Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bible Challenge: Revelation

We pick up the second half of the book of Revelation this week.

In chapter 13 we hear about two beasts - one from the sea and the dragon.  The dragon usually gets associated with Satan, the beast from the sea was probably the Roman Emperor.  These beasts are defeated by the Lamb, which is Jesus.

Chapter 15 has one of the most quoted songs of praise to God. "Great and amazing are your deed, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of all the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? for you alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed."

As you read Revelation you will find lots of little snippets - phrases and paragraphs - that you are familiar with.  There is some very beautiful poetry that gets used in our liturgies - particularly the funeral liturgy, but also in hymns and choir anthems.

If you did the Challenge last year, you have now read the whole New Testament, take December off.  If you didn't you can read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in December

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bible Challenge: Revelation

We start on the book of Revelation this week.

Revelation is what is known as apocalyptic literature.  The word apocalypse has come to mean the end of the world, but that's not really what it means.

Apocalyptic literature is literature that uses one story to teach a lesson about something else - usually things that it isn't safe to talk about openly.

An example of this is the original Star Trek series.  It talked about issues of race relations, the Vietnam War and women's rights, but because it was set in the future it was allowed to be on the air - if they had tried to tackle those issues head on they would not have had as much of an impact.  That is apocalyptic literature.

The book of Revelation is talking about the struggles of the first century church with the prevailing culture, and especially the Roman Empire.  It wasn't okay to talk about that openly, so the author of Revelation (possibly the apostle John himself) set the discussion at the end of the world.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bible Challenge: Acts part 2

We get the second half of the book of Acts today.

We pick up in Chapter 9 with Saul - the one who consented to the stoning of Stephen and was running around arresting Christians.

He is heading off to Damascus to arrest any of the followers of Jesus he can find there.

While he is on his way he literally meets Jesus in the middle of the road and is struck blind.  This is the turning point for the Church.  This is where it moves from being a small group of Jews believing they have found the Messiah and becomes a religion that will challenge the Roman Empire.  Because Paul (as Saul changes his name to) is the one with the skills and the vision to take the message of Christ into the Roman and Greek world.  He preaches at Antioch and around the region and then comes back to Jerusalem to argue that the Gentile believers don't need to become Jews to follow Jesus and then heads out again.

By the end of the book Paul has traveled to all the major cities of Asia Minor and is on his way to Rome to answer to the Emperor himself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bible Challenge: Acts

We start this week reading the book of Acts.

Acts is really the second half of the Gospel of Luke.  It is written by the same author to the same audience at about the same time.  It tells the story of the spread of the Gospel in the years immediately after the resurrection.

In the first 8 chapters of Acts we find the story of the Ascension and Pentecost and the calling of Stephen and his stoning to death and the preaching of Philip.

We also get introduced to this character called Saul who is after the church, approved of the stoning of Stephen and is taking away to prison any of the followers of Jesus that he can find.

From the very beginning of the church we see both the power of God and the reaction to the message of God by those who are being challenged by it.

We will hear more about that Saul fellow next week.