Saturday, October 26, 2013

Earthquakes in Israel (Revelation 11:13)

The New York Times reported that a series of minor tremors have somewhat unnerved the Israelites with one minister warning that in the event of an earthquake 7,000 people could die. I quickly looked up the book of Revelation where in 11:13, it is written, "And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.As I write, this morning brought the news of another above 7 Richter scale earthquake in Japan, the third major earthquake in the past fortnight, north of Mindanao in the Philippines, and also in Papua New Guinea. The frequency of earthquakes above 7 Richter scale has increased significantly in the past decade, especially since the major earthquake in north Sumatra and resulting Tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. I submitted my revised dissertation for publication with T & T Clark just days after the 26th Dec 2004's earthquake and I wrote in the Preface: "The disaster [Sumatra earthquake & tsunami] happened close to home and it reminded me that the book of Revelation speaks much about earthquakes...". As Jesus said in Luke 21:11, "And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. Great signs from heaven and fearful sights. The day before I conducted an end-time seminar in Sabah (16th Feb 2013), a meteorite fell in the north of Russia and injured hundreds. Are we seeing the signs spoken by Jesus and John of Revelation? If you are interested in the study of end-time prophecy, I shall be offering an elective on the book of Revelation, focusing on the events of the last 3 and a half years before the dawn of the kingdom of God on earth by looking at the middle chapters of Rev 11:1-14:5. Although I have taught Revelation twice before, but for first time I shall be using my book as textbook and prospective students are advised to get hold of a copy (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Eisenbrauns) and read the first couple of chapters in advance of class starting on 7th January 2014 (every Tuesday at 8:30 to 11:20am until 29th April). The course description is given below:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Firstfruits: My Soul Exults in You, Lord!

As a teacher, I would see myself a near perfectionist and demand high standards from my students. As not everyone can reach such lofty goals, I can feel despondent at times even though there are only two or three who cause heartache and discouragement. But the good essays I am reading at present soothe my spirits and lifted my soul. My soul exults in You, Lord! I set the topic, "Jesus was a Jew": Discuss this statement in the light of the four Gospel accounts, a pretty tough one for first year students. However, I had dropped hints along the way over the course of the Semester and tomorrow is the due-date for the essay submission and I have received four or five papers already. As I was reading and grading one essay tonight, I rejoiced greatly in You, Lord for You have shaped and are shaping Your servants and they are being equipped for effective service. I am seeing the first-fruits and they are ripening, ready to be harvested.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paul’s Inclusive Gospel: An Essay on Romans 14-15

A theologian friend of mine told me recently that, “Romans 14-15 is the easy part, only application and no theology”. It can’t be further from the truth. After reading Carl Toney’s 2008 book (Paul's Inclusive Ethic: Resolving community Conflicts and Promoting Mission in Romans 14-15) a couple of years ago and now re-reading it for Romans elective I have found that rarely can we say that any part of Paul’s writing is purely application and no theology. If we read Romans 14-15, theology is everywhere. Why do we welcome those who we consider weak in faith or different from us? It is because God has welcomed them (14:3), a clear theological statement that we should welcome whom God has welcomed. He is the great patron and benefactor and we are made in his image and reflect his character and person that if God welcomes someone, it is incumbent for us to do likewise without disputing over opinions or scruples. Second, we are asked not to pass judgment on our weak (and strong brothers), again theological in that judgment belongs to the Lord and to God, the person will stand or fall just like everyone else. Third, everyone is God’s servant and not our servants and hence, it is not for us to patronize or worse cast aspersion on another’s servant. God is the Master and Lord and all of us are equally subject to God, irrespective of our stand on matters concerning foods, wine, Sabbaths and holy days.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Soldier with a Book and a Tie

When I preach I wear a tie and today was no different. Usually even with many e-books and articles saved in my tablet I will still carry a book and today's choice was Studies in John. I spent the usual 1.5 hours or so in prayer and devotions before setting out at 7:10am. I knew it was going to be a long journey and I had to transfer from bus 67 in the East coast to an MRT station before walking to the church. As it was my 2nd time to this place in 3 years I lost my way a little and had to ask a few people walking by before I found my way to the school when the meeting was held. By the time the meeting started I had spent almost 2 hours on the road and I was feeling a little tired as I stood and worshipped. It was vibrant and lively being among the youths and I felt refreshed as I sang some of my favourite songs. I saw the Lord lifted high, checking on his army in heaven - the Lord is ready to come as we his people are prepared for the Lord's coming - Straighten the crooked paths, fill up the valleys and blow the trumpet in Zion. I was asked to preach quicker than I thought at 9:35am and I preached for 34 minutes until 10:09 and the meeting ended at 10:22 after the collection and song of response. But I felt a sense of disconnect with the congregation today. I could not say what I wanted to say for that would be giving too much solid food when they were only ready for milk. I spoke about dying to self, and ridding ourselves of attachments to the things of the world by dying with Christ - I have been crucified with Christ nevertheless I live but yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. Unless we die to self, we will be alone, like a kernel of wheat, unfruitful. If we die, saith Scripture, it will bear forth much fruits (John 12). I talked about the glorification of the Son of Man in his death. The world's view of glory is different - wealth, power, prestige and social rank. I quoted the verse in the Lukan temptation account that the devil took Jesus to the corner of the wing of the temple and in a moment showed him the glory of all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give to Jesus all worldly glory if he would worship Satan.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Introduction to the Gospel of John

Today I lectured on the introduction to the Gospel of John. After 20 minutes speaking about the main essay, "Jesus was a Jew" and the final exams I launched into introducing my favourite Gospel in just under 2 hours with a 20 minutes break in between. I spoke about the difference between the synoptic Gospels and the Fourth Gospel, authorship, dating, provenance, and spent 30 minutes on the structure of John divided into 5 main sections according to the Feasts of the Jews listed by the evangelist.

Scholarship & Devotions

If anyone claims scholars live on ivory towers or just have just heads filled with knowledge, do not believe him. For the past week, since I prepared lectures on Romans 12-13 by reading 4 or 5 commentaries and monographs, the contents of Paul's words in Romans 12-13 are still speaking to me. Even during early hours of the morning as I lie awake or at mid-night I hear Paul's words ringing in my mind - "Present your bodies as living sacrifice, Put on the lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh". I was so moved by Romans 13:14 that I consciously think of what things that could stumble me either in thought or word or any possible idol in my heart that provides an occasion for my flesh to overpower me. I repent Lord, let no sin have dominion over me!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Offering our Bodies as Living Sacrifice (Romans 12-13)

I lectured on Romans 12-13 yesterday. It was a fruitful study of Paul's exhortation on presenting our bodies as living sacrifice for our rational worship ten logigen latreian. At the end of Romans 13, an imperative on "putting on our Lord Jesus Christ" and making no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires serves as an inclusio to these 2 chapters of Paul's advice to the Romans to act out the Gospel in church (Rom 12) and society (Rom 13). In church, one has to exercise the gifts which God in his grace has given to each one of us and the exercise of such gifts must be in accordance with the measure or proportion of faith with the view to edify the whole body since there is one body but many members.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Was Jesus Rich? Managing Unrighteous Mammon (Luke 16)

I lectured on Luke 16 today. For NT 1, we cover the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles over 14 weeks which gives me about 2 weeks per book. For the first week on Luke, it was a survey and we focused on the first 5 chapters. But today I launched into Luke's theology of wealth and poverty. I had already finished preparing for my lectures two days ago and yesterday during Community lunch, a student commented how he listened to a number of Youtube sermons on "Jesus was rich" and that it was God's will for all Christians to be rich. When I watched the 3 youtubes, each lasting about 15 minutes, I was shocked and saddened how Scriptures especially in Luke's Gospel were twisted. There were several claims made by this well-known pastor:

1) Jesus was rich
2) Jesus owned homes (note the plural)
3) Jesus had a treasurer and that proved that he was rich
4) Judas Iscariot carried money boxes (plural again to the preacher) and that proved Jesus had a lot of money to give away and helped the poor