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.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

May we be one

10/9/2016

S: 1 Timothy 1:3-7 As I urged you when I was going into Macedonia, stay at Ephesus that you might command certain men not to teach a different doctrine, and not to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God’s stewardship, which is in faith— but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith; from which things some, having missed the mark, have turned aside to vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor about what they strongly affirm.

O: Over the years, like many people who are serious about studying the Bible and following Jesus, I have developed various opinions and views about different things which not all Christians agree on. For example, I personally think that it's quite possible for God to have created the various different lifeforms via evolution or over a long period of time; I strongly suspect that the Antichrist of Revelations was Nero and the Great Tribulation was the Neronic persecution; I think that it is right and correct to baptize infants; I have come to believe that Holy Communion/the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist is not purely symbolic but have some spiritual mystery happening behind the scenes; and think that the idea that things will get worse and worse until the Second Coming of Christ is probably erroneous.

However, I know many Christians who believe differently from me, and whose lives exhibit evidence of a living faith in Jesus. Many of these people are members of my same local church. I could spend endless hours arguing and debating with these people, to the detriment of serving Christ together.

I used to hold various views dogmatically and consider those who disagree with me as somehow "less" Christian. Ironically, most of those views I listed above are different from the ones I used to hold -- my earlier self may well have considered my present beliefs heretical.

I had a wonderful experience while studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was part of what was then known as the Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and that fellowship blew me away with the fact that there were Christians from doctrinal backgrounds that in the 17th century were actually fighting wars and killing each other -- we had Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Catholics, Orthodox, etc. all united in serving Christ together on campus.

After our fellowship meetings, we often went to a coffee shop and discussed/debated our different beliefs -- but we did not let it hinder our working together for Christ on campus.

A: We need to agree to disagree agreeably on all these secondary issues. Part of the difficulty is what one person considers a "secondary issue" might be considered a "primary issue" by others.

But Jesus prayed for us to be united, just as He and the Father are united (John 17:21) and to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34)

P: Father, give us wisdom to realize when our disagreements have become endless arguments. Give us Your guidance when to agree to disagree agreeably. In Jesus' name, amen.


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

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

3/9/2016
S: 2 Chronicles 17:3-62, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Kings 16:30-33, 2 Chronicles 18, 2 Chronicles 19:2-3, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, 2 Chronicles 21-23

O: Israel and Judah had split after Solomon, and the northern kingdom of Israel had had one bad king after another. There was war between Israel and Judah from the time of Jeroboam till the time of Zimri. Now, a new dynasty had taken over Israel under Omri during the reign of good king Asa of Judah.

After Asa died, his son Jehoshaphat became king of Judah. He was a good king, and followed Yahweh. Therefore God blessed him and Judah became prosperous.

Seeing that prosperity, Moab, Ammon and Edom formed an alliance and invaded Judah. Jehoshaphat was terrified, but called for fasting and prayer. So God spoke through Jahaziel: He would rescue them. So the worship singers lead the army of Judah going into battle.

God caused Ammon and Moab to attack Edom instead, and then Ammon and Moab fought each other! So in the end, all Jehoshaphat and his army needed to do was to gather the plunder! It took them 3 days to do that, there was so much of it.

Ahab succeeded his father Omri to the throne of Israel, and he was steeped in evil. Yet, inexplicably, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with him, having his son Jehoram marry Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Perhaps he thought it was worthwhile to do this in order to end the years of war between Israel and Judah since the split in Rehoboam & Jeroboam's time. But in doing so, he essentially was having his son marry a follower of Baal. This was in spite of Jehoshapat's good experience with Yahweh saving him, and in spite of knowing that his ancestor Solomon's marrying pagan princesses caused him to stop being faithful to Yahweh, which resulted in the divided kingdom.

Some time later, Ahab decided to attack Ramoth Gilead, and asked Jehoshaphat to help him. Jehoshaphat agreed, but wanted to consult a prophet of Yahweh about it, even though Ahab's prophets of Baal had already predicted victory. So finally Ahab called the prophet Micaiah, but warned Jehoshaphat that Micaiah never predicts anything good for him.

Indeed, Micaiah predicts that Ahab would be killed in this battle. Nonetheless, Ahab persists and Jehoshaphat foolishly follows him. Ahab took the precaution of disguising himself so that the enemy wouldn't know it's him, so during the battle, the enemy attacked Jehoshaphat instead, thinking that he was Ahab. Nonetheless, the Word of Yahweh by Micaiah came true as a stray arrow killed Ahab.

Later, another prophet of Yahweh, Jehu ben Hanani, admonished Jehoshaphat for helping the wicked, those who hate Yahweh. God is upset with Jehoshaphat for his partnership with such people, yet also recognized that Jehoshaphat was faithful to God and never worshiped other gods.

In spite of this, Jehoshaphat entered another partnership with the wicked, this time with Ahab's son and successor Ahaziah, the new king of Israel. Perhaps he thought it was OK as this time it was a business partnership and not a military one. They made ships to go to make money trading to Tarshish, but the prophet Eliezer ben Dodavahu prophesied that Yahweh would destroy it because of his partnership with the evil Ahaziah. So the ships were broken and the business venture failed.

The consequences of these illicit partnerships Jehoshaphat made with the house of Omri were far-reaching and nearly snuffed out the line of David in Judah! Here is what happened as a consequence after Jehoshaphat died:

Due to his marriage to Athaliah bat Ahab, the next king, Jehoram, became an evil Baal-worshipper and led Judah astray spiritually.

Ahaziah ben Ahab fell from though his window lattice and was gravely injured, and sent emissaries to Beelzebub to ask if he would recover. Yahweh sent Elijah to admonish him for consulting Beelzebub instead of Yahweh, and told him he would die.

Then his brother Joram became king of Israel, but by this time Yahweh had given up on the house of Omri and had the prophet Elisha anoint Jehu to replace the house of Omri in Israel.

While Joram was recuperating from battle injuries, his nephew Ahaziah ben Jehoram (son of his sister Athaliah), who is now king of Judah, came to visit his uncle, and Jehu fell upon them both and killed them, as well as other relatives from Judah who came later to visit, not realizing that a coup had occurred. Jehu then started a new dynasty in Israel.

Meanwhile Athaliah in Judah saw her chance and killed all the descendants of the House of David and grabbed power for herself! She then began a reign of terror, suppressing the worship of Yahweh in Judah and promoting Baal.

Fortunately, Ahaziah's sister Jehosheba managed to hide away baby Joash with the high priest Jehoida in the Temple. 6 years later, they managed a counter-coup and killed Athailah and restored the House of David to the throne of Judah.

A: Our choices have consequences. 2 Corinthians 6:14 warns, "Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

When we are seeking partners — whether in business or in marriage — we must be careful whom we choose.

The Bible doesn't make it black-and-white what it means by "yoking with unbelievers", but many Christians think that it means making a partnership. For example, the Bible has many examples of believers working for non-believers without condemnation, for example Daniel and Joseph both served pagan kings. But marrying non-believers seems to be almost completely negative (the only exception I can think of is the special case of Hosea and Gomer.)

P: Father, thank You for the example of Jehoshaphat, both good and bad. When we are making our choices, help us to remember and give us the wisdom to make godly choices. In Jesus' name, amen.


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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jeroboam's Folly

30/7/2016

S: 1 Kings 11:29-39, 12:26-30, 13:33-14:13

O: In spite of the wisdom God gave Solomon, he did not stay true to the Lord but worshipped other gods. So God decided to remove 10 tribes from his kingdom. So God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam (11:29-39) and promised him, “It shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” (11:38)

So afterwards, the 10 northern tribes rebelled from Rehoboam son of Solomon, and Jeroboam became their king. When Rehoboam was about to muster the troops to reconquer Israel, God told the prophet Shemaiah to warn,  ‘Yahweh says, “You shall not go up or fight against your brothers, the children of Israel. Everyone return to his house; for this thing is from me.”’ Thus, Rehoboam had to leave Jeroboam alone and Jeroboam’s kingdom was established.

But then later, Jeroboam stopped trusting God. (12:26-34) Instead of trusting Yahweh to establish his kingdom securely, he worried about the people continuing to go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh there. ‘So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and behold your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ (12:28)

As a result, God condemned Jeroboam and his family who all abandoned Yahweh. The only one who stayed true to Yahweh in Jeroboam’s family was his little son. So God allowed this son to die before disaster strikes Jeroboam’s family, “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him; for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward Yahweh, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” (14:13)

A: So many children are named David these days, because David was a “man after God’s own heart”. This is in spite of David’s many sins — because he repented and turned back to God after he sinned.

But nobody is named Jeroboam. Instead, we read in later passages of the Bible, whenever a king is bad, he is compared to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Jeroboam could have been like David. God gave him the promise, if only he stayed true to Yahweh. But he didn’t, so now his name is mud.

We need to trust God, and repent when we sin, like David did. We must not allow human reasoning to draw us away from God, and to draw people we influence away from God.

P: Father, thank You that You are sent Jesus to pay for our sins. Thank You that You forgive us when we repent. May we not repeat Jeroboam's folly, and always repent and never abandon You. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Imperfect heroes

25/6/2016

S: 1 Samuel 25:32-33 David said to Abigail, “Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! Blessed is your discretion, and blessed are you, who have kept me today from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with my own hand.

O: We look up to David as a great hero of the Bible, but we also know that he was an imperfect man. Usually, we think of the adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah when thinking about this, but he had numerous lesser flaws.

Today's passage tells about one of those. David had kept good relations with Nabal's men, never raiding them and treating them well, but Nabal foolishly rebuffed David's men and insulted David when they asked for provisions. So David was about to exact revenge (which would then entail also killing every man in Nabal's household, not just Nabal) but Abigail's wisdom and quick action forestalled that.

David acknowledged that in the above two verses -- that Yahweh had stopped him from blood guiltiness by sending Abigail.

A: There are ultimately no human heroes. Humans can be good or bad role models, and even the same human, like this example of David, can be a good example in some ways and a bad example in other ways.

So, we cannot idolize anyone. Worship God alone.

P: Father, thank You that, although all have sinned and fallen short of You glory, You have sent Your Son to save us. In Jesus' name, amen.


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

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Transcendent yet approachable

4/6/2016

S: Isaiah 55:6-9

6Seek Yahweh while he may be found.
Call on him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
Let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him;
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh.
9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

O: It is possible to teach chimpanzees, orangutans, and other higher apes to talk to us using sign language. It might be possible for us even to teach them simple arithmetic, perhaps — 1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc. But it would be impossible to teach them calculus and differential equations.

This is not because calculus and differential equations are illogical or false — it is because these apes lack the intellectual capacity to understand them. The fact that apes are not able to understand this doesn’t prevent their truth from working as human engineers use them to build bridges, aeroplanes, etc.

God is way beyond human intellect, far more than humans are above chimpanzees. Therefore it is not surprising that some of God’s thoughts and ways could be incomprehensible to us. Trinity, free will v.s. predestination, works & grace, etc. — all these seeming contradictions can be perplexing, but the fact that we have difficulty grasping them doesn’t mean they are false.

Yet, in spite of all this, God wants to have a relationship with us — “Seek Yahweh while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.” The passage before this in Isaiah 52:13-54:17 prophesy the coming of Jesus Christ who was pierced for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), who was the sacrifice upon whom Yahweh laid our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6). That makes it possible for us to be saved, and to have a relationship with Yahweh God eternally.

A: While there may be things that are puzzling to us about God, it could well be a case of “calculus to chimpanzees”, so we should not let that prevent us from drawing near to Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him.

P: Father, thank You that You love us and adopted us as Your children, in spite of being transcendent above us. Thank You for sending Your Messiah to save us. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Don’t cause others to stumble

28/5/2016

S: 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 But food will not commend us to God. For neither, if we don’t eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better. But be careful that by no means does this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak. For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting in an idol’s temple, won’t his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? And through your knowledge, he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble.

1 Corinthians 10:27-33 But if one of those who don’t believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other’s conscience. For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasion for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God; even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Mathew 18:4-7 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!

O: We have a tendency to make laws out of the principles God teaches us. Here, the principle is “don’t cause others to stumble” but many Malaysian Chinese Christians end up pushing family members further away from Christ by refusing to eat the family meal at the Chinese New Year reunion dinner because the food had been offered to the ancestors first. This sends the wrong message of “Now that I’m a Christian, I am no longer part of this family.”

Jesus, in the Matthew passage, points out that causing people to stumble is a great evil. Our role here on earth is to be ambassadors for Christ — to attract people to Christ, not to repel them by our rigidity.

A: We must therefore take the trouble to think through and evaluate each situation instead of using canned answers. Our situation may be different from anther person's situation. We cannot just always take the solution that someone else has used before.

P: Father, please give us wisdom when faced with difficult situations and not use canned answers, but be wise in applying Biblical principles to the situation. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Problem passages: 1st Corinthians and Women.

21/5/2016

S: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

1Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6For if a woman is not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or be shaved, let her be covered. 7For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9for man wasn’t created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10For this cause the woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.

11Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

1 Corinthians 14:34-40

34Let the women be quiet in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to be talking except in submission, as the law also says, 35if they desire to learn anything. “Let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to be talking in the assembly.” 36What!? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.

O: These two passages are very problematic for modern Christians because they seem to teach very misogynistic sexist nonsense.

I mean, “For this cause the woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.” Because of the angels? What in the world do angels have to do with anything? And “But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or be shaved, let her be covered.” and “Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” No, nature doesn’t. What are you talking about, Paul? And hair length is clearly a cultural thing. In many cultures throughout the centuries, it's perfectly culturally acceptable for men to have long hair and women to have short hair. What nonsense are you talking about, Paul?

And what’s this nonsense about it being shameful for women to speak in church? And “as the law also says”? Mr. anti-Judiazer who argues against “the law” all the time — the term is used in their cultural context, not to mean the Old Testament, but rather, the rabbinic tradition — suddenly appealing to “the law”? And, just 2 chapters earlier, he was telling women that they must cover their heads when speaking in church... so they do speak in church?

Actually, many years ago, I have already come to an understanding about the chapter 14 passage that makes sense to me. Someone had pointed out to me that Paul was writing 1st Corinthians in reply to something the Corinthians and written to him asking a lot of things. So in 1st Corinthians, he is replying to many things stated in that earlier letter to him. What if he's quoting an argument from the earlier letter in 14:24-35? Remember, in their writing, there are no quotation marks.

Then the whole thing suddenly makes sense: some people were saying, “Women should keep quiet in church. They are not allowed to speak out but should be under authority. As rabbinic tradition says, if there is something they want to know, they should ask their own husbands at home. It is shameful for a woman to speak up like that in church.”

Paul then rebuts that with, “What!? Was it from you (men) that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you (men) alone? If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. Let all things be done decently and in order.”

In other words, some men were saying, because of the influence of the very misogynistic sexist rabbinic tradition, that women shouldn't be allowed to talk in church — which also means forbidding them from prophesying, speaking in tongues or praying. Indeed, in rabbinic tradition, the women were segregated behind the men behind a screen in synagogue and not allowed to speak, and they are required to ask their husbands at home. But Paul scolds them, pointing out that words from the Lord clearly come to women as well. The Holy Spirit enables women to speak as well. Don’t forbid them!

Orthodox Jews still separate the women to this day.
Now, if a passage from scripture seems to say something very obvious on the surface, we shouldn’t be eager to search for an alternate interpretation. However, there are many times when scripture seems to contradict itself, and here we have the very same epistle seeming to contradict itself — chapter 11 says women are clearly allowed to prophecy and pray in church, and the dispute is in how they’re dressed while doing that, while chapter 14 seems to be saying they can’t even speak!

So, we are compelled to search for an alternate understanding. I’m not claiming that my alternate understanding above is definitely unarguably the correct one, but it’s something that makes sense and does reconcile this seeming contradiction.

Now, how about the chapter 11 passage? We might argue that Paul was just being steeped in his own cultural context here and totally missing the bigger picture. So this is his own limited view, and not universal.

But if this is scripture, surely the Holy Spirit would have stopped him from writing it? Or at least, have him preface it with “I, not the Lord, say” like he did when talking about how he thought that staying single was better than marrying, back in chapter 7 verse 12? Also, why are these arguments based on the angels, for goodness sake? Shouldn’t it say something like “because in our culture it is shameful for women to uncover their hair or to have short hair” (which, indeed, it was — I’m told that, in their culture, to have uncovered hair in public was tantamount to announcing that you were a prostitute.)

I don’t think my technique from chapter 14 will work here, because the passage doesn’t seem to be followed up by a rebuttal. After this passage, Paul immediately goes on to discuss the next issue — holy communion.

So, how do we deal with this? I don’t know. I don’t know! Years ago, I would not have been able to accept this conclusion. But as I pointed out in my earlier Life Journal entry on the Abomination and Desolation, scripture was written so long ago in a different language and cultural context. It is not surprising that there are passages that we don’t understand when reading it in our own language and cultural context. For Matthew 24:15-30, fortunately, we have the parallel passage in Luke 21 to explain to us that the abomination of desolation meant, in their cultural and linguistic context, armies surrounding Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a passage like Luke explaining Matthew here for us to compare with to figure out what in the world Paul meant by “because of the angels” in relation to covering women’s hair. Oh well, that’s just too bad. But there's no need to get too vexed about this open question.

A: There are many passages which are puzzling in the Bible. It's not surprising, because it's such a big collection of books, and was written in a different time centuries ago and in a different culture. Things that were obvious to its original audience could easily be puzzling to us here and now.

So, we shouldn't be dismayed when we come across stuff we have difficulty understanding. There are many websites out there that discuss various difficulties. And of course, there may be things that nobody knows right now.

P: Father, thank You for Your Scripture, even the difficult passages. Help us to trust You anyway and give us Your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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