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.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Study on John 21

Ikan bakar - the Jesus dish 😜

Peter’s 3-fold restoration, to reaffirm him after his 3-fold denial before the crucifixion.

‘So the saying circulated among the brothers and sisters that this disciple was not going to die. But Jesus did not say to him that he was not going to die, but rather, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours?”’ -- John was the only apostle who lived to a ripe old age instead of being martyred.

“There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

I find it interesting that he stopped here, instead of going on to the ascension. I wonder why?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Study on John 20

Interesting that John got to the tomb first but didn’t go in, but he believed.

“Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” -- so he didn’t ascend to the Father until after this? Before the ascension? Because he allowed Thomas to touch him later.

Jesus appeared to the disciples on Sunday evening and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” But the Holy Spirit didn’t come until Pentecost. So was Jesus predicting the coming of the Holy Spirit, or was this the infilling of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s us!

“Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Sometimes we try to tell people too much, but John was selective what he told, because he had a clear purpose in mind.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Study on John 19

Pilate thought he had authority but his authority was only was given to him from above. As it turned out, he couldn’t resist the Jewish leaders’ machinations to get Jesus executed -- because God allowed that, so that Jesus would die for the sins of the world.

Though, Pilate did have his last laugh against the Jewish leaders, “The King of the Jews” -- “What I have written, I have written.”

Verse 24 quotes from Psalm 22. Go read Psalm 22. This was a psalm of David! A millennium before Christ! And yet when you read his psalm, there are so many echoes of what Jesus went through. In fact, Jesus himself quotes the first verse of this psalm, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Even on the cross, Jesus thought of his mother’s well-being, entrusting Mary’s care to John bar Zebedee. (“Bar” is Aramaic for “bin”.)

Verse 30: Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. -- Jesus died before the normal length of time for people to die on the cross, as evidenced by verse 33 & 34 (and Mark 15:44 points out that Pilate was surprised Jesus was already dead.)

Why did Jesus die so quickly?
  1. Jesus was unusually tortured before his crucifixion, weakening him (see http://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/why-jesus-died-so-quickly-on-the-cross/131970 for an enumeration of these.
  2. Jesus voluntarily gave up his life, and the extra weight of the sins of the world killed him more quickly than just the physical trauma would have.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Study on John 18

Earlier, at the Last Supper, Jesus had told the disciples, (Luke 22:35-38)
Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” They replied, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled.” So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough.”

It should have been obvious that Jesus didn’t mean it literally, for how could 2 swords be enough for so many people?

But our impulsive man of action, Simon Peter, who had told Jesus, "Even if they all fall away, I will not!" (Mark 14:29) now sprung up with his sword to defend Jesus, and cut off Malchus’ ear.

But that was *not* Jesus’ purpose. If Jesus had been the political Messiah so many had yearned for, and which Judas had tried to force his hand for, He would not have told Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath! Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (and healed Malchus’ ear, as Luke 22:51 records.)

So often, I feel like I need to take action to fulfil God’s purpose. But sometimes my actions are not as per God’s plan. At other times, we are supposed to take action. What if we make a mistake? Well, as we saw here, God’s still in control. His purpose will be fulfilled.

Peter in fact makes a worse mistake later -- denying Jesus 3 times. But that was still not the end of Peter. Because he repented, God restored him and he went on to become the leader of the Christians after Jesus’ ascension.

Contrast that with Judas’ mistake. He ended up committing suicide instead of repenting.

Making mistakes or sin even against Jesus directly isn’t a dead end -- it only becomes a dead end if you don’t repent.

So, when we sin, we must repent. Jesus already paid the price - let’s not stay down, repent and get back up and get back to following Him!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Study on John 17

The world hates us because we don’t belong to the world. But Jesus doesn’t want the Father to take us out of the world, but only to be kept safe. We still have a task in the world.

Jesus’ prayer applies to us as well (17:20) And the love as well.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Study on John 16

Jesus warned them about persecution so that they won’t fall away. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth.

The Orthodox and Catholics claim that this means that the Holy Spirit will prevent the church as a whole from straying into heresy -- the Orthodox says this Holy Spirit preservation happens when there are Ecumenical Councils (meetings where every recognized branch of the church send representatives, to decide on doctrinal issues), while the Catholics say that, in addition to Ecumenical Councils, the Holy Spirit will prevent the Pope from making any doctrinal mistake when speaking Ex Cathedra (making official doctrinal teaching).

What does it mean, if we don’t believe in these (Catholic & Orthodox) things? We can’t say it means that the Holy Spirit preserves individual Christians from error, because that’s clearly not the case. Many of us have experienced the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but we have also seen in both ourselves and in others where mistakes happen and someone thinks that it was the Holy Spirit’s guidance when it wasn’t. I honestly don’t have a good reply to the Catholics and Orthodox about this issue.

At the end of the chapter, he goes back to the topic of persecution. “You will be scattered” and “In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world.”

Indeed, we can take courage -- it’s like watching a prerecorded game where we already know which side wins -- there may be trouble along the way, but the outcome is sure.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Study on John 15

15:2 “He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! But so necessary. Yet we are always praying for a nice easy comfortable life. Hmm…

What does it mean to abide/remain in Christ? Part of it appears to be answered in 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you” -- having His Word in my life -- and 15:10 “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

Here’s the balance between the fact that we don’t earn our salvation -- it’s paid for already by Jesus -- and the fact that obedience to God is central to the Christian life. We don’t earn God’s approval, but we will not have the abundant life if we don’t obey.

But we don’t obey like slaves, but as friends and children -- due to love. (15:9-17)

And don’t be surprised if the world hates us -- they hated Jesus first. (15:18-27)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Study on John 14

14:1-4 Jesus knew great tribulation was coming, so he reassured his disciples that in the end, they had an awesome home in eternity. This is the blessed hope that is why so many martyrs bravely faced torture and death, including every single one of the apostles that he was addressing, except John (and John did suffer torture though he survived and died of old age.)

14:5-14 Jesus is the way. We can believe because of the miracles he did. When we see Jesus, we’ve seen our Father in Heaven. And, somehow, we will perform even greater miracles!

I have seem small miracles (e.g. at the Supernatural Encounter last month), but I honestly can’t say I’ve seen greater miracles. Back when I was under the influence of dispensationalist Christians, they used to weasel out of this by saying that the greater miracle was the spreading of the Gospel.

14:15-31 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Clearly I don’t love Jesus enough! Since I still disobey every so often!

But thank God for the Advocate, indwelling us and leading us.

Satan has no power over Jesus -- similarly, has no power over us -- except what the Father permits.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Study on John 13

Washing the disciples feet: It’s a little odd that this didn’t become a regular practice in the church. (Except the pope does it once a year.) It’s a good reminder of what it means to be a leader in Christ.

13:21 Jesus was greatly distressed. Being fully God, Jesus knew he was going to suffer and be executed. Being fully human, Jesus felt the stress of his impending suffering and execution.

13:34 Loving one another is to characterize us as Christians. I fall so far short of this -- my selfish human nature keeps getting in the way. I need to learn as John the Baptist did, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Study on John 12

6 days before the Passover, Jesus again visits Mary, Martha & Lazarus. It was at this occasion that Mary anointed his feet with expensive nard and Judas acted indignant at the “waste”. Because of the miracle of raising Lazarus, many Jews were attracted to Jesus, so the Jewish leaders even wanted to kill Lazarus in addition to Jesus! I am struck by how often John reminds us that Jesus’ miracles only served to inflame the Jewish leaders -- so blinded were they.

After the Triumphal Entry, even at this time, there were Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (12:20). The Gospel is not for "our own people" only, but for all peoples.

“Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Jesus didn't avoid suffering because it was necessary for his mission. How often do I not do my mission just to avoid suffering?

12:42-43 “Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”

Two things to note here:

First: there were actually many of the Sanhedrin who believed in Jesus. In fact, there were so many Pharisees who believed in Jesus that they became a problem for the early church -- they were the Judaizers that Paul argued against.

Secondly, how often do I hide my Christianity because of loving praise from men more than praise from God? Maybe not hiding our Christianity, but hiding our Bible-informed opinions? I personally know that I have refrained from voicing out objections to the homosexual agenda among my liberal American friends, because I knew I would be ridiculed.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Study on John 11

Jesus deliberately delayed going to see his good friend Lazarus so that a greater miracle would happen. Mary & Martha had to suffer first to have the greater joy later. But Mary & Martha really did suffer, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Previously Mary seemed the more spiritually matured one (when Martha complained that Mary was sitting at the Master’s feet instead of helping serve the food) but now Martha seemed to have learned her lesson, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.” Martha seemed to have the faith for Jesus to resurrect Lazarus even before the fact.

Jesus wasn’t immune to Mary & Martha’s suffering, however: here’s the shortest verse in the Bible: 11:35 Jesus wept.

I used to wonder, why did Jesus weep when he knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus presently? But then I listened to the Adventures In Odyssey episode when Connie was mourning over Mitch’s death, not realizing that Mitch was really alive and hidden by the FBI, and I felt myself tearing up over her sorrow. Maybe it’s like that -- Jesus had empathy with Mary’s suffering even though he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead.

In this case, Mary & Martha saw in their lifetime why Jesus delayed, why Jesus allowed them to suffer first. Many a time we don’t see in this lifetime why God delayed, why God allows us to suffer, and we just have to trust that we have a loving yet omnipotent God and we can trust Him.

I find it interesting that the Bible affirms that Caiaphas, a bad high priest, had a true prophecy because God honoured his position in spite of his personal character. Reminds me of my Jesus-following Catholic friends’ assertion that the Holy Spirit still prevents the Pope from teaching officially any incorrect doctrine, even if the person holding that position may be a bad person.

Again, we see the theme of the Jewish leaders being so caught up in their own designs that they ignore a blatant miracle (this time, the raising of Lazarus) and become more determined to kill Jesus.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Study on John 10

What does it mean for the sheep to hear his voice? Not everyone hears word directly from the Lord. We recognize the Jesus loves us and has our best interest at heart. So we need to read His Word so even if we don't get Word of Knowledge directly from Him we still know what He says.

Jesus’ miracles are evidence that his claim to be the Son of God is true. John the Baptist didn't have miracles, but his predictions about Jesus came true.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Study on John 9

1-12 We shouldn't assume that a person's troubles are their own fault.

13-34 The Pharisees again got so caught up in their theology they missed the wonderful miracle.

35-41 Claiming to be able to see when blind is worse than just being blind.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Study on John 8

1-11 The woman caught in adultery. “Whoever who has no sin, may cast the first stone.” Even non-Christians love this story. Strangely, it’s not in the most reliable oldest copies of the Gospel according to John, so it may have been a well-loved story in the church added to it later.

12-20 God the Father bears witness to Jesus. Again the authorities couldn’t arrest him because his time had not yet come.

21-59 Jesus exposed the priests and Pharisees. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin (v 34) Before Abraham was, I AM (v58) Jesus declared that he is YHWH.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Study on John 7

1-12 At this point, even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him yet. (Though later, his brother James would become the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

When I read this passage years ago, I thought, “Was Jesus misleading his brothers that he wasn’t going to Jerusalem? Since he went secretly later?” But, as Thomas pointed out earlier in the discussion, it was just a matter of proper timing.

13-31 Jesus’ teaching wasn’t like the regular religious leaders’ teachings. Jesus pointed out the folly of being legalistic about the Sabbath.

“When Jesus said this, the people tried to grab him. But no one was able to even touch him, because the right time for him had not yet come.” This reinforces what Thomas said about timing earlier. God’s ultimately in control.

32-53 Jesus’ teaching was so amazing that even the temple police couldn't make themselves arrest Jesus when the priests told them to. The Jewish leaders couldn’t get over their idea that a prophet cannot come from Galilee.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Study on John 6

1-15 After Jesus fed the 5000, the people wanted to make him king, so Jesus left and went into the hills alone.

Jesus was focused on his real mission, and did not allow himself to be distracted by the allure of power.

16-21 “Hantu!” “Bukan, Tuhan.” (c/f our discussion on this in Mark.)

22-71 The people were interested in Jesus because of the miracle of the loves & fish. But the physical bread isn’t the important thing -- more important is the spiritual bread of Jesus’ eternal life: “Believe in the one He sent.”

People were offended that we had to eat his body and drink his blood for eternal life. I find it interesting that because of this, many of his followers left and stopped following him (v66) but Jesus didn’t change his teaching for them. Instead, he only affirmed the 12 apostles… even Judas Iscariot.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Study on John 5

1-18 The lame man at the pool of Bethzatha had his fixation on one way of healing, but Jesus had another miracle for him.

Do I sometimes expect Jesus to solve my problem in a particular way, and am blind to other ways that Jesus might have for me?

But some Jews were so fixated on the fact that Jesus healed on the Sabbath that they blinded themselves to the great miracle God had wrought. They even became more determined to kill Jesus!

Is there any way in which we also get too blinded by our particular issues that we miss what God is doing?

19-47 God gave Jesus the power to judge. Eternal life is in the Son. Moses testified to Jesus.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Study on John 4

1-42 Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Jesus transcended his own culture’s restrictions - he was a holy man; she was an immoral woman. He was a Jew, she was a Samaritan (read Ezra/Nehemiah to see how the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans started.)

She tried to divert the conversation from her own sin to general theology. Jesus didn’t rub her face in it, but still steered it back to her personal relationship with God.

As a result, virtually the whole village came to know the Gospel.

The disciples were blind to all these things at first. They didn’t even think of the Samaritans as a people group to reach out to.

What are our own blind spots?

43-54 Galilee. At this point, in contrast to another time, they welcomed Jesus because of what they had seen him do in Jerusalem.

The basiliko in Capernaum’s son was sick, but Jesus didn’t go -- he just told him, “Go home, your son will live” and the man believed, and the son was healed remotely.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Study on John 3

3:1-21 Ah, the famous passage where John 3:16 comes from. I remember long ago reading this and wondering, “How could Nicodemus be so dense? Obviously Jesus was speaking metaphorically. But we live in a different cultural context. It may not have been as obvious in their cultural context.

People often accuse Christianity of being “condemning” to other people. But this is the core, right after the famous verse, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already” -- we’re not in the business of condemnation, but in the business of trying to get people out of condemnation.

3:22-36 Again, we see the unselfishness of John the Baptist. “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, about whom you testified – see, he is baptizing, and everyone is flocking to him!” But John replied “He must become more important while I become less important.”

Long ago, my friend Lim Cheh Miang and I translated the song “Betapa Hatiku” from Bahasa Indonesia into English, and later, I introduced it to the Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Someone from 2100 Productions came to the fellowship to speak one day and heard the song and loved it and took it back with her, promising to give us credit for the translation. However, when the video https://youtu.be/ru4i2jOeHPA came out and was publicized at the Urbana Missions Conference (the largest missions conference in the world), our names were left out of it. (The lady who took it from us later apologized, saying that she had left the project and the new person who took over didn’t know about our work.)

My first reaction was to be upset, for my work wasn’t recognized. But heck, did I translate this song for the fame? No, it was for the glory of God. It is a lovely praise song and it’s now released to the English-speaking world and no longer restricted to the Bahasa-speaking world. Ultimately, the glory of God is what’s important. So “He must become more important while I become less important.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Study on John 2

2:1-11 Jesus seemed reluctant to do anything at first, because “My time has not yet come”, but his mother Mary just told the servants and forced his hand. Some Catholics and Orthodox Christians point to this as evidence to support the efficacy of asking for Mary to intercede for us.

Be as it may, we are supposed to intercede for each other in prayer, and God may do things that might not otherwise have been done had we not prayed. I don’t know how this works, with the sovereignty of God, but I guess it’s one of those things that are beyond human understanding to a certain extent. God is sovereign and He is beyond us, yet “the fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

So, I don’t fully understand how or why prayer works, but yes, it works! So, let’s pray!

2:12-18 Here in John, the clearing of the Temple is near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, instead of near the end, as in the synoptic Gospels. Some people think there were 2 different clearings of the Temple, while other people think this is an artifact of the lack of concern for chronology in ancient storytelling.

Be as it may, people were disrupting the proper use of the court of the Gentiles -- a place for people who do not yet know Yahweh to come and find out about Him -- and using it for their own selfish purposes instead.

2:23-4 “Now while Jesus was in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover, many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.” In fact, they had completely missed the main purpose of His coming -- not to become a political Messiah King but to die for our sins and save the world -- including the Romans.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Study on John 1

This first part is thought to be an early Christian hymn. The Word - the Logos - is God the Son, creator of the universe. John the Baptist testified to this Word Become Flesh.

John said that he wasn’t the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. But Jesus said he was a prophet and Elijah. So what’s going on? Well, he wasn’t _literally_ Elijah, but he _was_ the Elijah who was prophesied in Malachi 4. But there’re other views, for example https://gracethrufaith.com/end-times-prophecy/john-the-baptist-elijah-or-not/ which puts forward the idea that if the Jews had received John’s and Jesus’ ministry, they would have ushered in the Messianic kingdom right then and there, but since they rejected them, it was delayed. But I’m not sure I buy that. Here’re a few other interpretations: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/13318/why-does-john-the-baptist-deny-being-elijah

John the Baptist didn’t glorify himself, nor did he begrudge his disciples to Jesus. He virtually sent Andrew and the other disciple to Jesus, and Andrew ended up bringing his brother Simon Peter.

Application: we shouldn't begrudge people who might leave our church if they can serve God better in another church.

Jesus didn’t let Nathanael’s skepticism deter him.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Study on Mark 16

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
Christ is risen! He’s risen, indeed! In most modern Bibles, it points out that Mark abruptly ends at 16:8, and two alternate endings, one shorter, and one longer, are tacked on to the end.

This is in fact the longest variant reading in the New Testament. But even this doesn’t change the Gospel at all.

Many anti-Christians like to point out that there are variant readings in the Bible, and pretend that this means that the Bible is unreliable.

And yet, even in this biggest of all variant readings, it doesn’t change the Gospel. Most of the variant readings are just a word here or there, a copying error, etc.

And we haven’t tried to burn and destroy all variant readings, like some other religions. Instead, we have preserved them so one can compare and contrast, and realize that in the end, the Gospel stays the same.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Study on Mark 15

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
15:4-5 So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say? See how many charges they are bringing against you!” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Jesus didn’t defend himself… his mission was the cross.

15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas instead.

Was this the same crowd that waved palm branches the previous week welcoming him as the Messiah? Maybe - Jesus didn’t overthrow the Romans as expected, so maybe they were disappointed.. Maybe not - certainly there’re enough people in Jerusalem that they could be a different crowd, and the chief priests’ instigators drowned out the pro-Jesus crowd.

15:16-41 Jesus is mocked, whipped bloodily to shreds, and the crown of thorns piercing his head, and struck, and spit on. Then he’s forced to carry the cross in his weakened state, (until he collapsed and Simon of Cyrene had to take over, as other Gospel accounts tell us) and then nailed to the cross and died an excruciating death.

“He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and sent him free.
He could have called 10,000 angels, but he died alone, for you and me.” 😱😰🙏🏽

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?”

“O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory
and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I claim you as my own.”

15:34 “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” The perfect lamb of God who had never sinned, never been separated from God, now God had to turn away from him for the sins laid upon him.

This may have been worse than the physical pain Jesus felt.

15:44 Pilate was surprised that he was already dead.

It wasn’t just the physical distress that killed Jesus -- that God had to turn away from him. He gave up the ghost. “It is completed” as other Gospel accounts pointed out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Study on Mark 14

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
The chief priests and the religion lawyers plotted to kill Jesus. They had rejected the witness of their own eyes as to Jesus’ miracles, and were just all caught up in that Jesus’ teachings exposed them.

A woman anoints Jesus with nard, an expensive oil-based perfume, and some disciples were upset at the “waste” but Jesus said that wherever the Good News is preached, she would be remembered for what she did, because she was preparing him for his burial. Jesus knew that the plot to kill him would succeed. In his Gospel account, John tells us that this woman was Mary the sister of Martha & Lazarus.

Jesus very explicitly again affirms that he is going to die, and that they would be scattered. He predicts Peter would deny him, in spite of his bravado.

Judas may have gone to betray Jesus because he knew Jesus could do miracles, and was the Messiah, yet seemed to refuse to take political power. Judas might have been trying to force Jesus’ hand.

Even to the “good” disciples, Jesus’ upcoming death seemed nonsensical and a disaster, but God had a good plan behind it.

Application: when God doesn’t seem to make sense, when things seem to be going crazy, we can still rest assured He is still in control.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Study on Mark 13

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. He mentions something which seems very puzzling, “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.” (Mark 13:14)

However, note that what’s related in Mark 13 is also related in Luke 21. (And also Matthew 24). While Mark and Matthew refer to this as “the abomination of desolation”, Luke says “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies” instead.

Almost certainly the original words Jesus spoke was “the abomination of desolation”, but Luke, realizing that he’s writing to a non-Jewish crowd, interpreted what that Jewish phrase meant in plainer language.

To a Gentile, Jerusalem being surrounded by armies isn't a sign of "abomination of desolation stands in the Holy Place". But to the Jews of Jesus' time, it could well mean that.

History tells us that before A.D. 70, as Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem, the Christian Jews in Judea heeded Jesus' warning and fled. The non-Christian Jews did not, and were massacred. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple so completely that it was said that you couldn't even tell that there was once a city there. Decades later, the Romans under Emperor Hadrian rebuilt as a totally Gentile city and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. Jerusalem remained non-Jewish for almost two millennia after that.

Application: When we find things that are confusing and unclear in the Bible, if we can find clarifications from other parts of scripture, it is better to look at that instead of making up fanciful imaginations of our own.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Study on Mark 12

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
The Parable of the Tenants was spoken against the Pharisees, who were the religious conservatives of the time. Then the passage about the hypothetical question of the woman who married 7 brothers one after another in levirate marriage was spoken against the Sadducees, who were the religious liberals of the time. Both sides have their problems, and we likewise today have to watch out that we don’t succumb to something similar.

I had lady friend who was very bothered by the idea that there’s no marriage in heaven -- because she loves her husband very much. But I suspect that it’s not less, but more -- we’ll have that kind of oneness with all our brothers and sister in Christ in heaven, and not be limited to just our spouse.

Back to the religious people: there were, however, also religious people who were on the right track, like the expert in religious law who realized that Jesus was right about the two greatest commandments.

Jesus warned against how many experts in religious law,, however, who liked to be honoured by men., and pointed out how the widow with the two copper _lepta_ had given more than all the rich people. Another jab against the prosperity gospel, we think, so we who are against the prosperity gospel might be smug and think, “Oh, that’s not a problem for me.”

But, is it really? Temptation of desiring wealth I think is not far from me even in spite of my theology.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Study on Mark 11

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
11:1-11 God must have told the owners of the donkey colt that someone’s coming for his donkey, which is why they were so willing to let complete strangers take their animal.

This passage is often titled “The Triumphal Entry.” Luke’s longer account of this (Luke 19:41), however, it records that Jesus wept as he approached the city. This is interesting, because why would Jesus weep right after people celebrate him coming into Jerusalem in his “triumphal entry”?

Palm branches were the symbol of the Hasmonean dynasty, the last time Judea was self-ruled by Jews. You can read about this fascinating story in 1 Maccabees. (I highly recommend reading it. Even though Evangelicals don’t believe it to be scripture, pretty much everyone agrees that it’s historical, and gives a good insight into what happened in Judea between Malachi and Matthew. You can read a modern translation of it here: https://goo.gl/TeSC91 )

So, this passage actually was very Jewish nationalistic. It’s as if some foreign country had conquered Malaysia and banned the Jalur Gemilang, then this saviour arose and lead a procession into Kuala Lumpur and everyone came out and waved the Jalur Gemilang in defiance of the foreign overlords.

But do you see, why Jesus wept, then? Because, even here towards the end of his earthly ministry, he knew that the people misunderstood his purpose for his first coming -- to die for the sins of the world, not to become a political messiah like King David and wipe out the Roman overlords.

11:15-33 Here is a really interesting set of events. We like to point out the cleansing of the temple event, but the cursing of the fig tree always had bothered me. I mean, doesn’t this show Jesus being petty and impatient? After all, it wasn’t that the fig tree wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do -- it was, after all, not fig season.

But the cleansing of the temple, and the answering of the chief priests and lawyers, showed Jesus’ authority. So perhaps this fig tree incident also shows Jesus’ authority?

Christian radio talk show host Brant Hansen, whose podcast http://branthansen.com/category/podcast/ I enjoy listening to, pointed out that it is not surprising that the infinite God does stuff that we don’t understand. Isn’t it silly to expect that we would understand *all* of God’s motives?

Back to the cleansing of the temple: the merchants had taken over the court of the Gentiles -- the part of the temple that God had designated as a place for people who don’t know Yahweh yet to come to find out about Him. So by turning this into a marketplace, it meant that it was no longer a place that Gentiles could come to find out about Yahweh. The Jews had forgotten the essentially evangelistic mission that they had from the time of Abraham -- that through Abraham’s seed all the nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). So, as someone (Thomas?) pointed out earlier, Jesus was very focused on his mission.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Study on Mark 10

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
10:1-12 OT Law permitted divorce because things are not ideal. But the ideal we should be aiming for is no divorce. For me, this hasn’t been a personal problem but I don’t know that I can tell a woman that if her husband abuses her, she cannot divorce him. And must we force a divorcee to remain single for the rest of her life or else become adulterous, because of this verse? Things are not ideal now as well as in OT times.

10:13-16 “Suffer the little children” is an example of when people get the totally wrong idea because the English language has changed since the King James Version was translated. I’m very happy that Joni received Jesus when she was about 2 years old.

10:17-31 Jesus felt love for the rich young man who tried to attain salvation by keeping the commandments. But nobody is able to keep all the commandments. Jesus looked into this young man’s heart and saw that his riches was keeping him from following God. People were amazed because the Jewish equivalent of the Prosperity Gospel was prevalent at the time -- the idea that if you were godly, God would bless you materially. But instead, materialism can become an idol. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” So many of the prominent people in this life may be last in the next.

10:35-45 The disciples were not above jostling for position. Jesus teaches us “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. The church has struggled with this through the ages, which even the Reformation hasn’t removed the danger of.

10:46-52 Healing of blind Bartimaeus. Hmm… sorry, I don’t have any deep thoughts about this 😁

Friday, July 21, 2017

Study on Mark 9

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
8:34-9:1 Putting things in perspective. So easy for us to lose that perspective, and become too busy with the things in this world. May I not ever be ashamed of the Son of Man.

9:2-9:13 Peter’s reaction: gibber, gibber 😜. And again Jesus points out he must suffer.

9:14-29 “I believe; help my unbelief!” I have this same reaction many times. I’ve gone for prayer, seen people gone for prayer and not gotten healed. In the recent Supernatural Encounter, many testified to great healing, yet also many others were not healed. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

9:30-32 Again Jesus predicted his death and resurrection but the disciples “did not understand this statement and were afraid to ask him.” Just like many of my students!

9:38-9:41 Some others actually _did_ manage to cast out demons in Jesus’ name, unlike the 7 sons of Sceva. Who have we excluded from the Kingdom of God because their theology doesn’t match ours, but we might be surprised by in heaven?

9:42-9:50 Jesus uses superlatives (‘Cut off your hand! Pluck out your eye!’) to point out how terrible sin is… yet how difficult it is for me to remember it when tempted! O Lord, remind me, that I might not sin against You.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Study on Mark 8

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
8:1-21 Jesus repeated the multiple feeding sign, and in between the two incidents, he walked on water… yet when he spoke of “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!” the disciples thought it was about having no bread. Jesus was more concerned about what they had in their hearts than bread. Sometimes we can be “too heavenly minded till we’re no earthly good” but more often it’s the other way around. I tend to be very rational and practical, but I need to balance that with the fact that we have a miracle-working God, who is more interested in our spiritual well-being. 8:22-24 Why did this man need 2 healings? I’m guessing that the first healing was for his physical eyes, while the 2nd healing was for the brain programming. Neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote about a man named Virgil who was blind since he was 5, but at 50, they managed to restore his sight. But “The house and its contents were unintelligible to him, and he had to be led up the garden path, led through the house, led into each room, and introduced to each chair.” Another case of a teenaged boy is related by Dr. Pawan Sinha, a professor of vision and computational neuroscience at M.I.T. When the boy’s bandages are removed after his eye surgery which gave him sight for the first time, “The boy sits still and blinks silently, the room around him reflecting in his eyes as a kind of proof of their new transparency. Sinha believes these first moments for the newly sighted are blurry, incoherent, and saturated by brightness—like walking into daylight with dilated pupils—and swirls of colors that do not make sense as shapes or faces or any kind of object.” So, modern eye surgery shows what the 1st century author of the Gospel according to Mark could not have known -- hence adding to the body of evidence that this was a true account of a true miracle. 8:27-33 Peter realizes that Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus tells them not to reveal it to the world. Why? Because he needs to first die for our sins. So he cannot be the political messianic king that the Jews wanted, and he would be misappropriated for if the Jews knew. Matthew adds the detail that Jesus told Peter after his declaration, "You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!” So when Jesus declared that he was going to suffer and die, Peter took it upon himself to rebuke Jesus! But Jesus turned around and called Peter, this guy whom he had just affirmed received revelation from the Father in heaven, “Satan”! “You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” We may be greatly gifted by God with Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, etc. but that doesn’t mean that everything we say or think is godly -- it can even be the devil’s plans! So, if God gives us wonderful supernatural gifts, we must nonetheless be circumspect and pay attention to the Holy Spirit. So many great supernaturally gifted people in the past have fallen astray and started teaching an unbalanced Gospel because of that -- and aside from the internationally famous ones, I have met one here in Malaysia who has drastically negatively impacted the lives of many including some people I know and love. Peter’s mistake didn’t invalidate that God indeed did give him a true word earlier. And his mistake also didn’t mean he was a goner now -- God indeed did take him through more failures and successes after this. So, we, likewise, when we have had a high, don’t become proud. When we’ve had a low, don’t give up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Study on Mark 7

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
7:1-23 Ritual purity isn’t so important. More important is actual moral purity. “Am I being a pharisee?”

Incidentally, the “corban” thing, some time after Jesus, the rabbis actually decided Jesus was correct about this point.

7:24-30 The Syrophoenician woman: In one of the movies made about Jesus, they showed this as Jesus the human learning from the experience in overcoming the Jewish prejudice he grew up with. Many Christians balk at this interpretation because “Jesus was perfect! How could he have had racism?” but Luke 2:52 said that Jesus did grow in wisdom. So I dunno.

But as far as application goes, we can use this to ask ourselves, “What prejudices do I have that I need to grow from?”

7:21-27 Jesus now goes to the Decapolis and healed people, but this time he told people not to tell anyone. Interesting -- change since the time of the demoniac.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Study on Mark 6

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1 “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own house.” Familiarity breeds contempt.

“He was not able to do a miracle there, except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” -- Our unbelief hinders God’s miracles.

2 Jesus delegated authority to his disciples. Not their own authority, but they could still preach repentance, cast out demons, and heal.

As noted in the recent Supernatural Encounter, it’s not the celebrity preacher who has the power to heal -- it’s God, and His Holy Spirit can enable _any_ of us to become miracle workers.

Is our faith the limiting factor?

Yet, the other side is the great evil of blaming the victim, “You are not healed because you don’t have enough faith” which has shipwrecked the faith of many.

Also the other evil of saying that you must not use medicine and rely on “Doctor Jesus” alone -- a false teaching which has caused misery and death even here in Malaysia. Then the victims are blamed, “Oh, your child died because of your lack of faith. You just didn’t trust Jesus enough to heal her. It is your own fault of harbouring doubt.” How cruel!

3 Jesus walking on water to the disciples: I remember Pastor Daniel Ho (DUMC)’s joke, the disciples in the boat saw Jesus walking towards them in the storm and cried, “Hantu!!!” And Jesus replied, “Bukan, Tuhan.” 😜

This was right after the multiplication of the loaves & fish, and Mark notes “They were completely astonished, because they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Study on Mark 5

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1 The Gerasene demoniac: this was the other side of the passaged we discussed in chapter 1 when Jesus told the man with the dreaded skin disease not to tell anyone. The healed demoniac wanted to go with Jesus but Jesus did not permit him to do so. Instead, he said to him, “Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.” So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed.

So the former demoniac became a great evangelist. I am guessing Jesus allowed him to do that now because Decapolis isn’t a Jewish area, so his evangelism will not affect Jewish opinion so much and cause them to try to make him a political king instead of the sacrificial lamb of God.

2 Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman: Again Jairus was told not to tell anyone, as they’re back in Jewish territory.

The bleeding woman was excluded by Mosaic law from active participation in the worship life of the Jews because her bleeding rendered her ritually unclean. So it wasn’t just a physical problem it was a social and spiritual problem for her as well.

Popular Jewish belief at the time took the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 to mean that the “wings” of the Messiah (the ends of the Jewish prayer shawl / robe) had healing in them, so the bleeding woman was actually showing that she believed in Jesus’ Messiahship by her action. (The word כָּנָף “kanaph” in Hebrew can be translated both as “wing” or as “fringes of garment”.)

And indeed, that faith enabled God’s healing to pass from Jesus to her. As Jesus’ reaction showed, he could sense that her touch was different from the touch of the jostling crowd. Hence “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Study on Mark 4

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1 Parable of the sower: the Gospel remained the same, but there’re different responses.

2 “although they look they may look but not see, and although they hear they may hear but not understand, so they may not repent and be forgiven.” Why did Jesus not want them to repent and be forgiven? Elsewhere it’s clear that he _does_ want them to repent and be saved… so what’s going on here? In fact, the very next section talks about the parable of the Lamp.

3 Parable of the Lamp: we are to let our light shine. We should not be “undercover Christians”. If nobody knows we’re Christians, something’s wrong. Of course, there’re exceptional circumstances, e.g. in times of severe persecution, but in general this is the case.

4 Parable of the Mustard Seed: Some people interpret it as evil “birds” from the parable of the sower -- but I think more likely it’s talking about how the church from a small beginning grows and spreads to influence the whole world.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Study on Mark 3

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1. Healing the man with the withered hand: The Pharisees were more interested in following their legalism than to notice that God had done an amazing miracle in front of their eyes! How could they be so blind? Yet, phariseeism is a danger for us Evangelical Christians as well.

2. Interesting that the unclean spirits cried out “You are the Son of God.” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known. Why? Because it wasn’t his time yet? He didn’t want people to make him a political king?

3. Appointing the apostles: Jesus himself chose Judas, who betrayed him.

4. Even his own family thought that he was crazy. But later they came to faith, and his brother James even became the bishop of Jerusalem. I used to think that it seemed rude of Jesus to ignore his mother and brothers and instead say that those who do the will of God is his family -- but the Jesus film showed how it may not have been like that: it showed him just using the opportunity to make the point, then he got up and went to see them.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Study on Mark 2

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1. Jesus dealt with the *invisible* problem of the paralytic first -- “Your sins are forgiven” -- before dealing with his visible physical problem. Perhaps it was so that he could draw out the Jakims as was what happened, (“He’s blaspheming!”)

2. I suspect this wasn’t Matthew Levi’s first exposure to Jesus. Jesus had been known in Capernaum already, as evidenced by the crowds mentioned earlier. But Levi probably thought he was too “dirty” to be accepted, just like the Jakims did, (“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”) Jesus proved him (and them) wrong, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

3. What did Jesus mean by the “new wineskin”? It’s not fasting, since He did say we would fast after He’s gone. This -- new wine and new wineskins -- are terms that modern Charismatics throw around a lot, but from the context, it’s not so clear to me what Jesus meant. The New Covenant, replacing the Old Covenant? Fasting not as a ritualistic obligation but rather for spiritual growth? Maybe that’s what he meant, because he made more or less the same point in the next paragraph about the sabbath.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Study on Mark 1

My Life Net Group has been doing a study of Mark over WhatsApp, so I've not been doing my SOAP studies, so I thought I'd share what we've discussed so far instead.
1. Sometimes we get the impression that John the Baptist invented baptism, but actually, baptism as an outward sign of repentance and cleansing was already practiced by the Jews. They've even found baptismal pools that date back before Jesus' time in Israel.

2. Jesus told the man with the dreaded skin disease not to tell anyone about it. (v44) In contrast, He told the Gesarene demoniac to tell everyone, and he did, so that all Decapolis heard about Jesus as a result.

The man with the dreaded skin disease disobeyed Jesus, to the point that Jesus was mobbed so much that He had to stay away from town.

I wonder if that's why He told him not to tell, whereas Decapolis wasn't His territory so it didn't matter that the former demoniac told?

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.