My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.



Thursday, January 31, 2008

Revelation 4

Godsong

Summary:
Then I was led through a door into a big room, and this freaky guy was sitting in the centre on a throne. Kinda indescribable. There were 24 elders around him, and there was all this thunder and lightening. There were seven lamp, spirits, around the throne. There were four strange creatures around the throne. They were covered with eyes. They constantly praised God, and whenever they do so, the elders all praised too.

Key verse:
3. the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.

My thoughts:
I love these chapters which describe the throne room. For me, it truly gives us a picture of what worship really is. John is struggling for words to describe what he saw, particularly God on the throne. He's not really making sense. He's trying to describe the indescribable.

24 elders. One for each tribe and Apostle.

Notice how there are the seven spirits of God here, but it's quite clear that John is not refering to the Holy Spirit split, but rather to other things. We can see this because John constantly refers to the Holy Spirit when he says he was in the Spirit.

I love the songs of Revelation, the heaven songs. The songs of praise that the heavenly beings sing to God. In my head they are the purest most perfect songs to sing in our praise of God.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Revelation 3

Mmmm... Godvomit...

Summary:
Yo, Sardis, wake up! You might look alive, but you ain't. If you don't pull finger, then I'll come when you least expect it. Some of you have it sorted.
Philadelphia, you're weak but obedient. The door is open. Your enemies will submit to you, and I'll keep you from the coming struggles.
And finally, Laodicea. Be hot or cold! Just don't be lukewarm like you are. You claim wealth, but you're filthy and poor. I want you to repent and find me and become rich. I'm waiting for you to let me in.

Key verse:
20. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

My thoughts:
The message to the Laodiceans is quite well known for its rant about lukewarmness and for the key verse. The lukewarmness part is simply a reminder that following God is not a part of your life, it is all of you and needs to be that. There are a lot of lukewarm Christians, and we must call ourselves to be hot, and call others.

The key verse is just a cool expression of the response we need to make to Jesus. There are a few famous pictures of this, but they all have a very nice and normal looking Jesus. He should have fire-eyes, and glow like the sun with a double-edged sword out his mouth whlist holding seven stars. That would be more accurate in this passage.

Anywhom, notice that these messages aren't addressed to the churches, but to the angels of the churches, which presents the interesting idea that churches each have their own guardian angel. Quite a cool idea.

Could just be meaning human messengers though, eg. John.

I can't wait to get to the New Jerusalem and see how this all actually works!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revelation 2

Mmmm... sandwich...

Summary:
These are the words of the glorious Jesus I saw.
You've worked hard, Ephesus, and don't tolerate evil. But get back to your first love!
Smyrna, you're rich in your poverty and suffering! The persecution from the Jews will get worse.
Pergamum, you've kept your faith in tough surroundings. But repent from eating food sacrificed to idols and from sexual immorality.
Thyatira, you get better and better, but you've kept Jezebel around, and also need to repent of eating food sacrificed to idols and from sexual immorality. I will punish Jezebel, so you know I mean business. Don't leave what you already know!

Key verse:
7. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

My thoughts:
Jesus seems to be perfecting here the technique of the compliment sandwich. First, he says a nice thing, followed by something to improve on, and finishes with a promise to those who follow his words. There is a clear structure as follows:

Indication that the word is from the man described in chapter 1
Compliment
Things to improve on
Call to listen
Promise of something eternal

Jesus also seems concerned with specific heretics, the Nicolaitanes and one referred to as Jezebel. This continues to the other 3 churches addressed in the next chapter. You can read up on the Nicolaitanes. The common denominator of these heretics is they seem to be leading people to eat food sacrificed to idols (which Paul said was kinda okay...) and sexual immorality. Not much is known about them beyond Revelation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Revelation 1

Really shiny man

Summary:
Jesus showed me, John, what was happening soon so I could tell you, the seven churches in Asia. Praise God!

Jesus is coming through the sky, and everyone will see him. Even his enemies. "I'm the beginning and the end" says Jesus. I'm imprisoned in Patmos because of the Gospel. I was told by Jesus himself to write to you seven churches. He was in a long robe with a gold sasg. He was all white, but his eyes were fire, and from his mouth a really sharp sword. I fell to my knees so fast I thought I was dead, but he told me who he was and not to worry. He told me to write what I'd seen, including the seven stars in his hand which were angels to each of the seven lampstands around him which were you seven churches.

Key verse:
8. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

My thoughts:
So here we are, finally at Revelation. Only 22 chapters to go! I just worked out that I should catch up in time for 'the end' with about 1 day to spare or something. Maybe 3...

Anyway, I'm thinking that Revelation is going to be hard work! Long chapters, and lots of them, and generally difficult content!

So Revelation is apocalyptic literature, and generally either the Apocalypse of Peter of this Revelation of John made it into the early lists of Christian books, but the Johannine one obviously won out in the end. I just read about the Apocalypse of Peter and I'm quietly stoked that it isn't in our canon, as it seems a bit weird and extreme with very specific descriptions of hell; a specificity that the rest of the Bible seems to almost intentionally avoid.

The Apocalypse of Peter makes no uncertain claims about abortion, however! That is another matter which the canon doesn't appeal to specifically.

Anyway, so don't forget that Revelation is a letter, from John to some churches. The centre-point of this chapter is the image of Jesus that John sees. It's very powerful. I love the sword as Jesus' tongue. It's very consistent with Hebrews 4, describing God's Word as a double-edged sword.

So a lot of Revelation is very figurative. Keep that in mind.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jude 1

Slanderous beings

Summary:
Be careful. Some people have turned 'grace' into 'freedom to sin', and even deny Jesus. Remember that though God is Saviour, he is also destroyer. These people slander things beyond earth. Even archangel Michael didn't slander the devil! These people are useless. Enoch referred to their judgement.

We knew these people would come. Keep to the straight path and take others with you.

Glory to God.

Key verse:
10. Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

My thoughts:
Jude is so similar to parts of 2 Peter that it is very clear that they are somehow dependant on one another. Many suspect that Jude, brother of James and therefore presumably Jesus, wrote his brief Epistle first, and then 2 Peter was based upon it.

Jude was actually considered canonical quite early comparatively considering it's esoteric content and dubious origin. It references non-canonical material directly as scripture, which is rare in Biblical texts, and probably helped it return to dispute in the 4th century.

A practical point to take from this is not to slander the devil. We shouldn't approach spiritual things with arrogance, because we are mere humans.

Otherwise the theme is one that has become quite common. Beware of heretics. Oh, and grace isn't an excuse for sin.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

3 John 1

Good Gaius!

Summary:
Yo Gaius. I hear your faith is strong, and I hope you're health too. You've been good to your visitors. Continue this. Don't be like Diotrephes who wants everything for himself. Do good. Anyway, I'll come see you in person.

Key verse:
11. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

My thoughts:
So this is quite similar to 2 John in that it's a simple little letter to a specific person about some unhelpful people. Here the person is named. Not too much to say about this. It fits very simply into the theology and points of the Johannine letters.

I'd love to talk to people like Gaius in heaven. Just those side people of the Bible we know so little about. There are a few Biblical possibilities as to who it could be, but we really just don't know.

Friday, January 25, 2008

2 John 1

So I'm guessing this love this is important

Summary:
Yo lady! Shot on getting some Christian kids. Just make sure you keep loving each other. Some people say Jesus wasn't a physical person, so be careful against those who try to go 'beyond' Jesus' teaching. Anyway, I'll come and talk more.

Key verse:
9. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God

My thoughts:
This is a quick letter which essentially makes the same point as the entire first letter. Love one another, and heretics are wrong so keep away from them.

We don't really know who the lady is, but this almost certainly has the same author as 1 John, who is referred to as the elder here, as in 3 John.

My point from this chapter is: don't be too tricky. Jesus gave clear teachings. If you think too hard and end up basically making beliefs which aren't grounded in Jesus, but just in complex thought then you're going down the wrong route!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

1 John 5

Water and blood

Summary:
So we're called to show our love by following God's commands, which aren't too hard because we're born of God. This is through Jesus, who was baptised and who also bled. In addition to this he's testified by the Spirit. But most of all we have God's testimony that Jesus gives eternal life. If you get the Son you get life, if not, you don't.

I say all of this so you believe and live. We know God will hear us when we pray, so pray when a friend commits a non-fatal sin. In God we are safe from the enemy, unlike the rest of the world.

Don't have anything to do with idols.

Key verse:
13. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

My thoughts:
I love how this letter ends. John just gives a final command to do with idols which is completely unrelated to anything else he's been saying. A weird ending whatever the case. Maybe there was more but I wouldn't think that there'd be much more because the key verse seems to imply that the letter was coming to an end.

Anyway, I've used a bit of creative license for my summary here, by pointing to the water as baptism and the blood as Jesus' crucifixion. It can also be understood as the water and blood that flowed out from Jesus on the cross. Whatever the case, the writer is trying to emphasise the real suffering of Jesus in the midst of people who are trying to make Jesus seem like a super-human who didn't suffer per se.

Finally, the key verse is such a good summary of what John is trying to do here. There is a similar refrain at the end of his gospel. He's a true evangelist.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1 John 4

The source of love

Summary:
Don't believe everything you hear. If a spirit says that Jesus came in the real flesh is godly, otherwise don't listen to it. God in us trumps the world outside, so we win.

Love comes from God and flows through us. You cannot know God without love. He is love. He loved us first and makes his love complete in us, so we don't have to fear judgement. We know that God's in us and that he sent Jesus. We rely on his love. It gets rid of our fear.

You can't love God and hate others.

Key verse:
19. We love because he first loved us.

My thoughts:
This is just a fantastic chapter that I think you should just read lots. It makes the source of our love clear, something non-religious people cannot do. It shows us how we don't have to fear judgement because it's not based on our love, but God perfecting his love through us. That's pretty sweet. Once again, John is weeding out heretics who don't value love.

I could've had so many other key verses, but I think verse 19 most simply encapsulates the sentiment for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1 John 3

Laying down your life

Summary:
Because of God's love, we are now his children, and will become so much more! This keeps us pure. Jesus broke sin, so don't keep doing it! Don't be confused into thinking that sin is now okay. We can tell those who are born of God because they love, and don't sin.

Love each other, but don't be surprised if he world hates you like Cain hated Abel. Jesus gave the best example of love by dying for us. We need to learn how to sacrifice. If we do what God says we'll get what we ask because God lives in us. We know this because of the Spirit.

Key verse:
16. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

My thoughts:
Love is pretty cool. Yea. John is trying to weed out fake or heretical Christians from among his people by showing those who keep sinning, presumably somewhat openly, as people who are without God.

The concept of laying down one's life just makes me think of Obama's inevitable assassination. Everyone he's compared to got assassinated.

Compare the last couple of verses with John chapter 14 or 15 or something. I can't be bothered finding exactly where, but you should be able to find it!

Monday, January 21, 2008

1 John 2

Anti-christness

Summary:
I don't want you to sin, but if you do, Jesus will defend you. If you really know Jesus, you'll do what he said.

This isn't new. Oh wait, maybe it is. The light of truth is here, and if you hate others then you aren't in the light no matter what you say.

Children are forgiven, fathers know, youth overcome.

Don't love what happens here on earth. It's temporary. Some people apposed to Jesus have left us already, but that's to be expected. You, however, know the truth and have the Spirit, and don't lie by denying Jesus as the Messiah. You can't have the Father if you reject the Son.

You don't need to be taught, so don't listen to those fools. Keep going strong!

Key verse:
22. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.

My thoughts:
I love 1 John. It appears that perhaps some people had taken John's Gospel a bit too far and made Jesus some sort of superhero and developed weird mythological theology around him. 1 John constantly hits back at heresy and points directly to the real earthly Jesus, his Messiahship, and right-living. As we will see, it staunchly defends the real suffering, the real death, and the real resurrection of Jesus.

So there's a weird little repetitive poem in the middle of this which kinda echoes what John is saying throughout the rest of this letter. John is constantly uses the phrase "I am writing to you because" and this poem reflects that. Beyond that I can't really see its specific purpose.

John's use of anti-christ here isn't specific, but generally just refers to those who are against Christ, which here might make the most sense referring to his current heretics because he's referring to those who deny Jesus as the Christ.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

1 John 1

Overcasm

Summary:
We proclaim what we've seen and touched and what was around at the beginning of time. He is life and brings eternal life, and we want you to join us.

God is light not darkness, and we must walk in light not darkness, then we can be purified and unified. Don't pretend you don't sin, but confess your sins.

Key verse:
9. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

My thoughts:
Yea, so confess your sins and stuff...

So 1 John some strong linguistic connections with John's Gospel, and also some similar themes. In order to maintain their view that the New Testament was written millenia after Jesus was around, so that Jesus' message has, therefore, gone through a sinful process of biological evolution, so that they don't actually have to change their lives, the filthy secular liberocrats have created the idea that there was a Johannine community that is responsible for the similarities, and that these texts are certainly not written by a single person, and that person certainly wasn't the eye-witness Apostle John. Oh no, that would just be too convenient. It couldn't be that simple. And anyway, John's theology is far too complicated and far too developed, and we all know that the first Christians were far too stupid to think about such things very hard. I mean, the Johannine community uses analogies of light! For goodness sake, no single man could develop that given a mere 60 years to ponder it! Don't be ridiculous!

.
.
.

Well, that was fun.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2 Peter 3

By soon, he meant, whenever

Summary:
This is my second letter to remind you. Remember that people will mock you, thinking that the end will not come. They have forgotten how powerful God is. Maybe we expected the end by now, but remember that God sees time differently, and he wants all people to be saved. The Day will come unexpectedly though.

So live a holy life! A new heaven and a new earth is coming! Be patient as Paul has said. Understand his words well, and don't distort them. Watch out!

Key verse:
9. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

My thoughts:
I have to admit that the excuses for the end not coming and the reference to Paul as scripture both support a late date for this letter, but they do not preclude an early date either. It would change our view of the church in the 60s somewhat, but I'm not so arrogant to think that humanity had that clear a grasp on what the 60s church was like anyway. We have opinions, but we mostly just don't know.

Anyway, we are here 2000 ish years later and the end has still not come, and 2 Peter provides us a scriptural basis on how Jesus' return has always been 'soon' but still hasn't happened yet. Basically it goes on the idea that God's timing works differently, and that it'll come when we least expect it. That's fair enough for me!

Paul's letters seem to be a growth-inducing agar plate for heresy in the early church. Paul spoke so much on so many new and controversial ideas, and was so determined in his views, that some had distorted his writings into very unChristian things, and Peter is warning against these. Admittedly these probably make the most sense in terms of someone like the second-century Marcion, but it is not impossible that some of Paul's letters had begun to be distributed and distort by the end of Peter's life. It isn't impossible that they had become so well read amongst the small amount of early Christians that it wasn't ridiculous to refer to the old testament as 'other Scriptures'. Early Judaism seemed, to me, to have quite a liberal approach to accepting writings as scripture of some sort. Anything would be considered scripture by some! Even Wikipedia!

As the freaky table in Nelson Cathedral says, be prepared...

Friday, January 18, 2008

2 Peter 2

Gorillas with big hammers

Summary:
But there are heretics out there who deny even Jesus. They will be destroyed. We know from the Old Testament that God won't spare the sinners but will rescue the righteous. They curse heavenly things, which is pretty dumb. They are full of sin and self-pleasure. They need to be rebuked by an ass.

They promise freedom, yet are slaves. They would've been better off never coming to Jesus in the first place.

Key verse:
19. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

My thoughts:
The word for 'hell' here is the Greek word Tartarus, which is a word I don't know much about. I'd used to Hades or Sheol, but Tartarus is a new one for me. The only thing I know about Tartarus is that it is the name of the chieftain Brute in Halo 2. So his name means hell. Interesting...

I would look up the word on the internet, but our internet is currently nerfed, so that ain't gunna happen. If someone wants to look this up and let me know what is means, then that'd be cool!

Anyway, Peter is clearly prophectically speaking of the modern American branch of the Anglican communion here.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, nothing here implies to me that this must be referring to events or groups beyond the the 60s! Slandering celestial beings is an interesting concept...

So anyway, our internet is back, so I looked up Tartarus, and it's quite interesting! Tartarus is more like our traditional view of hell than Hades or Sheol. Rather than being a place of the dead, it is truly a place of torment and punishment for sinners. It was said to be within Hades. Peter here seems to be referencing Enoch 20, however, which explicitly states that the angels who came and slept with people in Genesis 6 were sent to Tartarus. Some of Enoch was probably written after Peter's life or as his contemporary, but this chapter was written centuries ago, so could've well been part of accepted Jewish mythology that Peter was referring to in the 60s.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2 Peter 1

Two Peter or not two Peter

Summary:
From Peter. God's given us everything we need. His promises make us godly. To be productive we need to add love and godly lifestyles to our faith. Make your calling a sure thing!

I know you know this, but I'll keep reminding you until I die. I didn't make this up! I heard God's voice speak to Jesus on that mountain during the transfiguration. Remember that prophecy and our scripture comes from God, not from people.

Key verse:
16. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

My thoughts:
So yea. Most 'people' don't think that Peter actually wrote 2 Peter, and even as early as Origen there was doubt, and 2 Peter isn't even mentioned much before him (Origen was third century). Petrine authorship is almost universally rejected.

2 Peter is not a core book of the New Testament. It is one, unlike Paul's letters and the gospels, which was, in early times, sometimes found within lists of canonical books and sometimes not.

The main reasons why Petrine authorship is rejected is because, from memory, a) the greek is poor and completely different to 1 Peter, b) it speaks to second century issues, c) it is just so darn Christian! (eg. it talks of the authority of Paul's letters).

Meh, there's probably more. Anyway, I'm not going to try and say that it's clearly actually written by Peter, but I would say that the evidence I've seen or heard of doesn't seem to prove to me that Peter didn't write this. It certainly puts the letter into doubt, but I think people on liberal and conservative sides often want to pretend that things are concluded when they're clearly not.

Arguments for Petrine authorship is that he dictated 1 Peter to Silas, a scribe, so it was written better, and quite simply that the thoughts and ideas in 2 Peter which may seem 2nd century are in fact able to be placed within Peter's lifetime.

Anywho... Peter's assertions of the sheer reality of Jesus and his glory I think are absolutely fundamental to orthodoxy. Many have tried to expand Christianity beyond the historical and actual events, or derive it in some sort of overly spiritual or metaphorical sense, but this is completely against the first heart of the Church. Implications like this lead me to believe (amongst other things) that the Apostles weren't talking about some internal, mental, spiritual, or metaphorical thing when referring to Christ's resurrection. They were talking about a very real thing they had seen with their eyes and touched with their hands.

This passage also quotes the New Testament, which is pretty unique within the New Testament! This of course points a bit towards non-Petrine authorship, but if Peter did write this, then phwoar! Those gospels were well distributed and known early! True eye-witness stuff here, folks!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1 Peter 5

Sheepy

Summary:
Older people, I ask you to look after your people. Not out of compulsion, but because you want to, and because Jesus will come to take over and give you your reward. Young people, do what they say! Be humble.

Resist Satan. He's trying to get you. Jesus will come and restore us all soon enough.

Mark says hi. I wrote this with Silas.

Key verse:
8. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

My thoughts:
Peter seems to use a lot of sheep and shepherd imagery, which is quite cool, because reading through the gospels, Jesus uses a lot of shepherd language when speaking to Peter. At the of John, Jesus calls on Peter to feed his sheep three times. Imagine being Peter. You were just another fisherman, and then this guy turns up and profoundly changes your life and speaks right into it. Peter is a man whose life was radically turned around by one man, and we can see the depth of that affect in his writings decades after he met the man.

So yea... be aware of the devil and resist him. Just don't be naive or ignorant.

From verse 13, and also from the early traditions of Papias, Mark the Evangelist was a companion of Peter who wrote his gospel from what Peter said.

Oh, and some people credit the fact that 1 Peter has much better Greek than 2 Peter to the fact that Silas helped Peter write this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

1 Peter 4

Suffering for the name

Summary:
Bodily suffering keeps you from sin. You've been a sinner for long another, but now you're different and the world hates you for it. But all will face judgement; the living and the dead. That's why it's okay that we preached to people who are now dead.

The end's coming. Love each other and use the gifts God gave you. Do everything as if you're God's representative.

You shouldn't be surprised that you have to suffer so much. Be happy that you're joining Jesus' suffering. You can bear him name suffering as a Christian. You have his Spirit. Just follow God, your creator.

Key verse:
8. love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

My thoughts:
This passage gives us a hint as to how quickly the name "Christian" became adopted by the Christians. It was firstly an external name of mild slander, but the Christians owned it. Here Peter says that we should be stoked to suffer as a Christian.

Gosh, how willing are we to do this? Christians these days crumble under even the slightest pressure in the Western world. We need to be willing and unsurprised to suffer for our faith, and our willingness to do so depends of our faith.

Of course, we don't seek suffering yadda yadda...

Monday, January 14, 2008

1 Peter 3

Baptismilicious

Summary:
Women, do what your husbands say, and have inner beauty. Your unsaved husbands will see how you've changed and believe. And men, have the deepest respect for your wives.

Love each other and repay evil with good. You won't get punished for good, but if you do, know that God is God. Be ready to tell people about your faith, but do it in a way you won't regret.

Jesus was made alive by God's Spirit, which also made him preach to the prisoners of Noah's time. The rebirth in the flood is like your baptism. Baptism is a pledge which saves you through Jesus' sacrifice.

Key verse:
15. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

My thoughts:
This is a powerful and intelligent call to personal evangelism. Very cool.

The stuff about Jesus preaching to prisoners is one of the more esoteric parts of the New Testament. From memory it refers to scripture that is no longer in our Old Testament canon. It's hard to know what point Peter is making, but it seems to me to be a segue from Jesus being resurrected by the Spirit to the flood as a symbol for baptism.

Anyway, this is some cool teaching on what baptism is, for anyone who is confused. It is a pledge and an outward sign of our salvation through Jesus. Some people believe they are saved through baptism. That's just silly. Peter's statement here is cool because it makes the connection between baptism and salvation whilst making it clear that baptism isn't our saving work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

1 Peter 2

Do what you're told

Summary:
Grow like babies! God's choosing you to be his people. From you he will build his house. You are his priests. You didn't used to be a people, but now you are. Live different because you're now different in this world.

Repect those who rule over you and submit to them. God put them there, and we want people to know we're good and not troublemakers. Slaves, do the same with your masters. If they beat you when you're innocent, then that shows your character. Putting up with punishment when you've been bad doesn't give you good points.

Remember how Jesus was innocent, yet he was beaten! He did that so we could be saved! You were lost sheep, but now you're with your Shepherd.

Key verse:
24. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

My thoughts:
Okay, so yes, I choose gospel-focussed for my key verses, but that's just because the gospel is the coolest thing ever. It really is. Sometimes I just get a glimpse of it and it's overwhelming. I shudder to think of how affected you would be if you realised the full extent of it even for a second.

Anyway, this whole submission to authority thing doesn't appeal to me straight away. Was Wilburforce wrong when he protested against the government supported slavery? Was Rosa Parks wrong when she refused to leave her seat for a white person in the bus?

What I take from this is that as Christians we don't want to be defined by rebellion, protest and revolution. We are to be good citizens of our state, not subversive ones. Some of my quite left-wing Christian friends wouldn't like this too much, but I think God's Word gives challenges to anyone who is right-wing or left-wing. There is something of God's plans which we don't like, no matter where we come from. That's because it's God's Word, not ours. Too often Christians (and others) don't really have faith in God per se, but just have views and opinions which God happens to fit into. The problem with this is that as soon as you find yourself disagreeing with God, God gets shafted.
Don't shape your faith, let faith shape you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1 Peter 1

Petrified by consistency

Summary:
To all of God's people in the world.

Praise God for giving us hope of eternal life and inheritance! We are protected until it is time.

Be happy! We're going through some hard times, but only for a while so that our faith is refined and genuine. You love what you haven't seen. Now that's faith. The prophets looked so hard for such a time as this, but we have reaped the benefits of their labour.

So be disciplined and holy. Be foreigners on earth. Your life wasn't bought with what the world values, but through Jesus' blood. Love one another because you're going to last forever.

Key verse:
23. you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

My thoughts:
I love reading Peter because we don't get to do it often! I love how after reading so much of Paul, who still seems to be a bit of a pseudo-Apostle to me, we find so much common ground with Peter, the one true Apostle. Well, maybe he's not the one true Apostle, but he's the best cos his name is Peter.

Anyway, here we have the unmistakable salvation from the sacrifice of Jesus, but also the Johannine idea of being born idea.

Perhaps there was some sort of consistent orthodoxy in the earliest church.

Don't you try to tell me that Peter didn't write 1 Peter. I'll hit you. With a stick. (Gotta love open-mindedness!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

James 5

Sticking it to the man! Yeah!

Summary:
Don't be happy rich people, because it won't last. Everything you have is leaving you, and your oppression is a witness against you.

Have some patience. Jesus will come. In suffering, be patient.

Just say yes or no. Beyond that is just complications.

Pray in any bad situation. Prayer has power in the right hands. You will be healed and forgiven. Elijah controlled the weather through prayer.

Key verses:
4. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.
16. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

My thoughts:
I love how something which is by definition non-existent is personified in verse 4. It's like hearing the words which people didn't say.

Or maybe that's just me and my voices.

The verse is also cool because it's sticking it to the man. Yeah!

Anywho... Also of significance is the whole big-ups given to prayer and its effectiveness here. So yea. Prayer is good. Do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

James 4

Planless

Summary:
You squabble because you don't get what you want. Your motives are wrong. Don't be like the rest of the world. They are opposed to God. So run from Satan and towards God. Be good and happy. Don't judge each other or say nasty things.

Don't make a big detail about your future plans. God might have something else in store!

Key verse:
14. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

My thoughts:
The more well-known verse in this chapter is about resisting the devil, but I chose not to put it here because it's so typical. I prefer verse 14, which doesn't make you feel good but is very real. Hold plans lightly, and know that God's plan is the one that happens! In this verse there is no expectations for us to be sure of what God's plan for our life is, yet we spend so much time trying to figure it out!

This is all the justification I need for making no plans and just doing whatever! w00t!

So it appears that motives are important when we pray for stuff. Despite Mr. Philippians telling us that motives don't matter! Okay, so maybe I'm stretching Philippians a bit. I'm sorry.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

James 3

Tonne-gui

Summary:
Teachers will be judged more strictly. Like a small rudder turns a massive ship, so does our tongue have a huge affect. What we say can destroy us. We have made spaceships, and have counted every gene in our body, but we still can't control our tongues. It praises God and curses others, which is pretty dumb. That's like hot and cold water coming out of the same tap. Dumb.

Some 'wisdom' is bitter and arrogant. That's not from God. God's wisdom is humble and loving.

Key verse:
5. the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

My thoughts:
Yea... so watch what you say, I guess. It's kinda funny that words aren't really physical things (or the physical existence of them is completely unrelated to what they mean), yet they determine the vast majority of what is important and relevant in our lives. Everything is authorised, permitted, given, taken, celebrated, glorified with words most of the time.

Anywho... it's a bad idea to think of yourself as smarter than others. Firstly, you're probably wrong, and secondly, it's just a dick thing to do.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

James 2

Dead faith

Summary:
Don't privileged the privileged. Remember that the richest people are actually the poorest. If you have favourites, then you aren't loving your neighbour and are a lawbreaker. Act like you're actually being judged by these laws!

Faith without action is useless. That doesn't feed the hungry. Even demons have faith that God exists. Abraham acted on his faith when he took his son up the mountain. Rahab did something by providing a room. They all did stuff.

Key verse:
17. faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

My thoughts:
So many evangelicals are living a dead faith. It is a legitimate criticism of the modern church that we don't do enough for our world. We need to turn this around. Faith without deeds is dead. Faith which is unaccompanied by deeds kinda shows that you didn't really have faith in the first place!

Monday, January 07, 2008

James 1

Mmmm... sin babies...

Summary:
Hard times make you a better person. God will give you good things, as long as you have faith when you ask. Remember that things are upside down. The poor are more significant than the rich, and everyone should be happy where they are.

If you keep struggling to the end you get a prize. God doesn't tempt, because temptation grows into death, and God is life. Good things come from God, like his word which has made us the first to reap God's harvest.

You have two ears and one mouth to be used proportionally. Do what God's word says. It's pretty pointless reading it otherwise. If you can't control what you say and don't care for the oppressed, then your faith means nothing.

Key verse:
25. the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

My thoughts:
My first sermon was loosely based on this chapter, with my basic point being 'Just Do It', along the idea that it's more important that we do God's work than to have it all figured out.

I still agree with its sentiment.

Anywho... James is cool. I see it as the counterpoint to Paul. Luther hated James because he felt it detracted from the clarity of Paul's gospel of faith, but I think they exist in a tension and in this tension the reality of the gospel we are called to is better highlighted.

Anyway, some cool ideas about perseverance and sin babies here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hebrews 13

But not two days ago.

Summary:
Be nice to strangers. They could be angels. Honour marriage and purity. Be content with what you have, God is always with you. Remember the good teaching you have received from God leaders. Remember food doesn't make you holy. Jesus was rejected from the city, so we'll go outside too, waiting for the future city.

Offering praise as your sacrifice. Be good to your leaders, and don't get them stressed. Pray for us!

Blessings.

Oh, Timothy's been released.

Bye

Key verse:
8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

My thoughts:
This is quite a cool list of stuff to remember. It stretches from simple practical things, like being content with what you have, to quite esoteric things like the possibility of unknowingly hosting angels.

I don't really get the part about 'us going out of the camp/city'. Perhaps it is referring to the expulsion of all the Jews from Jerusalem, which would certainly rule out Pauline authorship. Perhaps it is a symbolic thing referring to some sort of pilgrimage. It's hard to know.

I'm very tired.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hebrews 12

My head hurts

Summary:
Everyone's watching us, so be good. Go for Jesus. Don't underestimate how much I am expecting you to avoid sin. Jesus had to go to death to avoid sin.

God is disciplining you because you are his children. If he didn't, then you wouldn't be his children. It hurts now, but it's got a purpose.

Be holy, or else people won't want to know Jesus. You haven't come to a scary judgemental place, but to a place to praise and to the righteous and to Jesus.

Don't ignore God. Remember he's going to shake everything up once more, and anything temporary (ie. this earth) will be gone forever. We will inherit the unshakeable heaven.

Key verses:
1-2. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My thoughts:
Oh my goodness... this chapter is way too much for me at the moment. I had to read some of those sentences 7 or 8 times.

So yea... discipline is good. Be holy so other people are attracted to Jesus.

Anyway, this chapter makes a pretty cool promise of where we end up. In the unshakeable heaven.

It is implied here that God didn't create heaven. Which is curious... Heaven isn't included among 'created things'.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hebrews 11

Faith

Summary:
Faith is believing what isn't proven. We understand creation by this. By faith Noah built a boat when there was no rain. Abraham moved to a foreign land. These people didn't get their promises whilst they were alive! They weren't looking for a physical inheritance, but a spiritual one. They could only hope for this in faith.

Moses stood up to Pharaoh by faith. Jericho fell by faith. Many others lived by faith but still didn't get what they were promised until this generation in Jesus.

Key verse:
1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

My thoughts:
Ah faith. Faith has so little respect in our society today. It is so against how our world thinks. If someone has faith/hope in something but doesn't get it before the day they die, then this world calls them a failure. God calls them a faithful servant.

The truth is that faith makes no sense without God. It simply doesn't. But with God it is what separates the boys from the men!

I could probably say more, but I'm at camp, and I'm tired.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hebrews 10

Resin

Summary:
The old law was just a shadow. It was a reminder of the reality, but it didn't actually save from sin. There's heaps of verses showing how the sacrifices are not the ultimate goal. Other priests go in and out day by day for sacrifices, but Jesus just did it once and now sits next to God.

So now we can go into the Most Holy Place. We have to live following Jesus now, and keep meeting together. To continue sinning rejects the only true sacrifice, with dire consequences.

Don't stop your confidence, and willingness to stand in persecution.

Key verse:
25. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another

My thoughts:
So this verse is pretty fun to use against my anti-church Christian mate. It's not really a strong argument, but it's fun to pull it out!

There is certainly an implication here, and somewhat uniquely in Hebrews, that if you carry of in sin/reject God after following him then there is no hope for you. I don't think this is so much a statement that any post-conversion sin will destroy you, rather just knowing that God isn't someone who you can constantly re-run away from!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hebrews 9

Forgiveness and blood

Summary:
The first covenant had a precise tabernacle, as we know. The high priests had to make massive sacrifices before entering God's most intimate presence, so that he wouldn't die. This was because the Holy Spirit hadn't shown the way yet. The sacrifices didn't work.

But Jesus entered that presence by his own blood. That blood truly cleanses. He is our ransom and gives us a new covenant. It's like a will. It means nothing until someone dies. Same with this covenant. Blood cleanses. Blood forgives.

Jesus went to a heavenly temple and made one sacrifice for all eternity. Just like we die and come back to be judged, Jesus has died and will come back to save his followers.

Key verse:
15. he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

My thoughts:
This chapter makes explicit the relationship between forgiveness and blood. You need the latter for the former. That seems to be a basic spiritual truth in Christianity.

Mr. Hebrews likes to emphasise the 'once-for-all' aspect of Jesus' sacrifice, which really elevates Jesus position from a great man and teacher to the Saviour of all.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Hebrews 8

The tale of two tabernacles

Summary:
So we have this priest who makes offerings for us. He makes different offerings because he ministers in heaven's tabernacle. The earthly temple is just a shadow of the heavenly one. If it wasn't just a shadow, it wouldn't need replacing! But God promised a new covenant in Jeremiah. The new covenant implies an old useless one.

Key verse:
5. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.

My thoughts:
I know as you read through the specification of how Moses was to build the tabernacle in Exodus it can seems tedious, but in this chapter we see its purpose. It's because it must be an image of heaven, so it needs to be made to precise specifications. Understanding this detail is a deeply spiritual thing.

Though many would disagree that Jeremish was referring to Jesus' covenant, it's still clear that Jeremiah was referring to a covenant which would supercede the Mosaic one, which is quite a bold idea for a Jew!

(A tabernacle is a temple)