Friday, 28 January 2011

The Problem of Education?

Thought provoking video that is appearing on blogs and Facebook news-feeds. I thought I'd join the viral merry-go-round! :-)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Notes on Acts 2: The Festival of Pentecost and the Giving of the Spirit

Was asked to speak at the RUCU meeting recently on Acts 2. Here are my notes. See if you can decipher them... (I figure the fact that they are the academic hope of the nation, they should be able to cope on something a little more meaty.)

1. The OT Festival of Pentecost/Weeks (Lev 23:15-22)
  • The Israelites were commanded (Deut 16:16) to be in Jerusalem for this festival (2nd of 3 obligatory appearances each year). They would participate in a prophetic rehearsal for ≈1500yrs until the Spirit was finally given in Acts 2, so that, in theory, when he came they would be ready.
  • The first Pentecost, 50 days after the first Passover, was at Mt Sinai – Law was given and 3000 people die (Ex 32).
  • They would offer two leavened loaves – symbolic of the fact that through Christ, God would one day welcome both Jew and Gentile and give them the Spirit. (Eph 2:11-22).
  • Due to their rejection of Christ and their hardness of heart, the Jews had lost the significance of this festival, (2 Cor 4:14-16).

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Saved by the Grace of the Faithful God

Genesis 50 The brothers think that now Jacob is out of the way, Joseph will start dishing out revenge-flavoured gazpacho on them. But Joseph has seen too much of the hand of God on his life and on the world to even entertain any notion of revenge, let alone follow through on it.

So the book finishes with a partial fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham:

Monday, 24 January 2011

Fascinating 20min Video on the Rise of China

A Time to Sow and a Time to Reap

Genesis 49 Jacob "blesses" his sons, although, if I were Dan, I'm not sure I would call what he gave me a blessing! But that's probably because I have a very self-centered view of what blessing is. These words are at one and the same time judgemental (in the sense of summing up) and prophetic in nature.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Genesis 48 Whilst Jacob has also gone blind like his father, he does not appear to have lost godly discernment along the way like Isaac did.  Jacob adopts Joseph's sons as his own a symbol of Joseph's preeminence in the family and testimony that he would (through his sons' names), inherit a double portion in the promised land when they returned.

Dividing Grace

Genesis 46-47 Whilst 70 are numbered as settling in Egypt from Jacob's house, he would nevertheless have had a massive extended household. Conservative estimates put it at 500 servant-warriors, not to mention their families, and 20000 head of livestock. No wonder Pharaoh gave them the land of Goshen to settle in, a valley would no way have been big enough.

I can only think that in saying that shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians, they were referring to some religious / ritual uncleanness, rather than some absolute prejudice. No doubt they loved meat, (note that Pharoah has his own crew of shepherds) so perhaps they saw shepherding as a necessary evil, like washing up. I don't know. Do share in comments if you have any wisdom.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Fearsome Grace

Genesis 44-45 Joseph devises one more test for his brothers. He frames his younger brother by placing the money and cup in his sack to see if his brothers will leave him to rot or if they will stand by him. He even gives them a get out clause saying that only Benjamin need be his slave and the rest of them can get off scott free!

What is interesting how guilt operates in these brothers. They clearly associate this present calamity they are facing as judgement for their sin against Joseph.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Life-Giving Son

Genesis 42-43 The years of plenty are now over and the years of famine are here. The whole area is feeling the pinch, including God's wandering family. So Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to get grain. Little did they know what lay in store!

The behaviour of Joseph's brothers suggests that they are bound up with guilt (staring at each other).

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Outsiders Have In

Genesis 41 God bypasses all Pharaoh's officials and civil servants and get's him where he least expects it - when he is asleep - when he is vulnerable - sending him dreams he can neither decipher nor fathom.

Neither the economic might nor the cumulative "wisdom" of his empire can obtain for him the answer that he seeks. God's revelation neuters all the pretence of man's achievements in a flash. The Empire which took years of blood and toil to build, in a matter of minutes sees all of her officials groping around clueless.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Feeding the Whole World One Person at a Time

Genesis 39-40 Whilst the people of God had been wondering around in tents, the civilisations of the world had become very mighty indeed! Joseph was about to find that out. God's people are the tortoises of the world, but they spend a lot of time wishing they were hares. This is not necessary - the tortoise wins.

God's hand in Joseph's life and his integrity see him rise to the place of chief servant in Potiphar's house. However, his good work is not only noticed by Potiphar, but by his wife too. His resisting of her enticements is heart-cheering. (We are not the sum of our biological urges! Something I have to tell myself more often than I care to admit!)

Monday, 17 January 2011

Waiting in the Well

Genesis 37-38 When it says that Joseph is the son of Jacob's old age, it's not that he was a pensioner when Joe came along (he would never have been able to wrestle with God if he had been) rather it is a reference to Joseph being the "firstborn" the one who would inherit everything and become pre-eminent amongst his brothers. It is prophetic.Jacob makes him a special robe as a testament to this.

Like his grandad Isaac, Joseph's life would put more flesh on the bones of our understanding of what Messiah would be like when he came.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Pot Luck 1

Can't see an obvious major theme in today's readings, but maybe I have missed something. If you see one please point it out. :-) This will probably be the first of many "Pot Luck" entries! :-)

Genesis 36 There's not much to say here, except that the phrase These are the generations of... is a phrase that turns up often in Genesis. Our surface interpretation of that phrase is misleading, because we assume that the family trees whixh often, but not always, appear after those phrases are the reason why that turn of phrase is there. However it is a phrase that concludes the writings of the named person. For example These are the generations/accounts/origins of Noah, means that this Noah signing off his written account of his life and times. The family trees that appear afterwards are either put there by the person who took up the writing baton e.g. Abraham or placed in by a later editor e.g. Moses.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Need An Eye Test?

Genesis 34-35 Leah had become Jacob's wife by her father's deceit. She was the first to bear Jacob children too, but Rachel was the true bride and "vice president" of the covenant with Jacob. Joseph was her firstborn, the heir of promise (remember the recurring theme of a barren womb). What follows is the story of how all Leah's sons, the older brothers, disqualify themselves from the rights of being the "firstborn"- the heir of promise.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Too Easily Pleased?

Does this t-shirt sum up my life?
Genesis 32-33 As Jacob approaches the land of his fathers, he is increasingly preoccupied with wondering how his older brother will receive him. Seeing the size of the gift that he sets aside for Esau shows that he had become extremely wealthy!!  Jacob knows that if anything will press all the right buttons for Esau, this will.

As he comes to the boarder of the land he wrestles with God. Whilst we're not given a definitive time frame, it would appear that it was a long old struggle and it ends with Jacob subduing God (if that were possible) only letting him go on the condition of further blessing, which God grants as signified in the change of name.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Big Bountiful God

Genesis 31: God's goodness to Jacob, births envy in the hearts of Laban and his sons, (they conveniently forget all their mistreatment of him). And he decides it is it time to return home. Rachel and Leah are in agreement with him as they have seen their father turn against them since he married them off to Jacob. Moreover, Laban has squandered the money that Jacob paid him for them, which Laban should have guarded on his daughters' behalf should they have ever needed it (v15).

As they flee, Rachel steals the household idols. This is interpreted by most as evidence of her compromised heart before God, but Jordan thinks otherwise, and I like his logic.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Springs of Life and Death

Genesis 29-30: Wells and springs are symbolic in scripture of birthing new life. Think of all the stories you know (example) of that happen by wells. In today's reading, Jacob meets Rachel, the new woman of promise and soon to be vice-president of the covenant seed line.

If you're like me, your heart goes out to Leah. Jacob earned the 7yr dowry, fully expecting to receive Rachel, and got tricked by his uncle. Some would say it was comeuppance for "stealing" the blessing of the firstborn, but as I posted yesterday, I now (with the help of Jordan) think that view is wholly unjustified.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Peace, But Not As We Know It

Abraham loved Ishmael, and wanted him to be the offspring of promise, but God said no, and Abraham humbled himself before God in obedience. Isaac is a different story; he appears absolutely determined to give the blessing of the seed line to Esau the godless, not Jacob the righteous, even though Esau has despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of soup, even though he has been given a clear prophecy that the younger would be the favoured one.

Isaac’s physical blindness is a picture of his spiritual blindness. Rebekah and Jacob are not morally dubious; instead they show gentle and godly cunning in the face of Isaac’s misuse of his patriarchal authority. He may be the head of the household, and the seed line, but he has no right to refuse what God has spoken. This offspring of promise has fallen from a great height.

Monday, 10 January 2011

From Waiting to Wrestling

Genesis 25: Abraham remarries after Sarah's death, but she and the descendants she gives him, are not part of the Sarah Covenant Seed Line so at the appropriate time they are given gifts and sent away from that land, for the land covenantally belongs to Isaac.

Then Abraham dies. Isaac and Ishmael bury him and mourn for him together. Abraham was given many promises by God, yet only one was fulfilled in his lifetime - that of a son - the rest remained unfulfilled, but as Hebrews 11 states Abraham remained undaunted by this.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Pray for the Referendum in South Sudan

A friend of mine (those who need to know will know who I'm talking about) in Southern Sudan sent email regarding today's referendum in South Sudan:

Tomorrow morning, I will start my journey to ___ where I will be observing the referendum on behalf of ____. Please, please keep praying for the referendum, day-by-day, as the vote takes place. It starts this Sunday. It is hard to fathom that this dreamed of vote will finally take place in about sixty hours. One official said, "Only the end of the world can stop it now". For years they have waited and for decades they have fought for this right to vote for an independent Southern Sudan. The expectations are consuming as we wait for the polls to open.

Whose Covering are You Under?

Like Genesis 22, Genesis 24 is stuffed with prophetic pictures of how God comes to the Church. Consider the following:
  1. Issac has been “sacrificed” up on the mountain, he can now “receive the bride.” Jesus receives the Church after his crucifixion / resurrection, not before.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Seeds of Salvation and the Fruits of Faith

Finally, in Genesis 21, the offspring of promise is born. The embarrassed laughter that was gently encouraged by the LORD in Genesis 18 flourishes. At first glance, it seems harsh of Sarah to send Hagar away, but God agrees with her and tells Abraham to do whatever she says. God looks out for Ishmael, so he must have been godly, but he was not in the seed-line and therefore (whilst he probably received gifts he) had no inheritance from the household.

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Day Looking at the Complex Issues Around Mental Health

The following is nicked from Sean, regarding a mental health day that our church is running in conjunction with Kerith Community Church, Bracknell. He sums it up well:

The older we get the more complex questions we seem to face ...

Seeking God’s Heart and Ways in Prayer and Praise

Finally after decades of waiting, the LORD appears to Abraham in Genesis 18 and says that within the year, he will have a son. The LORD also has a fellowship meal with him. Sarah laughs as she listens in, surprised and overwhelmed that she should (finally) have the privilege of participating in the seed-line of God. The LORD does not rebuke her for this laughter; (the Hebrew is more generous than our translations, apparently) rather he enjoys her humble incredulity and tenderly encourages her mirth.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Patiently Waiting with the Seals of Promise

In Genesis 15 the word of the LORD restates God's covenant with Abram. Abram will have a son. Abram believes the word of the LORD - he says his Amen, his active, faith filled "let it be" - and this is what gives him a righteous standing before God.

The symbolism of the animal sacrifices is unclear. Jordan speculates that it could be a prophetic summary of what we would get later in Leviticus...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Serpent Wages War Through His Offspring

Put simply, history is the playing out of the enmity between the serpent and his offspring (sinful humanity) and the woman and her offspring (the Messiah and his people).

There were many godly people in Abram's day (e.g. Melchizedek, Shem etc), but God did a new thing in calling Abram, for with Abram, God would set up the seed-line and further elucidate on his promises to redeem the world.

Abram was a lord and a prince - a powerful and godly man. In Genesis 12, God tells him that he will have a descendent (Jesus) who will lift the curse of the fall, welcome people back into fellowship with God and renew creation. The rest of his life will be an exemplification of that story. So now Satan is at war with Abram, hoping to ensure that no such descendent ever makes it out of the womb alive.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Scattering and Gathering

There is a "coming of age" for humanity after the flood. We are given meat to eat, (Hurrah!) and wine (Double hurrah!) Moreover, responsibility for capital punishment is conferred upon us as a means of restraining the spread of sin.

Noah, the new head of the human race, after sampling a bit of his first batch of Chateau D'Ararat (like any home brew probably a little on the potent side) gets drunk and naked, but all in the privacy of his own tent.

The Bible does not condemn him for this and so we should also think twice, if that's what we are tempted to do. There are more nuances to the use of alcohol in the Bible than the legalists want to admit. (That said, careless and/or habitual excess is condemned.)

The Thorns Vs. The Vine

In the strange world of the Bible. Thorns and thistles are symbolic of sinful humanity. (Making this verse very poignant and prophetic.)

In Genesis 6, we see sinful humanity had begun to spread like thorns and thistles across the earth, causing strife wherever they went. This was immensely grievous to God.

The King's English

One of my favourite bloggers is running a new blog for this year, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the KJV and how so many of our everyday English phrases are taken from it. I warmly commend it to you.

Bill Johnson Quote

Recently read this quote in a Christmas round robin letter. Thought it worth sharing:
“Royalty is my identity. Servanthood is my assignment. Intimacy with God is my life source. So, before God, I am an intimate. Before people, I’m a servant. Before the powers of hell I’m a ruler, with no tolerance for their influence.”

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Notes on John 1:14 - The Glory of God is a Heart of Love

Found here. Most people think of God as merely an amalgamation of superhero attributes.
What, in your opinion is God’s greatest attribute?
  • his power? 
  • his managerial prowess in answering prayers from all across the world at once? 
  • his ability to be everywhere and see everything all at the same time? 
  • his ability to order the events of human history?
  • his eternal existence?
  • his knowledge? How he effortlessly keeps track of how many hairs there are on your head, a number which, changes more rapidly than you care to admit as you get older! 
  • his holiness? That over eons and eons and eons and more of existing, he has never had a filthy thought, never been proud, rude, selfish, deceitful, manipulative, violent or cruel in any way.

Sin and Salvation

Found here
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve presumptuously grab at the nature of God for themselves. And they get it, but not in the way God intended. Following the promptings of the serpent, they act wickedly, and are cast out from fellowship with God.

But before that exile happens, the one who is the Voice of God (imo Christ) appears to them in person. He gives them a picture of how he will make all things well again: by slaying an animal and from that perfect slain animal, making garments for them to hide their nakedness. He also gives them a promise that through the woman, one will be born who will die (snake bite) but will rise again and in so doing, crush the serpent's head.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Glory of Love

Genesis 1 is God on the Front Foot

Found here
In our western scientific prejudice mindset, we can fall into two dangers. Either:
  1. Writing off Genesis 1 as "naive mythology" or 
  2. (if we are Christian) Allowing ourselves to be hijacked into only ever seeing how it rebuts/confirms evolutionary theory (or any other origin story you care to mention).
Whilst no.2 is important to consider, we need to be rescued out of those avenues of enquiry that have long become cul-de-sacs.

There's so much more to it than this. God is on the front foot, setting the agenda, not answering queries.

Here are a few things to healthily provoke your thinking. Genesis 1 is about introducing the true God and the way they are at work in history: