Saturday, 30 April 2016

Where to Start Reading the Bible

The order in which I started reading the Bible after I first got saved was:

John's Gospel first;

then Acts
and the Epistles

Revelation next

Then I went back to Genesis and started reading the whole Bible through in order, hoping that by the time I got to the end of it I'd have a basis for a suitable understanding of the Book of Revelation.

How to Rightly Divide the Word

Something I think's important, is to be able to understand the Bible as an unfolding story of redemption where the plot doesn't necessarily become entirely clear until we've read to the very end of the Four Gospels, Acts and the Epistles.

Otherwise we could mis-apply some parts of the Bible - especially the Old Testament Law and Prophets and maybe even some details in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).

For example if we overlook that some parts of Scripture were intended as a narrative showing the historical fulfilment of previously written Prophecies in Scripture, we could mistakenly think that many such Old Testament prophecies are still to be fulfilled in future - and that would have the effect of making an air-castle out of the Christian claim that Jesus is Messiah. It would also seem to necessitate observing modern-Judaism, even though it would pull the rug out from underneath modern-Judaism at the same time!

But if we get it right - if follow the Bible's timeline of Prophecy and their fulfilment in history the way the Apostles explained it ("rightly dividing [navigating] the Word", Paul called it), then one thing emerges with pristine clarity - and that is JESUS CHRIST.

The overall plot ends up being stated clearly - history and previous Scripture are explained in detail: it was always God's plan to save people in all the world freely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ - regardless of ethnicity, and without observing Moses' complete system of Law. That is the plot which Prophecy and history were always working towards. Jesus Christ.

That's called the Apostle's doctrine - the Gospel.

So perhaps we could "rightly divide" the Word as follows:

THE LAW

Begins with the Promise of worldwide salvation through Abraham's Seed (seed singular, which was Christ) - a promise stated before Israel was even born, and before the Law was ever given.

Then the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant Law emerges, as custodians and temporary foreshadowings of that future Promise.

THE PROPHETS

Details God's dealings with Israel; and includes further details about the coming of the Promised Seed (the Saviour).

OTHER OLD TESTAMENT HISTORICAL BOOKS

Narrated history to show how Prophecy was fulfilled; set the stage for the Messianic Prophecies to be fulfilled.

GOSPELS

Picked up where Old Testament history left off. Shows Jesus confirming the Promises to those who were under the Law, and eventually fulfilling Prophecy by inaugurating the New Covenant in His blood.

ACTS

Showed the Apostles applying the cross and resurrection as central to God's plan; narrated the inclusion of the Gentiles; authorised the non-necessity of observing the Law. Showed examples of the Apostles' understanding of history and the fulfilment of Old Testament Prophecy, all focusing on Jesus and His salvation - for all, without the Law.

EPISTLES

Provide explanation, summary and application of all of the above.

(The Church is built on the foundation of the holy Apostles and Prophets - there is no 'third testament' - there is no such thing as a Post-Apostolic Church in which church doctrines or the work of the Holy Spirit were to change in any way. To further divide the Epistles up into parts that still apply directly and parts that don't, relies on extra-Apostolic and extra-Biblical authorities.

We're to just keep preaching and experiencing this good news like the Apostles did while we await the coming of the Lord!)


Friday, 29 April 2016

Applying Old Testament Prophecies

It's interesting that many Bible-prophecies which are popularly thought to be about the future, were treated by the Lord and by the Apostles as having been already fulfilled by their time - and they used that as proof for the Gospel.

So, whatever applications Old Testament prophecies may or may not still have to the future, I consider it of utmost importance to first and foremost see the way the Apostles (in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles) cited such Bible-prophecies (from the Old Testament) and how they explained that the fulfilment in history of those prophecies was proof for their assertion that JESUS was Messiah.

Otherwise the Scriptural timeline of history and the unfolding story of redemption becomes skewiff. It leaves chunks of history unexplained, making an air-castle out of Christianity and pulling the rug on modern Judaism at the same time.

No Compromise

"The good that I would, I do not; the evil that I would not, that I do".

Can you relate to that frustration?

Others seem to have reacted to the struggle and gone to the other extreme by becoming happily all-accepting - accepting both of themselves and of others despite any behaviours they might have.

Is that what we should do? Should we accept sins as just an inevitable part of our humanness, and pretend to go on serving God with that mixture of sins and God's grace going on in our life? 

Should we happily accept something which we think is a sin in a brother's life, and try to just all get on in the church without ever rebuking sins? what about sins in a leader's life? 

Or should we make a lot more of an issue about sins than that. Is the problem just that we haven't tried hard enough?

What's right - a la-di-da atttitude about sins and grace, or to keep trying harder, or what?

Early this morning I asked the Lord concerning this. Which is it? What is right. 

Straightaway I saw in my spirit something like the picture below:


Notice it's not all red; it's not all blue - I particularly noticed the strong white line existing in-between the two. (It reminded me of the Pepsi logo.) 

White represents the righteousness of God - and that's the answer.

The Gospel is not all 'red' - it's not all to do with just teaching about sin, and striving for holiness alone; but neither is the Gospel all on the blue-side - as if grace means sins may as well not even be sins any more for all we need care. (Because "What a man soweth, that shall he also reap," is still a relevant principle. What makes the picture an accurate representation of the Gospel message and power is that  white line down the middle - righteousness of God.)

Which side are you in? the question came to me, as I pondered the picture. 

I'm on the side of the grace of God - the blue side. But that's not because there's no more any red side, as if we've learned to just live with sins - it's because the righteousness of God has made a divide between us and sin. And not just in theory only, but in power and provision and practise. 

If that white line was not there, we might think we're all 'blue' but in reality in a liquid we'd end up in a murky, grey mixture of purple or mauve instead. Not the clear distinction between red and blue that we see in the picture above.

If someone on the red side looked towards the blue side without the middle white line, he'd see a murky blend of the colours; and visa versa - if someone on the blue side looked toward the red side without the white line, he also would see only a murky blend of mauve. 

But with the white line in the middle, both the red and the blue are actually enhanced in colour. With the white divide and backdrop, on the red side you'd see only red - and an enhanced red at that; while on the blue side you'd see only blue - and a beautifully enhanced blue at that.

The righteousness of God causes sin to appear terribly sinful, like a backdrop of white against a red liquid enhances its redness; but that's not the only thing God's righteousness does - it has also enabled God's grace to appear more wonderful and to function more fully and completely and effectually in our lives - like a backdrop of pure, bright white enhances the beauty of a liquid's blueness. 

See, God's grace isn't offered scandalously (if we define scandalous as offending morality or law) - it's offered on a just basis. God's grace is righteous - and it makes men righteous - not only in theory, but in power and practise. The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel. The cross showed sin to be terribly sinful - but equally so and much more so it also provided the grace of God on a just basis, a legal basis - not scandalously, from the viewpoint of the Law. Jesus introduced the New Covenant without ever breaking a single point of the Old Covenant. The cross carried-out all of the ethics modelled by Moses' Law - in fact, the true picture is actually a reverse of that - Moses' Law was only a shadow of the righteousness of God which would later be demonstrated by the cross. Walking in the Spirit means a lifestyle against which there was no point of law.

So the thing to do is keep looking at the white. We're not just trying to imagine everything's nice and blue if really there's been a mixture with red and we're really an undefined sort of purple. No - we're looking at that nice, bright white - which has separated us from the red - and all is indeed beautiful, glistening blue. Look to the cross and its effectiveness. See the righteousness of God in it, from faith to faith.

Study what the New Testament teaches about that dividing white line of God's righteousness which the cross has made us.

Can we really live up to this? If we were on the red side, we'd feel defeated so many times. We don't have to dilute the clearly defined colours of the Word of God. We can come from sincerity, from God Himself - we can speak as people in Christ. Even from God's vantage point what we are doing is seen as perfectly righteous. It's not that we commend ourselves on our own contrived basis. God has written that logo above so to speak, into our hearts - white separating the red from the blue. We have this trust toward God, through Christ. He's the One who made us able for this. Able to minister it. This New Covenant. Not on the red side, because that results in condemnation - but thoroughly in the blue, in the Spirit, life!

What we're ministering, is righteousness - not a tolerated blend of colours. But not a striving for righteousness like what exists on the red side - but the gift of real righteousness. Since we have this confidence, we speak plainly, unreservedly, boldly. The Spirit of the Lord gave us this freedom. Like looking in a mirror, we look into the image of the glory of God, and are changed into the same image by the Spirit of God - really, truly.

There's no need for doubleness. We've received mercy, we've renounced the red both in our lives and in our presentation of God's scheme in the Word. We are what we preach and we preach what we are and what we have in us. The pristine righteousness of God. That's what makes grace beautiful blue - it's not scandalous (without ethics).

So we don't become disheartened by any sense of inadequacy - because our adequacy didn't come from ourself but from God through this Gospel. We can literally commend ourselves to every man's conscience - because God's grace has separated us from sin both legally and in our real experience. 

Yet we don't preach ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord. We are just His servants for others' sakes. The knowledge of the glory of God is important. Fallen man has lost that knowledge. It's as they look into that glory, in the person of Jesus Christ, that men are changed into the same image by the Spirit. 

Show people the righteousness of Jesus Christ - His life, the cross - His resurrection. Keep looking at it ourselves. Then blue (God's grace) will truly be blue without compromising with any red.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

About Tolerance and Bigotry - quote by John Dickson

Here’s a thought (bubble). I wonder if the common accusation that Christians are narrow, judgmental, and hateful is rooted in precisely the opposite reality from what people often imagine. I’m not denying that Christians are sometimes all these things and more, but I’m thinking there’s another side of the story. Perhaps it is Western society and not the Church that has lost touch with a culture of grace. Hear me out.

"Most Christians operate within a theology and culture of ‘grace’, where profound moral disagreement between people is never interpreted as an absence of love between them. For starters, at the root of our faith is confidence in God’s enduring love for us despite the depths of His holy disagreement with our sin.

Then there’s the fact that most believers find it plausible to talk about our shared sinfulness without ever imagining we could not at the same time love one another, and ourselves.

Thus, when asked by the world about our disagreements with contemporary culture, we Christians don’t instinctively imagine that our contrary opinions, when expressed with gentleness and respect, will be interpreted as hateful or judgmental. In a grace paradigm, that would never enter into it.

But our secularising society is slowly losing its culture of grace. Disagreement, especially moral disagreement, has come to imply hatred, or at least disrespect. Gone from our culture is the ethical imagination which grace inspires: the capacity to critique and love at the same time, and, just as importantly, the capacity to be critiqued and still know you are loved at the same time.

All that is left in a graceless culture is an impoverished moralism which demands agreement as the true sign of compassion, and which in turn inspires contempt for those who disagree.

So, maybe it is the graceless judgmentalism of secularism which provides the internal logic for the assumption that the moral viewpoints of Christianity are hateful. Perhaps, in other words, when secularists accuse Christians of being narrow and bigoted, they are really looking in the mirror of secularism’s tragic loss of grace."

- John Dickson

My thoughts:

So to recover that lost grace, we need to hear again the Gospel.  We love - because Christ first loved us. And we realise that since He died for us, then we were all once dead in sins. Yet God loved us and gave His Son as a sacrifice to cover our sin.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Movements

1904-1906 - Welsh Revival/Azusa Street

1920s - Pentecostal denominations organised 

1940s - Latter Rain emerged from among Pentecostals mainly in Canada, as a response to perceived dryness within Pentecostalism

(Features: all believers moving in the gifts; laying on of hands; fivefold ministry; ordination through personal prophecy; deliverance; believers' authority; word of faith; the voice of healing revival - some amillennialism; even a tangent called "the manifest sons of God".)

1960s-early 1980s - Charismatic Movement - affected all denominations, not only Pentecostals; gravitated more towards Latter Rain leaders than towards traditional Pentecostal leaders; blurring of boundaries between Charismatic and Latter Rain movements; sharing teachers

Meanwhile Pentecostal denominations didn't fully embrace either movement - and denounced some features.

Eventually the "Contemporary Church" style emerged within Pentecostal denominations. It was a new generations' answer to the dryness within Pentecistalism, without fully embracing the Latter Rain/Charismatic move. The new style came to affect Latter Rain/Charismatic churches too. Boundaries blurred.

Mid-1990s - the River Movement - brought a much-needed fresh move of the Spirit to Contemporary-ised churches.

Today, traces of at least some features of Pentecostal, Latter Rain, Charismatic, Contemporary-Church and River movements can be found in most denominations to varying extent.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Sheep and Goats in the Nations

Someone named a certain nation and said it isn't a sheep nation but a goat nation - because as an American Christian visiting that country, he felt under surveillance there.

Jesus did say anyone who did the will of God was his brother - and Gentiles were grafted into the same family. But while it's true that some nations treat Christians worse than others, I don't think God necessarily has sheep and goat nations - from a prophetic, soteriological and eschatological viewpoint.

I know the nations shall stand before the Lord at the Judgment and the sheep and goats shall be separated. But what shall divide people in that Day will not be their nationality - but their individual behaviour. From among all nations there shall come sheep and goats: the good and bad. God will judge individuals not nations eternally.

Someone else said the nations will be judged and afforded a status in a proposed future Millennium based on how they treated Israel. But Judgment will be based on how the individual not his nation treats any individual not just the nation of Israel - and the judgement will be eternal not merely for a thousand years.

God's Judgment and Kingdom are eternal, and only those individuals who believe in Messiah-Jesus and who treat all other individuals well shall see it - irrespective of their nationality. That was the point. 

It was a warning to Jews; it embraced the Gentiles; and it showed the only way to eternal life - believe in Jesus and love every individual.

Monday, 18 April 2016

How to Apply the Four Gospels

The Synoptic Gospels are like a glimpse inside a cocoon, watching the larva morph through its stages of development until the final imago emerges.

At the first we see the setting is entirely in Judaea; among Jews functioning fully under the Law. Jesus' ministers and teaches among them, in that location, and under that Covenant, which He upheld.

But all along, and much more towards the end, He also spoke of changes coming. Of a new commandment. Of the end of Jerusalem being the required place of worship. Of a new way of worship. We see much of the locale revolving instead around Galilee. Then back in Jerusalem where He was crucified, He made a new testament in His blood, which He said was for many. Then after His resurrection He gave His disciples a new program - a program for all nations.

Luke continues to show the results after the cocoon, in Acts. After Pentecost we see the Apostles' message focusing not so much on how to become better Law-keepers - but on the reality of Christ's resurrection and the purpose of His cross.

Then we see the same good news spreading among the Gentiles. Finally it comes to a head, with the council at Jerusalem - when it is decided categorically that the Gentile believers need not be obligated to become observant of Moses' Law.

It's a message for all nations that the justification, holy-living, salvation, grace, kingdom, resurrection and life which are promised us at Christ's coming, are freely available to us all now, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, by the cross and resurrection of Jesus - without the observance of the Law.

That's the true good news of the grace of God - the embryo (Promise) which had become a larva (Law, Old Covenant) cocooned (Gospels, when the larva of the Law/Old Covenant was morphing into the adult New Covenant, and the full plan of God was still somewhat sessile even though it was beginning to exarate somewhat) then emerged in full imago and mated and has produced salvation in all the world, fulfilling the promise to Abraham.

And then Jesus will come.

The Apostles' Doctrine

Notice when the Apostles preached after Pentecost, they didn't just preach about how to become better Law-keepers.

They didn't even major on merely repeating some of the ethical things Jesus had at one time said about the Jews at that time keeping the Law.

Rather the Apostles' message revolved around the reality of the resurrection and the purpose of the cross of Jesus!

Paul said he resolved not to know anything among the churches except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Some of the details in the Synoptic Gospels were part of a still-unfolding plot - a plot which didn't become entirely clear to the disciples until after Christ's resurrection.

Rightly Applying the Gospels

Someone once told me he didn't enjoy reading the Gospels so much. 
 Could it be because, like the Old Testament Scriptures (though to a lesser extent), the Gospels (especially the first three Gospels) recorded history (as it happened up until the ascension) - but didn't consist entirely of the writer's own interpretations or direct applications of that history to readers of today? (unlike the Epistles which were always intended to relate directly, unequivocally and entirely to the original recipients). 
 The Epistles were the writer applying the Gospel directly to the reader - the Synoptic Gospels were a record of history (without the writer necessarily including instructions about how every detail of the history from start to finish related or didn't relate to their readers). 
 The history the writers reported formed an important foundation towards enabling the early Church to correctly understand and apply God's plans for the Church post-Pentecost - but that didn't mean every line of everything ever said or done in the Gospels was intended by the writers to be taken as applying unchanged and forever in the Church. God's plan was an unfolding plot which didn't become entirely clear until the end, nevertheless the whole story was necessary to be told first in order to understand and give legitimacy to the plot as it would finally be understood in the end. 
 If that's not the case, then the reader could mistakenly think he must still be literally keeping Moses' Law today as the composite religious system that it was (as some today are saying, even though really the infrastructure required to keep the Law hasn't existed since around AD70). We would also be seemingly setting the Synoptic Gospels off against the fourth Gospel (especially some of the statements in Matthew). 
 
So, like the Old Testament, the Synoptic Gospels also need to be rightly "divided" (navigated, interpreted, applied): and how to do that becomes clearer once you reach the end of the Gospels. It's also the Epistles and Acts of the Apostles which guided the Church in that task, while the purpose of the Synoptic Gospels themselves was more just to provide the history required in order to do that, rather than to be making those applications in themselves all the way through from start to finish, although even the Gospels themselves of course make the application deducible once you get to the end. 
What do you reckon?

The Great Commission

When I sent them out, I didn't send them out with a church-planting program - but respect their structures. 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Tolerance - Quote from John Dickson

"Just as genuine 'bravery' isn't the absence of fear but the capacity to face fears with composure and resolve, so genuine 'tolerance' isn't the absence of disagreement - even over fundamentals - but the capacity to disagree with respect and compassion"

- John Dickson

Friday, 15 April 2016

Facebook Friend

I'm fine, thanks.

I'm 48.

I'm single, but I'm not seeking a romantic relationship through Facebook.


I'm in Australia.

I don't usually send money to someone I haven't met.

I'm unable to find employment for you in my country.

I'm not currently interested in any new business ventures.

I'm not eager to solicit anyone else's involvement in the above purposes.

I don't currently have plans to visit your country.

I'm just wishing for a mutually edifying online friendship.

How are you?


By Tom Loud

"The Law"  is a term that is often abused among Christians. "The Law" actually refers to the ordinances that God's people were commanded to obey under the Old Covenant. Some use "The Law" to refer to any commandment that we are instructed to keep, and when you bring up something that we were commanded to do in the New Testament, these people cry "Foul", and "Legalism"  and state,  "I'm not under The Law, I'm under Grace."  This can be a great lie that is used to justify every kind of sin with impunity. We are NOT under "The Law" as it was laid out in the Old Testament, but we ARE under certain laws as designated in the New Testament, otherwise we would be as Satan, who is known for being the "Lawless".  Jesus said plainly,  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  Our commandments are actually numerous, but they all fall under the general heading of "Love".  When Jesus gives us commandments, we are to learn them and then apply them and not foolishly dismiss them as being "The Law". I Peter 2:16  For you are free, yet you are God's slaves, so don't use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. There is a "Law" for us today, and those who actually DO it, are blessed.
James 1:5But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it--not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it--they will be blessed in what they do.

- by Tom Loud

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Twelve Apostles, Victoria

On the geology of the Twelve Apostles, Victoria:

The popular story is that the Limestone is up to 15 million years old.

But seismologists last month reportedly discovered similar stacks of limestone some 6km out to sea, 60m below the ocean surface, leaving scientists allegedly bewildered why the stacks have not eroded away despite being subject to the forces of the sea all those thousands of years.

A Doctor Bird surmises that the whole process of erosion from

coastline --> arch ---> stack --> collapse

can take as little as 600 years.

Another possibility could be that sea-levels may have risen far more suddenly and recently than has been asserted.

Or maybe scientists' ideas about rates of erosion in the area are off by thousands or even millions of years.

I think one problem could be: probably not many people have studied the geology of the landforms in question. So rather than seeing independant peer-review, could it be that what we have traditionally seen might just have been a case of widespread acceptance of the assertions of a few?

Just wondering! I don't know. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Rightly Dividing the Word

An important key when reading the Bible is to understand that not all parts of the Bible apply equally directly and unequivocally to us.

Parts of the Old Testament for example applied directly to the Jews at the time when they were written, but don't apply as directly to us today.

Parts of the Gospels also, especially the first three Gospels, recount the history of the ministry of Jesus, without necessarily interpreting how each part applied to their readers, or to us.

The Epistles on the other hand were written with direct application to their readers, so they also apply more directly to us too - but even in some of the Epistles some things don't have exactly the same relevance any more that they had for the readers for whom they were written when they were written.

For example, the issue of the Law. The Law was given by Moses, for the Jews at that time; Jesus Christ later came and ministered exclusively to Jews who were still under the Law, so He upheld the Law - but more than that Jesus also transitioned the Old Covenant Law into the New Covenant of grace and truth, on the cross.

Until about AD70 it was still possible to keep the Law if someone wanted to, even though it was no longer necessary to - which is why Paul in some of his epistles was so careful to write that Gentiles didn't have to become Law-keepers.

Today of course the Temple, altar and Levitical priesthood which were required to keep the Law no longer exist, so it's no longer possible to keep the Law today in the sense that Paul discussed the issue, even if you want to! 

Therefore it might be possible for some today to mistakenly think that Paul's discussion about the Law was about grace v ethics, and to mistakenly think ethics no longer apply, but that's not what he said - he meant the Law as the composite religious system that it was: Moses' Law no longer applied directly to the early Church like it once had to the Jews. There was never any question in Paul's mind that certain ethics don't always apply. 

So in a sense Paul was giving an answer which had to be given at that time to an important question of his time - but today the question itself is void.

Of course all Scripture was written for us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. It was written for our learning, as examples, warnings, to give patience and comfort and hope. All Scripture is profitable - for us. Even the Law is still good - if a man use it lawfully. But that doesn't mean we're to try to apply every line in the Bible without seeing it in light of the finished work of Jesus on Calvary.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Passover Dates

The Passover didn't only have to be observed in the month of Nisan - but it was also fundamental to the meaning of the Passover that it had to be Spring when they kept it. That's one reason the date of Passover isn't the same every year - it has to coincide with the full moon, in the month Nisan, and with the first shoots of Spring. That unique combination of requirements ought to be enough to tell you the Passover was never intended for observance in the Southern Hemisphere (where it's Autumn not Spring in the month of Nisan).