Daddy blog

I started this blog when I was following the Life Journal Bible reading plan on YouVersion. (I've since completed that plan.) At that time, YouVersion didn't provide any way for people to respond to my notes, other than to "like" them. So this blog is here to remedy that problem. You may comment on my notes here in the comment section.
I also have a general blog.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Amazing Grace

21/6/2017

S: Galatians 2:15-3:27 (The Message paraphrase)

We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”

So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.”

Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.

Friends, let me give you an example from everyday affairs of the free life I am talking about. Once a person’s will has been ratified, no one else can annul it or add to it. Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say “to descendants,” referring to everybody in general, but “to your descendant” (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ. This is the way I interpret this: A will, earlier ratified by God, is not annulled by an addendum attached 430 years later, thereby negating the promise of the will. No, this addendum, with its instructions and regulations, has nothing to do with the promised inheritance in the will.

What is the point, then, of the law, the attached addendum? It was a thoughtful addition to the original covenant promises made to Abraham. The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us. Obviously this law was not a firsthand encounter with God. It was arranged by angelic messengers through a middleman, Moses. But if there is a middleman as there was at Sinai, then the people are not dealing directly with God, are they? But the original promise is the direct blessing of God, received by faith.

If such is the case, is the law, then, an anti-promise, a negation of God’s will for us? Not at all. Its purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.

Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.

O: John Newton was captain of a slave ship. He did much evil. Yet Christ came in and saved him. And yet, Newton continued in that evil trade for some time after he was saved! It took a while for the truth of Christ to get him to see how evil his job was.

But eventually, God's amazing grace on Newton's life made him a priest who encouraged William Wilberforce to get the British Parliament to abolish the slave trade.

John Newton wrote the famous song Amazing Grace which says

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

A: Indeed, we're saved by grace through faith -- it is not due to our own merit, but rather, a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). The good works do come -- but after the grace, and we don't do those good works to earn God's grace, but rather, as a response to it.

As we struggle against sin in our own lives, sometimes we lose sight of grace. Yes, we do need to get closer and closer to the image of Christ. Yes, we do need to discipline ourselves. But let us not lose sight of God's amazing grace!

P: Father, when I get too caught up in my struggle against sin, keep me from despair and remind me of Your Amazing Grace! In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Suspicions

8/5/2017

S: 1 Samuel 18:5-9 David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely; and Saul set him over the men of war. It was good in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

As they came, when David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with instruments of music. The women sang to one another as they played, and said,

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. What can he have more but the kingdom?” Saul watched David from that day and forward.

O: Saul had some basis for his suspicions. After all, Samuel had indeed anointed David to be the next king, to replace Saul. (1 Samuel 16) His son Jonathan had already become a close friend of David's and his daughter Michal would soon fall in love with him.

And indeed, David would become the next king. But David was indeed innocent of trying to usurp Saul's kingdom. God would be the one to put David on the throne, but David would never raise his hand against YHWH's anointed - and he proved it when twice he had the opportunity to kill Saul, but refrained. (1 Samuel 24, 26)

As a result of his suspicions, Saul found himself fighting against God Himself. He tried to kill David. He had the priests of YHWH executed unjustly. And eventually, God had him defeated and killed in battle.

A: We have to trust God and follow Him. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God's wrath, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

P: Father, trusting You is easier said than done. Please give us Your power to do so. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pass it on

24/4/2017

S: Judges 2:7-10 The people served Yahweh all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of Yahweh that he had worked for Israel. Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died, being one hundred ten years old. They buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath Heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of the mountain of Gaash. After all that generation were gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them, who didn’t know Yahweh, nor the work which he had done for Israel.

O: The Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) had many admonitions to the Israelites to make sure to pass on the faith to their children, but they did a very poor job of doing so, so that 3 generations after Joshua, they had by and large forgotten about following Yahweh.

The Book of Judges is a record this fall, with occasional revivals.

I came to Christ in secondary school (high school) and was dismayed that all the committed Christians I knew among my peers were first generation Christians -- converts like me. I was very discouraged about bringing up children in the Lord.

When you visit Europe, you find many beautiful churches and cathedrals, yet they are no longer a movement, they are merely monuments. They often have no real vibrant living communities within them, and are just tourist attractions.

But when I went to USA for university, I discovered that many of the leaders in the campus Christian fellowships were from families that have been committed Christians for generations. So I realized that it is doable.

Furthermore, having returned to Malaysia and teaching at MMU, I have found many leaders in the Christian Fellowship at this university as well as in my church who are from Christian families.

It has been said that God has no grandchildren. Each person needs to personally become a child of God by receiving Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

A: Now that I'm a parent, it is my responsibility to "pass it on" -- to pass the faith on to my children. Even though we make mistakes, we can do it.

A good resource is the Focus on the Family broadcast. As I listened to this Biblically-based programme over the years, it taught me many things about life, romance, and bringing up children.

P: Father, I lift up my children to you. Help me to be a good father, and to bring them up in the Lord. May they grow up to live for You. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The People of God are Supposed to Welcome Others

18/3/2017
Image © Sweet Publishing, Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike 3.0 unported license.

S: John 2:13-17 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

O: When God designed the Temple, there was an area, the court of the Gentiles, that was supposed to be a place that non-Israelites were able to come and learn about Yahweh. Unfortunately, by the time of Jesus, this place had been turned into a bazaar for people to purchase animals for sacrifice, and to exchange Roman money for temple money.

As a result of all this hubbub, and the general prejudice of the Jews against Gentiles, instead of extending God's love and salvation to the Gentiles, they despised the Gentiles and became no witness at all.

I think this is a major reason why Jesus got angry with them and drove them out of the Temple.

A: This is a danger for us as well -- we become so caught up with our own group, that instead of loving those who don't know Jesus, we end up pushing them away.

We must not encourage hatred of or even despise Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. We are to be salt and light to the world, conduits of Jesus' love for them.

P: Father, when we are tempted to hate or despise the Other, remind us of Your calling upon us to be Your ambassadors to the world. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The name “Yahweh” was probably known before Moses

14/1/2017 Genesis 27:7 ‘Bring me venison, and make me savory food, that I may eat, and bless you before Yahweh before my death.’

Note: This is not in my usual SOAP style because it's more of an explaining of a puzzle.

I have been reading Genesis again recently as I am using the Walk Through The Bible 365 reading plan and have been struck again by the fact that the name Yahweh is used in Genesis many times before the name was supposedly revealed to Moses for the first time at the burning bush.

To complicated matters further, Exodus 6:2 seems to say that the name of Yahweh was unknown to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I just found out that the New English Bible translators' notes on Exodus 6:3 actually explain the situation. Here's the note.

There are a number of important issues that need clarification in the interpretation of this section.

First, it is important to note that “I am Yahweh” is not a new revelation of a previously unknown name. It would be introduced differently if it were. This is the identification of the covenant God as the one calling Moses – that would be proof for the people that their God had called him.

Second, the title “El Shadday” is not a name, but a title. It is true that in the patriarchal accounts “El Shadday” is used six times; in Job it is used thirty times. Many conclude that it does reflect the idea of might or power. In some of those passages that reveal God as “El Shadday,” the name “Yahweh” was also used. But Wellhausen and other proponents of the earlier source critical analysis used Exod 6:3 to say that P, the so-called priestly source, was aware that the name “Yahweh” was not known by them, even though J, the supposed Yahwistic source, wrote using the name as part of his theology.

Third, the texts of Genesis show that Yahweh had appeared to the patriarchs (Gen 12:1, 17:1, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 26:12, 35:1, 48:3), and that he spoke to each one of them (Gen 12:7, 15:1, 26:2, 28:13, 31:3). The name “Yahweh” occurs 162 times in Genesis, 34 of those times on the lips of speakers in Genesis (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:340-41). They also made proclamation of Yahweh by name (4:26, 12:8), and they named places with the name (22:14). These passages should not be ignored or passed off as later interpretation.

Fourth, “Yahweh” is revealed as the God of power, the sovereign God, who was true to his word and could be believed. He would do as he said (Num 23:19; 14:35; Exod 12:25; 22:24; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14).

Fifth, there is a difference between promise and fulfillment in the way revelation is apprehended. The patriarchs were individuals who received the promises but without the fulfillment. The fulfillment could only come after the Israelites became a nation. Now, in Egypt, they are ready to become that promised nation. The two periods were not distinguished by not having and by having the name, but by two ways God revealed the significance of his name. “I am Yahweh” to the patriarchs indicated that he was the absolute, almighty, eternal God. The patriarchs were individuals sojourning in the land. God appeared to them in the significance of El Shadday. That was not his name. So Gen 17:1 says that “Yahweh appeared…and said, ‘I am El Shadday.’” See also Gen 35:11, 48:2, 28:3.

Sixth, the verb “to know” is never used to introduce a name which had never been known or experienced. The Niphal and Hiphil of the verb are used only to describe the recognition of the overtones or significance of the name (see Jer 16:21, Isa 52:6; Ps 83:17ff; 1 Kgs 8:41ff. [people will know his name when prayers are answered]). For someone to say that he knew Yahweh meant that Yahweh had been experienced or recognized (see Exod 33:6; 1 Kgs 18:36; Jer 28:9; and Ps 76:2).

Seventh, “Yahweh” is not one of God’s names – it is his only name. Other titles, like “El Shadday,” are not strictly names but means of revealing Yahweh. All the revelations to the patriarchs could not compare to this one, because God was now dealing with the nation. He would make his name known to them through his deeds (see Ezek 20:5). So now they will “know” the “name.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) means more than “aware of, be knowledgeable about”; it means “to experience” the reality of the revelation by that name.

This harmonizes with the usage of שֵׁם (shem), “name,” which encompasses all the attributes and actions of God. It is not simply a reference to a title, but to the way that God revealed himself – God gave meaning to his name through his acts. God is not saying that he had not revealed a name to the patriarchs (that would have used the Hiphil of the verb). Rather, he is saying that the patriarchs did not experience what the name Yahweh actually meant, and they could not without seeing it fulfilled.

When Moses came to the elders, he identified his call as from Yahweh, the God of the fathers – and they accepted him. They knew the name. But, when they were delivered from bondage, then they fully knew by experience what that name meant, for his promises were fulfilled. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 79) paraphrases it this way: “I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in My aspect that finds expression in the name Shaddai…I was not known to them, that is, it was not given to them to recognize Me as One that fulfils his promises.” This generation was about to “know” the name that their ancestors knew and used, but never experienced with the fulfillment of the promises. This section of Exodus confirms this interpretation, because in it God promised to bring them out of Egypt and give them the promised land – then they would know that he is Yahweh (6:7). This meaning should have been evident from its repetition to the Egyptians throughout the plagues – that they might know Yahweh (e.g., 7:5). See further R. D. Wilson, “Yahweh [Jehovah] and Exodus 6:3,” Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, 29-40; L. A. Herrboth, “Exodus 6:3b: Was God Known to the Patriarchs as Jehovah?” CTM 4 (1931): 345-49; F. C. Smith, “Observation on the Use of the Names and Titles of God in Genesis,” EvQ 40 (1968): 103-9.

So, essentially, the translator is saying that Genesis 6:3 is not saying that this verse is saying that they didn’t know the name Yahweh at all; it's saying that they didn’t יָדַע (yada’) know Him that deep way that was revealed to Moses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Boy Scouts' Motto

13/12/2016

S: Matthew 24

O: Different Christians have different interpretations of this passage, because of different views of eschatology. Some Christians believe this deals with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70, while others believe that it has to do with the Battle of Armageddon -- the ultimate Last Battle of the End Times.

In a previous Life Journal entry, I discussed how the parallel passage in Luke helps explain one of the mysteries here, the Abomination of Desolation.

But in today's reading, I was struck by what the main point was: The main point wasn't all these details about what's happening. The main point, which Jesus repeated several times in many passages was this: “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42) (Thanks to Tim Bulkeley for highlighting this in a sermon in November.)

The reference to "just like the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37), the two men, one taken, one left (Matthew 24:40), the two women one taken, one left (Matthew 24:41), the thief in the night (Matthew 24:43), "Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:44) , the parable of the faithful slave vs the bad slave (Matthew 24:45-51), the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the judgment seat of Christ (Matthew 25:31-46) all are shouting the Boy Scouts' Motto: "Be prepared!"

A: It's fine to discuss and debate your particular eschatological view with other Christians (as long as it's done in a brotherly manner) but at the end of it, it doesn't matter if you're preterist, postmillennial, pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, amillennial, or whatever.

All of us will meet our maker. Whether the rapture is today, tomorrow, in a million years, or is purely allegorical, we could step in front of a bus tomorrow or die in a car crash, or have a heart attack, etc. So we should always be ready. Always be following what Jesus wants us to do.

P: Father, when I am tempted to sin, may I remember this, and "be prepared". In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Don't bother asking for God's guidance if you're planning to ignore him in the end

26/11/2016

S: Jeremiah 42-43

O: Babylon had conquered Judah and carried off most of the people into exile. They appointed Gedaliah as governor of Judah, but Ishmael ben Nathaniah assassinated Gedaliah.

Johanan ben Kareah and other people who didn't have anything to do with the assassination feared Babylon retribution, and asked the prophet Jeremiah to ask God what they should do, promising “May Yahweh your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey Yahweh our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6)

God told them to stay in Judah, for He would make the king of Babylon kind to them. God also warned them not to go to Egypt, because if they did, they would be caught up in Babylon's invasion of Egypt.

However, when Jeremiah had finished giving this message from Yahweh their God to all the people, Azariah ben Hoshaiah and Johanan ben Kareah and all the other proud men said to Jeremiah, “You lie! Yahweh our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! Baruch ben Neriah has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.” So Johanan and the other guerrilla leaders and all the people refused to obey Yahweh’s command to stay in Judah. (Jeremiah 43:1-4)

As a result, they ended up suffering in the war when Babylon invaded Egypt.

A: James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

And so, indeed, we ask... but are we willing to listen when He tells us, through His Word, counsel of Godly believers, etc.?

My family is facing such a situation now... the prevailing counsel is going in one direction, but we seem to be resisting it.

P: Father, may we be obedient to Your guidance. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)