2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,900 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Exiting Warp Speed – textually speaking

Sometimes we read or teach at a rapid pace.  In Narrative we need to keep the story’s internal momentum intact, so excessive discussion of the meaning of seven stones or the weight of Goliath’s spear only encumbers the drama in data.  However, some passages deserve a reflective slow read.

I was switching gears from Advent/Christmas to Romans 12 for 2012.  This was inspired by New Years day being on a Sunday.  Now it was possible to bust up that chapter into 5 or 6 weeks. Or it was possible to take Chapters 12 to 15 in that same time frame.  But as I was reading the text, it became obvious that I was hurrying it and missing the details.

Romans 1-11 is the doctrinal/theological foundation of the book, and chapters 12 to 15 are the application passages – though one has to be careful with those distinctions.  One can apply all along the way in Romans 1-8 in particular.  And the application has to be clearly connected to the doctrinal.  (see “Therefore” in Romans 12:1).

It will be a good time for us to take a new year, and a new phase of the churches ministry (having tied up a major building project) and ask what it is we ought to be doing with this gift of righteousness discussed in the earlier chapters.

Romans 12 is as close as Paul comes to Wisdom Literature – the verses have a proverbial quality, a number of phrases are rich for reflection and connection to life.  Consider “Love must be sincere” and “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

John Stott pointed out in his book on Romans the many allusions in this chapter to the teachings of Jesus. (Romans; God’s Good News for the World, IVP, p. 317-319)  This is interesting for those who say Paul took Jesus and turned him into Christ (i.e. he dogmatized a spiritually fluid tradition.)

So this is what we will be Freshly Reading for the next two months.

December 25 – Isaiah 61:1-2

What is the mission of Jesus?

This is what he said at his first recorded message, from Isaiah 61:1-2

                                The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

Luke 4:14-20

 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,  and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

December 24 – Isaiah 55:10-11

Our words are hit and miss.  We make promises, but we can not guarantee anything absolutely.  We try to find words to encourage and heal and they occasionally fall flat.  Yet the word of God is seen as a force in itself.  Isaiah speaks of the ower of the Word in this passage.  John calls Christ the Word in his introduction tot he Gospel.  The Word of God spoken will be fruitful, the Word of God Incarnate, even more so.

Isaiah 55:10-11

  As the rain and the snow

come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

  so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

John 1:1-4

  In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God. 

 He was with God in the beginning. 

 Through him all things were made;

without him nothing was made that has been made. 

 In him was life,

and that life was the light of all mankind.

December 23 – Isaiah 55:1-2

This is an open invitation.  Who can come?  “All who are thirsty.”  Who pays?  “Come…buy…without cost.”

Isaiah 55:1-2

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

December 22 – Isaiah 53:6

Who is at your nativity?  Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Shepherds, Kings, Angels as well as a camel, donkey and probably a couple of sheep.  No, if Santa is there, he doesn’t belong.  Neither does the Green Bay Packer logo.  (OK, can you tell where Fresh Read lives?)

The lambs should remind us of one of the works of Christ – the lamb of God.

Isaiah 53:6

 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

What do Angels look like?

Sunday School Angel

What do angels look like?

If you ever went to Sunday School, you probably took your crayolas to something like this picture.  And if you were in a pageant, you dressed up with wings and a glittery head band.

The general image is quite pleasant, and does not indicate someone with the power to command attention so much as curiosity.

We owe much of our mental images of Biblical people, of angels and other scenes to a long history of religious art, and more recently to movies and cartoons in the New Yorker.

There are descriptions from apocalyptic literature in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 which artists have had little success in capturing.  The symbolism of multiple wings and eyes seems to be more about the idea of holiness than an actual image – and these are visions.

What we have best to go by are the reactions of those who encounter an angel.  Almost always they react in fear, sometimes falling to the ground.  The first line of an Angel is usually, “do not be afraid.”

For this reason, I think of them as looking a bit like more like a soldier and less like a cherub on a fluffy cloud.

There is also a recognition of Angels Incognito

Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

December 21 – Isaiah 53:1-3

We are tracing the Advent theme through Isaiah.  The Good News is not complete with the nailed together mangers and stables of the Christmas pageants.  The story includes the nailed together cross, and the One nailed to it.

Isaiah 53:1-3

Who has believed our message

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

 He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

December 20 – Isaiah 50:4-11

This is another Servant Song in Isaiah – these songs portray the one who comes and suffers with and for us – “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  It is worth remembering that Herod responded to the birth with a massacre, that also a hint of what was to come. Not all suffering is good, most is not.  This suffering was for our good.

Notice the consequences of following true or false light in verses 10 and 11.

Isaiah 50:4-9

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,

to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,

and I have not been rebellious;

I have not drawn back.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;

I did not hide my face

from mocking and spitting.

7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,

I will not be disgraced.

Therefore have I set my face like flint,

and I know I will not be put to shame.

8 He who vindicates me is near.

Who then will bring charges against me?

Let us face each other!

Who is my accuser?

Let him confront me!

9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

Who is he that will condemn me?

They will all wear out like a garment;

the moths will eat them up.

10 Who among you fears the Lord

and obeys the word of his servant?

Let him who walks in the dark,

who has no light,

trust in the name of the Lord

and rely on his God.

11 But now, all you who light fires

and provide yourselves with flaming torches,

go, walk in the light of your fires

December 19 – Isaiah 49:6-7

Many passages of the coming of the Messiah look to a gathering in of the Nations.  The blessing and election of Abraham and his seed were not to be just for him.  This passage speaks of the Redeemer, who is a light to the Nations.  This passage is quoted in Acts 13:47 – part of a dispute between the Apostles and the insiders, but which caused the outsiders to rejoice and join the kingdom of Jesus.

 he says:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant

to restore the tribes of Jacob

and bring back those of Israel I have kept.

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

7 This is what the Lord says—

the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—

to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,

to the servant of rulers:

“Kings will see you and rise up,

princes will see and bow down,

because of the Lord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”