Thursday, January 12, 2017

Interpreting Revelation and the End-Times

How should we understand the book of Revelation and end-times prophecy?

When you talk about doing Bible Study and how one interprets the Bible, one of the common questions you will encounter – both from believers and non-Christians – will be what about the book of Revelation? How are we to understand all the prophecies concerning the apocalypse, the return of Christ and final judgment? What I want to do in this video is give a basic primer on the basic terms you will encounter when discussion end-times theology.

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A futurist will interpret the end-times as being future events.
A preterist will argue that texts such as the Book of Revelation are not so much prophecies foretelling future events, but rather are FORTHTELLINGS of present and past events that the original readers would have already been familiar with in their own cultural contexts as occurring within their own time frame.

Example: In Luke 21, Jesus talks about the desolation of Jerusalem. A Futurist may take this to mean the nation of Israel established in the Palestine region post-WW2 will come under attack. The Preterist will argue that it refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans.

THE TRIBULATION: The time when the church undergoes an all-out assault by Satan’s minions.

THE MILLENIUM: Once the Tribulation is over, the [earthly] time when sin, Satan and Death are defeated.
Pre-millennials believe that Jesus’ return will mark the beginning of the Millenium.
Post-millenials believe that Jesus will return at the end of it (i.e., the Church brings about Jesus’ return).

THE RAPTURE: When God takes all believers (dead and currently alive) to heaven to live with Christ forever.

Dispensationalists argue that the Biblical Covenants (Abrahamic > Mosaic > Davidic > The New Covenant) are TRANSITIONAL in terms of time, conditions and promises.
Covenant Theology argues that the Covenants are PROGRESSIVE (Redemption, works, Grace), hence the cautions and promises of one covenant are not necessarily boxed into “that was Old Testament, we’re in the New” (e.g., we partake of the New Covenant, the Gospel, via grace through justification by faith. Yet who does the Bible use as the model for Justification by Faith? Abraham.)


Israel certainly factors into the end-times. “All of Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).
Since the over-arching theme of Romans 9-11 is "What is God going to do with the Jews now that Christ has come?"
The question is “Who is ‘Israel’?”
a) The nation-state of Israel?
b) Ethnic Jews?
c) Believers in Judaism?
d) Jewish Christians aka Messianic Jews
e) God’s people overall?

Dispensationalists believe that because the biblical covenants are transitional, ISRAEL and THE CHURCH are therefore two separate and distinct entities. God’s plan and relationship with one is not the same as the other. E.g, in the book of Revelation, the church appears in Chapters 1-3, then in Chapter 22. What happens in between? The focus turns to Israel.
Covenant Theology advocates REPLACEMENT; the Church replaces Israel as God’s chosen people, and thus receives and partake of all the blessing, warning and promises.

Now some would say: What’s all the point of this? There are individuals as well as ministries who devote hours or tuime, money and resources trying to interpret how the end-times will play out. Books have been written, movies have been made. And very often when people try to make precise predictions, they tend to be embarrassingly wrong as the world’s events play out.
If there is a critical flaw in the Futurist interpretation of Revelation, it would be that it does open the door to a slippery slope where a theologian who usually excels in exegetical study gets sloppy and finds themselves they trying to read things into the text based on whatever they see in today’s headlines.

Regardless of how you interpret Revelation and the End times, it’s important to take heed of the words of the Apostle Peter:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, butthat all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

2 Peter 3:9-14

How is your view of the end-times impacting what you’re doing now, today? Are you living a holy, godly life? Can you say that when Jesus returns on the Day of the Lord you will be found without blemish and at peace? 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

6 Must-Have Bible study tools

So in my last video I talked about basic rules for your personal Bible Study. What I want to do in this video is to walk you through some must-have tools and resources to give you the cutting edge in rightly handling God’s word.

1. Commentaries

Bible commentaries aid in the study of Scripture by providing explanation and interpretation of Biblical text. Whether you are just beginning to read Scripture or have been studying the Bible daily, commentaries offer greater understanding with background information on authorship, history, setting, and theme.

2. Concordances

A concordance is a listing of words and phrases found in Bible and shows where the terms occur throughout all books of Scripture. With cross-references for verses, concordances make it easy to understand the meaning of terms and the context in which those words are used.

Suggested resource:
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the most widely known and popular and includes Greek and Hebrew dictionaries for a better understanding of the original meaning.

3. Dictionaries and Lexicons

Lexicons provide definitions and meaning of Biblical words found in the original New Testament Greek and Old Testament Hebrew languages of the Holy Bible.
They provide a concise meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words, often providing Bible verse references as examples. If there are several Greek words that may translate to the same English word, the Lexicon will distinguish the connotation that may be lost in the English translation. This helps in understanding the origins and root meaning of the ancient language. Additionally, lexicons give the context and cultural meaning intended by the authors.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testaments

4. Systematic Theologies

A Systematic theology will outline essential Christian Doctrines based on how they are presented throughout the entirety of Scripture from Genesis through to Revelation. Now just like a commentary, Systematic Theologies will of course lean in favour to the views and opinions of the scholar, so it may be a good idea to grab a few different ones just so you get a balanced perspective.

My recommendations:

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
Know the Truth by Bruce Milne
Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton

6. Study Bibles

A good study bible will include the standard Bible text, as well as tools such as commentary, maps, an index and a brief theology overview. Now in today’s technological age, you can get a study Bible either in hardcopy format, or you can purchase it as an app from iTunes or Google Play.

My weapon of Choice: The ESV Study Bible

Which brings me to my last and most versatile tool:

6. Bible Study software

Now lets be honest: having all these thick, hardcover books on your shelf in your living room on display will command instant respect and just screams “hardcore nerd.”

But let’s also be practical: what if you’re on the move and you still want to have these tools on hand when you need them?
Answer – go digital with Bible software. You just open the app on your tablet of computer’s desktop, and there you go – instant access to all of your Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries at the click of a button.

Now the price of the various packages and what they contain will vary. On one end of the scale you have E-Sword which you can download for free and will give you all of the above resources mentioned with the option of purchasing additional modules should you choose.
On the other end you have Logos 7, whose starter Library package will set you back $135, though for the full portfolio you will spend as much as $4000. As one who uses the Logos starter pack, I will say that you definitely get what you pay for, and with their new cloud feature, you have the added plus of downloading any content you already purchased in the event of your computer’s hard drive getting wiped.

So whether you decide to go with hard copy or digital, these tools will surely up your game and uncover those treasures in your studies.
So have fun, and I look forward to talking to you soon!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How to read the Bible Properly

So you’ve picked up a Bible either from church or the bookstore – and you don’t know where to start, how to read it properly, what applies to you, what doesn’t. I say: don’t panic – this video is for you.

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When reading the Bible, I use a four step process:

S-O-A-P or simply, S.O.A.P.

Step 1: Identify the
What is the text that you’re studying? Have a basic read-through

Step 2: Make
1. What is the historical context? – Who wrote the text? Where did they write it? When was it written? What is going on in the word around them?

2. What is the genre? Is it a narrative? A poem? Prophecy? Teaching? A letter? The Bible isn’t written in a single style of writing, so you have to be able to recognize the format.

3. Who’s involved? Who are the major characters within the text?

4. How is God described? What are the theological themes that describe the nature of God?

5. Old Testament or New? When reading an Old Testament passage, does the revelation of the New Testament and what Jesus did on the cross change our understanding?

6. How is the writing arranged? Are there certain words or phrases that are either repeated or emphasized? How does the author’s use of a certain term apply in other passages related to the text we’re studying?

Apply the Principles
 Build the Bridge

1. Grasp the text on their turf. What did the text mean to the original audience?

2. Measure the width of the gap to cross. What are the differences (Time, culture, language, covenant) between the biblical audience and us?

3. Cross the Bridge. What are the underlying principles (theological, moral, etc.) that are not limited to time and culture?

4. Bring the text home. How should we as Christians apply the principles in our lives today?

Commit what you have learned before God in prayer, thanking him for what you have learned and asking that he give you the grace to live it out.

Common mistakes to avoid:

1. Inductive vs Deductive.

Inductive: Examining data to make a conclusion and deriving the resulting application 
Deductive: Having a pre-conceived application and then picking out the evidences to support it.

If one approaches a text with an intended application in mind before actually taking the time to observe the Historical-Grammatical contexts to see whether the text will even allow for such an application, they can only be expected to misinterpret and misapply the scriptures.

2. Authorial Intent vs Reader response

Reader Response: “This is what I feel the text is saying to me personally…”
Authorial Intent: What did the author – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – actually intend to convey?

Simply put, if a text doesn’t say it, the text cannot mean it.

3. Don’t overcomplicate the text

In our zeal for spiritual knowledge, it is all-too-easy to fall into the trap of over-spiritualizing a text to make it seem more complicated and profound that what it actually is.

4. Never read a single verse on it’s own!

Let me tell you a story: You have a man and woman who have been happily married, both go to church on Sunday. The husband discovers that his wife has actually been having an extra-marital affair with another man. So the husband arranges a counseling session with their pastor, who is very straitforward in telling the wife: “You know that what you’re doing is wrong and your husband is heartbroken. Why are you doing this?”
The wife says bodly: “I’m allowed to do this, the Bible says so!”
The pastor smiled and rolled his eyes. “Oh really? Where in the Bible?”
The wife replied: “Ephesians 4 says we are to ‘put on the new man’!”

When reading a verse, read it in context of it’s parent chapter; read the chapter in context of the book; and read a book in context of the entirety of scripture.

This is just a short summary, but trust me when I say that it’s not complicated. If you want something that goes a bit more in depth that you can either watch at home or with your friends in a small group Bible Study, may I recommend the DVD “Herman Who” by Todd Friel. There’ll be a link in the description below.

In my next video I’ll be showing you some of the tools you can use to get the extra edge in getting the most out of your Bible Study.
See you soon.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Do new technologies steal jobs?

As someone who works in retail, one of my daily duties is to supervise, maintain and teach people how to use the Self-Service checkout systems. Now Some people are quick to catch on how to use them, others need a bit more practice and there are of course those who will avoid them altogether. The most common excuse: If people use those things, employees lose jobs.
Is this true? Does introducing new technologies into an industry reduce its workforce?

First of all, off the bat, having a self-service checkout at a supermarket is by no means a fool-proof system. In addition to the supervisor, to keep the self-serve running you also require
- The Sales Manager
- The payroll team to collect and process profits
- IT support
- Technicians to make on-sight repairs when necessary
So in that sense, having a self-service checkout system won’t reduce the number of staff – you actually require MORE people to keep them up and running smoothly.

Secondly, for anyone who’s worked in retail, you will NEVER hear the accusation that technology results in a loss of jobs from anyone under the age of sixty who carries a smart-phone in their pocket. These comments typically come from those around retirement age at most.

So what’s the reasoning behind equating technology with job loss?

Let me tell you a story: Around 2006, I worked an admin job for a government-run printing company here in Brisbane. Now this company at the time I started working used old analogue printers where in order to print a document, you would have to prepare a separate plate for each page. Some of the staff who were operating these machines had been in the industry for up to twenty, even thirty years.
Now around early 2007, the decision was made to bring in a pair of brand-new digital color printers which are obviously computerised. As we brought these machines in, our company also brought on a graphic design team so that not only could we print documents, we could make our own artwork and graphics to go with them.
So what happened to the people who were using the old printers? Most of them while being industry veterans, had no idea how to use a computer, much less create graphics with Photoshop. My task as an admin assistant was to research where they could get the training so they could be brought up to speed – which the company was willing to pay for. Guess how many people signed up for training? None. How long did they stay with the company? Not very long. Most ended up retiring early
Why was this? I daresay: complacency – they came to work doing the same tasks, the same way, day after day, month after month, year after year, with little change. The company itself did not lose jobs numerically by bringing in new technology – by necessity it actuality required more people as it grew and expanded both in it’s methods as well as the final products it sold. What changed was the criteria for required competency.
And that’s basically Business Management 101: As the market grows, so does demand for newer, better products. Newer products require research and development into new technologies. New technologies require new skills and competencies. New Skills and Competencies come through TRAINING. For a business and it’s employees to intentionally avoid this would be corporate suicide.
That being said, as these older team members eventually left their positions, who was to blame? Was it the company? The new graphic design team? Or… just themselves?   

I was having a conversation with an acquaintance from Singapore who’s currently applying for Australian citizenship. He said to me: “Ben, I honestly can’t understand the work ethic of older Australians.”
“Why’s that?”
He said: “Ben in Singapore, when a young man finishes school, he gets sent to boot camp to begin National Service in the Defence Forces. Every summer over the next three years, everything that is said and done by the recruits is centred upon meeting a standard that affects both yourself and your comrades. And if you fall below that standard, you work as hard as you can to get there, or you wash out. And that attitude carries on into work and education. I look at older Australians and they always want the path of least resistance – they don’t want to learn anything new, they’re unashamedly critical of higher education. But the moment you have a younger person – or even a migrant – come into the company with the latest skills and qualifications and quickly climbs the promotion ladder, they quickly throw up their hands in protest.”


 So the objection that new technologies steal jobs is simply not reasonable – At worst, it actually reflects a lazy work ethic.

So what do you think: Is this merely a generational issue, or is technology to blame? I’d love to know what your thoughts are

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why "GOD'S WONDERFUL PLAN" causes shame and cruelty


Consider the typical gospel presentation:

1. God LOVES you and has a wonderful PLAN for your life. 
2. Man is SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. 
3. Jesus Christ is God's ONLY provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. 
4. We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.

That sounds like what it commonly taught by churches, student groups, and missionary groups. But is this a true explanation of the gospel, or even of how Christians actually live?

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So what’s wrong with saying that God has a Wonderful Plan for your life?
Obviously, The message is man-centred:
If you were to go around asking people what their idea of God’s wonderful plan for their life was, most of the answers you would receive would be very carnal in nature, referring to today secular, materialistic culture. The drawcard this method uses is one of life enhancement; If you accept Jesus into your life, your life will get better as a result of following God's plan.
   But by what standard exactly are we defining wonderful? When we look at the lives of the 12 Disciples and what they went through - hardships, persecutions, imprisonments, shipwrecks, ostracism, physical assault, martyrdom - as recorded in the book of Acts in addition to the plights of missionaries today who have experienced horrifying situations of persecution for sharing the gospel in areas that are hostile towards it, how can we reconcile a message of life enhancement with the truth of the adversity Christians suffer from for practicing their faith? How can anyone faithfully read Acts from cover to cover then look a non-Christian in the eye and joyfully say "God has a wonderful plan your life!"
   It's just not being honest. 

But what about the believers within the church – what does such a message ultimately say to those who already profess to be Christians?
If you’ve been in church long enough that you are able to be aware of what those in your immediate fellowship go through each week, you know all too well that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. You know that there are genuine Christians going through health problems, relationship issues, financial difficulties, tragedies.
But isn’t the gospel that says “God has a Wonderful Plan for your life” supposed to make Christians rise up and above such things? If the gospel is “Believe in Jesus, he will make life fulfilling, abundant and prosperous” but yet you have people inside the church going through the things I just mentioned, then either:
a) Such people are not Christians because their lives don’t line up with the message
b) That’s just not the true gospel.

If a church wants to be true to such a message, than obviously the worse thing you can do is have people going through difficulties talking about it openly to unbelievers.
 The false gospel of “God has a Wonderful plan for Your Life” has only served to produce multitudes of people who perpetually wear these emotionless smiles out of fear that by being honest and upfront about the realities of life, Christianity will seem empty and lifeless. Don’t talk about health problems. Don’t discuss relationship breakdowns. Don’t discuss relatives disowning you because your newfound faith conflicts with their own beliefs. Don’t say or do anything that would make the gospel seem like a killjoy for people’s lives. 

When believers undergoing trials and hardships are told to bring what was preached from the pulpit into the harvest field, they become the unwilling victims of accusations of hypocrisy on the part of those who are against Christianity. The authenticity of our testimony is immediately put under scrutiny. Who is going to believe the validity of our personal witness if our circumstances are not visibly better than those without Christ?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Likewise, James 5:13-14 tells us

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Both of these texts refer to the church supporting believers who are undergoing suffering. But in all honesty, when you have a message that says that becoming a Christian is supposed to make life better, how is such compassion to expressed? Is it done in the open, is part of the Sunday worship gathering devoted to congregants praying for each other as well as meeting up during the week;  or is it done quietly in private behind closed doors lest unbelievers get the wrong impression? If the latter, then like it or not, what you have done is thrust upon people a culture of shame that the Bible gives no support for.

Whenever I hear a preacher say “God has a wonderful plan for your life”, "God wants you to be Prosperous", or “God wants you to Live your Best Life”, I can't help but automatically think of the Christians who are daily being murdered by groups like ISIS in the Middle East and Boko Haram in Africa; I think of parents who have to empty their bank accounts when one of their children suffers a serious illness that requires special treatment; I think about those I know within the church who struggle daily with depression and anxiety. 
I wonder how and why people can tolerate such preaching on one hand while and weep for the other at the same time - and yet not see any disconnect between the two. And it does beg the question: during the week, the pastor who is a faithful sheperd to those entrusted to his care will either do visitations or open his own door to listen to those who are struggling, and offer prayer and support. If there is anyone in the church who should understand the reality of Christian suffering, it should be the pastor, right? So what exactly goes through their mind when they meet with such people during the week, yet on Sundays they get behind the pulpit to deliver a life-enhancement message with the hopes that it will get people saved? Does that part of their psyche which lets them understand and empathise with others just get turned off, or do they just not really care at all?

If you’re a pastor, an evangelist or a missionary, you’re probably watching thid vid, and right now you’re upset, you’re irritated, you’re angry. You’re thinking of either leaving a nasty anonymous comment or hitting the dislike button. Well that’s good because it shows the understand the gravity of your responsibility. Hopefully you are considering that you need to rethink your message, take your church through some much needed evaluation, and take the necessary steps to reconcile with those whose lives have been seriously hurt by the kind of preaching im talking about.
If on the other hand, you’re not sure and your going to keep this on the shelf until it blows over, let me warn you: as a pastor of a local church, you may be currently dealing with what may seem like private trials that can be kept behind closed doors in secret. But it is inevitable that one day you will ghave to address an issue of such great tradegy within your church that everyone both within the congregation and outside the community will be aware of. The onus is going to be upon you to say and do what is right before the parties involved, as well as the Lord Jesus himself. And that will be the true test of whether you really are a true shepard or whether you are a hirling who runs away when the times get tough.

Now I’m assuming that the vast majority of people watching this vid are not iordained pastors or evangelists, but everyday church members, just as I am. If you understand what I’m saying, you’re wondering where can I go to learn more or how can I get the word out – I recommend you listen to the sermon “Hell’s best Kept Secret” by Ray Comfort. This message changed my Christian walk, it changed the way I share the gospel, how I view salvation, everything. But have a listen, forward it to others in your church, to your pastor, your evangelism team. Share it with them and meet up later to talk about it.
I say this with urgency because there will come a time when those who are ministers of the gospel, the pastors and evangelists, those on television, the authors of the books you read – they will have to face God on judgment day, not on the basis of whether they go to heaven or hell, but what did as stewards of the gospel. No doubt there will be many who will step forward expecting jesus to say “well done, good and faithful servant” but insterad he will say “how could you be so cruel to the ones I placed in your care?”

Church, we cannot keep ignoring the reality of Christians who suffer as a consequence of their faith – both abroad as well as in our immediate fellowship. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s end the shame. Let’s end the silence. Thankyou for watching.