on Isaiah 40

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”
A voice said,
“Shout!”
I asked,
“What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. — Isaiah 40:1-11

“Dear Granddaughter

It’s strange writing this to you right now, because you’re just a little kid. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll probably be gone. But I want you to remember what I’m now telling you. Continue reading “on Isaiah 40”

Was the Late Roman Army Inferior?

Which army was better – the early imperial Roman army, or the late Roman army?

Picture two boxers: one is a younger guy, his face is a mess of scars, his shoulders and gait confident, thick neck and wild eyes; you get the sense that no number of knockout punches would floor him. The other is an older guy, his face is also scarred, he’s a little warier and more calculating than the first guy, with a killer right hook, but you get the sense that outlasting him just might win you the fight. Continue reading “Was the Late Roman Army Inferior?”

on the progress of the gospel

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip,
“Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip,
“Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said,
“Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. — Acts 8:26-40

Growing up in church, I watched quite a lot of Jesus movies. They were alright, they were pretty cheesy but they were earnest and well-meaning, and they told the story of Jesus as best they could. As I grew a bit older, I couldn’t help but notice how Jesus was always a white guy with dirty blonde hair and a gleaming smile. And then came the late 90s and the early 2000s, and almost always you’d get one or two black actors inserted into these movies and TV shows. One TV show had the apostle John played by a black actor, and I clearly remember thinking “Well that seems a bit forced – John was Jewish, definitely not black.” But then again Jesus wasn’t white either. And I would then think about today’s passage; I would say “This story already shows that the gospel is for all people – Jewish, black, white, everyone – there’s no need to play around with racial equality when this passage already deals with that.” Continue reading “on the progress of the gospel”

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