Welcome to my little garden where I intend to plant gospel seeds – blog by blog – through short, readable commentaries of select Bible texts with the hope that it will flourish and bear much spiritual fruit in the lives of my readers (that’s you!).
The name Seed Notes comes from a story Jesus told about a farmer who scatters his seeds far and wide, with wildly divergent results. “The seed,” Jesus says (Luke 8:11), “is the word of God.”
To many, the Bible seems like a dense forest of moral laws, genealogies, poetry, ancient history, prophecies, and personal letters to long-dead churches. But actually it’s the living word of God that tells one compelling story about Jesus.
I hope the Seed Notes sown here will serve as a useful guide for you, to taste and see the sweetness and fullness of God’s spiritual blessings in the unique and amazing collection of books we call the Bible.
(You can find out a bit more about me here.)
*Note: You may read the following posts as a supplement to your individual study or devotion, or use them as discussion points with your friends, whether Christian or non-Christian. Included are a few questions to facilitate your personal reflection or group discussions.
Counterfeit Christianity – Galatians 5:13-26 (redux)
Big Idea: No person can make another person good. There’s no ideal combination of ‘carrot and stick’ available to eliminate vices and induce virtues. Christianity provides another way. God does our makeover Himself. When complete, this sinner-to-saint makeover is so thorough that the original convert becomes a new person altogether.
Yellowjacket is not just Ant-Man’s nemesis, it’s also the name of a real-life wasp. Most wasps are harmless. They lay their eggs in a nest, and over time the larvae become insects. Not so for the Costa Rican ‘zombie wasp.’1 She lays her eggs on a spider’s belly!
From here things get even weirder. Continue reading “Religion Might Make Nice People; Jesus Makes New Ones”
Counterfeit Christianity – Galatians 5:13-26
Big Idea: Every religion has rules to stop their followers from immorality. Except Christianity. The Bible says we are the source of all our problems. No threat of punishment or promise of reward will ever be sufficient to turn us into saints. So the Christian God provides a more radical solution. He offers to inhabit our bodies and remake us from the inside out.
How should we stop people from doing bad things?
Continue reading “All Rules are Destined to be Broken”
Counterfeit Christianity – Galatians 5:1-12
Big Idea: The world thinks freedom is being able to do whatever we want. But such absences of constraint actually exposes our slavery to sin. Religion, however, is not the solution. That simply exchanges one form of slavery for another. True freedom comes from letting ourselves be constrained by Christ instead.
They came in pairs – young, slim, and beautiful – all 230 of them. North Korea’s ‘army of beauties’ were one of the breakout stars of the 2018 Winter Olympics. (This cheer squad outnumbered their athletes by roughly 10-to-1.) Their matching outfits and perfectly choreographed singing, clapping, and dancing, mesmerised the crowds. This was the North Korea that Kim Jung-Un wanted the world to see. (Kim’s wife is herself a former cheerleader.)
Continue reading “True Freedom is Not Doing Whatever We Want”
Counterfeit Christianity – Galatians 4:8-31
Big Idea: Faith is not the most important thing. What matters more is who we have faith in. No matter how sincere our faith, if it’s directed towards the wrong object it will still amount to nothing. The two mothers – Hagar and Sarah – show the two paths people can take in response to the gospel. But only one path can lead us to God the Father.
We’ve been parenting all wrong, says Amy Chua.1 She should know. Her two daughters recently graduated from Yale and Harvard.2 ‘Tiger Mom’ Chua attributed their success to her strict rule-based parenting.
Continue reading “Who Your Parents Are, Matters”
Counterfeit Christianity – Galatians 3:26-4:7
Big Idea: Many Christians believe what we need most after conversion is the law. We need to learn how to behave properly so that God would love and bless us. But emphasising morality, at the expense of the gospel, is not progress, but regression. The law makes us slaves. Only the gospel produces children of God.
“I’m about to die. Please take Hyun Sook with you back to America,” her grandmother pleaded with Rick. They had met only one week ago.
Continue reading “Why Be Slaves When You Can Be Sons?”
Notes to Self: Applying gospel truths to my own heart
“This January it will be different,” I tell myself. “I will definitely exercise more.” Plus, “I will also be less selfish and a better person.” But if this year is anything like past years, by around March, all my best efforts will grind to a halt.
Why? Experts say we tend to make one of two mistakes:
Either our resolutions are too general, or they are too numerous.
Continue reading “Do Less, Be More”
Counterfeit Christianity ~ Galatians 3:15-25
Big Idea: God’s laws in the Old Testament are not God’s most important revelation. To read the Bible with an emphasis on how God expects us to behave is to misread the Bible completely. God’s most important revelation is the gospel – God’s gracious promise to Abraham fulfilled by Jesus – that sinful people can be loved by a holy God for all eternity.
Everyone is born with an appendix – a small worm-like pouch dangling from the end of our large intestines. But no one would seriously miss it if it’s gone. So why do we have it at all? Biologists say it’s probably a remnant of our human past. (Hint: google “human vestigiality.”) It was very important ages ago, but not anymore.
Continue reading “Christians Need the Law as Much as Humans Need an Appendix?”
Counterfeit Christianity ~ Galatians 3:1-14
Big Idea: Many say they believe the gospel but actually live like legalists. Paul says it has to be one or the other. Believe the gospel or keep the law. It can never be both. To say that Christians need both is foolishness and denies God’s consistent purpose throughout history.
What are you really depending on to get you through each day? Jesus’ free grace, or your own religious performance? For most of us, likely a bit of both.
To that, the Apostle Paul says, “You fools!”
Continue reading “When Good Works Don’t Work”
Counterfeit Christianity ~ Galatians 2:11-21
Big Idea: Right beliefs don’t always lead to right behaviour. Peer pressure – our desire for acceptance and approval by others – can lead even the most mature Christians astray. We resist such pressures by trusting in God’s approval and acceptance through Jesus.
Bogota, with a population of over seven million, has some of the worst traffic problems in the world.1
Over 1,300 people die every year from road accidents in Columbia’s capital city. Many involve jaywalkers hit by speeding cars that routinely ignore red lights. Traffic police wasn’t much help either, with a notorious reputation for corruption.
Who can solve this intractable problem?
Continue reading “Even Apostles Succumb to Peer Pressure”
Counterfeit Christianity ~ Galatians 2:1-10
Big Idea: The gospel of Jesus is not tied to any single race or culture. To impose the racial norms of one group onto all other believers distorts, rather than preserves, the gospel message. Legalists tend to disguise cultural norms as religious obligations to pressure others to conform.
What does religious freedom look like?
Continue reading “The Gospel is Not African, British, or Chinese”