.

5. Leviticus fills out our understanding of many of the theological terms used in the New Testament. e.g. sacrifice, atonement, forgiveness, sin, guilt, offering, peace, priest, purification, holy, unholy etc.

6. In contrast to Israel who approached their worship with trepidation, we enter God’s presence boldly through Jesus who has perfectly completed all the types, symbols and ceremonies of the Law. He is our righteousness, peace, sanctification, sacrifice, atonement, heavenly bread, high priest, scapegoat and retribution for our sin.

7. Leviticus points us to Jesus as the ceremonies and rituals anticipate one who is greater that will forever satisfy the justice and share the mercy of God.

What other benefits have you enjoyed from studying the book of Leviticus?

The light was on, but…

The account of a blind man being healed in John’s gospel seems to be a chiasm.

A chiasm is a mirrored literary structure where the use of words or images compliment or contrast each other in a definite sequence. It typically follows an ABCBA type pattern. Which places a climax point in the middle as well as at the end. Back when scrolls were in popular use the pivot point of the story was in the centre of the scroll as it opened.

In the case of John chapter 9. The words and images are all connected to sight and light and contrasted with darkness and blindness.

In this case the chiastic outline I’ve used has 7 steps.

1. The power of the (spoken) creative Word of God

vv.1-7 (characters: Jesus, disciples, blind man)
c.f. v.5 – “I am the light of the world” with Gen 1:3-5let there be light” & Psalm 119:130, “your words give light
The man blind from birth is “sent” home seeing

2. A division occurs between those who “see” and those who don’t

vv.8-12 (characters: Neighbours/Jews, blind man)
Where is this man?” They can’t “see” him and they refuse to “see” the wonder of the miracle that a blind man has been healed. Their eyes are behind a veil as it were, preventing them from seeing. c.f. 2 Corinthians 3:13-18

3. Debate about the purpose of the sabbath

In the law (Ex20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15) the sabbath was an occasion for resting from work for the purpose of drawing near to God in public worship. A blind man would have been ceremonially unclean and excluded from most of the festivals and sacrifices that made up Israel’s worship. Being healed meant, he could rejoin and fully participate in the community.
vv.13-17 (characters: Jews, Pharisees, blind man)
This man is not from God…” or “… he is a “prophet” Which is it? He can’t be both.

4. The test – will the testify accurately about his experience with Jesus?

vv.18-23 (characters: Jews, parents)
He is our son… he will speak for himself” – The parents trying to avoid persecution provide an opportunity for the formerly blind man to speak on behalf of Jesus. This is a climax point. Will he ratify his account and invite ridicule, mockery and social exclusion or will he remain silent in order to not to offend the religious zealots?

5. Those who “get it” are truly mature because they ‘do his will’

vv.24-34 (characters: Jews, blind man)
The debate intensifies about what it means to understand and apply God’s word. The Jews make an appeal to Moses (v.28), but they still can’t see the wonder of what has taken place. They start by saying, “give the glory to God“, but when the man does (v.33) they are offended at the prospect that God would act in this way.

6. The one who believes, conquers and is co-judge

vv.35-39 (characters: Jesus, blind man)
When the healing first occurred the Jews asked, “Where is the man“, but they aren’t prepared for the answer. Now Jesus returns to the conversation by addressing the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He is “the man” in more ways than one. Because the healed man places his trust in Jesus and worships him he enjoys the victory of true sight (v.39). As a result the healed man is now, by his testimony of faith, a co-judge against those that refuse to see and worship Jesus as the fulfilment of the Messianic promises.
c.f. Isaiah 35:4-5, Isaiah 42:6-7

7. The one who disbelieves is not glorified (does not receive God’s rest) but remains in guilt

vv.40-41 (characters: Pharisees, Jesus)
Are we blind too?”
The Pharisees are claiming to “see” without the aid of the “light of the world“. Their insistence is going to exclude them from sharing in the forgiveness, healing and life that God brings with his light. Compared to the healed man who was “sent” home freed from his blindness, the Pharisees “remain” in their guilt – i.e. they are culpable before God for what they claim to understand from Moses and the law.

Other articles related to Chiasm’s:

Jim Hamilton’s ‘Chiasm’s on the brain
Mike Bull, Bible Matrix

Mike’s book explains the significance behind the recurring 7-fold pattern I’ve used above to outline John 9. It starts in the 7-day creation story, continues with the 7 festivals of Israel and the 7 key elements of the tabernacle.

A. Creation

B. Division

C. Ascension

D. Testing

C. Maturity

B. Conquest

A. Glorification