Tag Archives: bible

Leviticus your neighbour

No, it’s not a naughty word, nor is it the title of a film about the life of Nelson Mandela😉

It’s the 3rd book of the Bible. It’s one of the bits with all the gory sacrifices and (seemingly!) obsolete laws and rituals.

This time of year, many Christians make resolutions and plans to read through the Bible in the coming year. It’s a commendable goal and regular bible reading (& study, in context, history and genre etc) is part of the life of anyone who is serious about knowing, believing in, trusting and living for God. However in an average reading plan, of a few chapters a day (8-15min) many people come unstuck somewhere around the end of January.

Why? Well there are many reasons; lack of discipline, lack of encouragement, overwhelmed by the task, or as is often the case… they hit the book of Leviticus and balk. The stories in the 1st book, Genesis give the background to all those Sunday School lessons with which many are familiar. Tales of Egypt and the amazing crossing of the Red Sea in the 2nd book, Exodus is an easy read, because, after all, most of us have seen the movie and we know the story. Right?

But the 3rd book… What on earth has blood, guts, and weird definitions of cleanliness got to do with the ‘golden rule’ and loving my neighbour and all that stuff Jesus spoke about? Curiously, the first time that is taught in the Bible is, in that same 3rd book, Leviticus 19:18, which says,

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV)

Leviticus told the people of ancient Israel what it meant to be God’s people and how that showed up in their day-to-day life. All that blood mentioned, acted as a divider and separator. It represented a distinction in what required special care (through isolation and an ancient version of immunisation and quarantine) and what was a common everyday experience.

I have spent many occasions teaching through this 3rd book, Leviticus. I still haven’t done so to the extent that I covered off everything – especially some of the saucy parts that cause lots of arguments😉 Nevertheless it’s a book that I keep coming back to as a key part of grasping the religion of Israel and how their worship was understood and practiced. It also has some integral connections to Biblical ethics and a lot of things Jesus taught. If you’re embarking on a yearly Bible reading program, I encourage you to have another go at reading the book of Leviticus. There’s only 27 chapters, read 3 a day and you’ll knock it over in 9 days. Give it a shot.

If you’re still thinking or wondering about a plan to read through the rest the of the Bible, here’s a page with some links that might help out.

Bible Gateway Reading Plans

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Posted by on 04/01/2016 in Bible, Jesus, Reading, worship


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The Bible in 3D – Press Release


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 a pastor 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

Full contact details:

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

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Posted by on 24/07/2013 in Bible, Hermenutics, Theology


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Reading the Bible in 3D


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.


“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.

Al Garlando



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


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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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An Embarrassment of Riches

How do we know that the New Testament has been reliably transmitted from the first century down to today? I lead a short seminar for HSC and Uni students today discussing this question in relation to the historicity of Jesus Christ. Some of the data, facts and figures on this topic are summarised in the below video by Dan Wallace.

Dan Wallace is Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and a highly regarded scholar on ancient manuscripts.

Have you read the New Testament recently? Here’s a good place to start.

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Posted by on 10/12/2012 in Apologetics, Bible


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Out of the mouth of babes

Psalm 8:2, (quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16) says

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. ~ (King James Version)

The other day I had a conversation with some Youth Leaders about how much Bible content kids should know after 6 or 7 years of weekly Sunday School lessons. I jokingly said that my 6yro daughter would know more than most 12yro. Now, this was partly a joke and partly a little fatherly boast. However, last night, my daughter surprised me with an acrostic poem she wrote for a school project. It is a Christmas project and she has been a bit nervous about writing the poem as she struggled, at first, with the concept of an acrostic. So we talked about that and I gave a simple example using “Mum” as the inspiration:


Thinking she would do something similar with “Christmas”, i.e. one word per line. I left it at that. This is what she came up with. I’ve typed it out so you can read it as the colours in the photo don’t show up too well. I haven’t modified the content (just spelling for legibility). It’s all her own work. There was no coaching or consultation. This is just the product of her processing what she has heard from us as parents and her Sunday School teachers and School teachers. Which is interesting, particularly on the subject of hell. As, at the risk of incurring the wrath of my fellow Sydney Evangelical tribesmen, this isn’t something we’ve spent much, if any, time on in our discussions with her about spiritual things. Anyway, that discussion for another time. Here’s the acrostic. What would your kids write?

Christmas is the time of year that Jesus has his birthday
He has lots of celebrations, like Christmas, Easter and when he was born
Right around the world, people don’t know about Jesus or God
I believe in God and Jesus and you. Most of the people in Australia love God and Jesus now and then
So if you love Jesus and God and trust God you will be a Christian and you will go to heaven and have all again another life and you don’t you will go to hell
Trust God, love God and if you do, you are a Christian
Merry, merry Christmas to all of you
A Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus
Say a prayer before dinner and breakfast.

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Posted by on 26/10/2012 in church, Culture, discipleship, Family


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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?


Posted by on 05/09/2012 in Bible, Hermenutics, Jesus, Preaching, Theology


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