Our Israel tour, 12 months ago

Recalling our tour of Israel and Jordan in May 2017.

It’s 12 months today since our group took off from Perth for Israel and Jordan.

You visualize the Bible narratives in fresh ways after you’ve been there.

Lambert recently shared his 40-minute video of the trip in the Israel 2017 Facebook group. Siew Ho shared his longer version on DVD.

If you’d like to relive it, here’s our summary of each day: Continue reading “Our Israel tour, 12 months ago”

How does Jesus become king? (Matthew 13:53-58)

How does Jesus receive the kingship if people don’t give it to him?

Open Matthew 13:53-58.

Jesus taught like an artist. His word pictures lift us above the human conflicts to a plateau where we can see what the earth was meant to be — a place of peace, responsive to heaven’s government.

This is future, yet it’s already here in the present. Jesus has re-sowed God’s world, and some seeds are heading toward harvest. Sure, there are weeds in God’s field, but there’s wheat as well. The mustard seed is growing. The leaven is permeating the dough. People trade other dreams for God’s reign. The net is in the water, and God will sort the good from the bad.

God’s reign is here. Only the good that God intended will last.

Jesus’ kingdom vision was inspiring, but was it credible? Compared to Herod or Caesar, what kind of king was Jesus of Nazareth?

Continue reading “How does Jesus become king? (Matthew 13:53-58)”

Exciting announcement: Riverview College

Did you hear about the new college in Perth?

At last I can break the news that Riverview Church is launching a college in July.

Riverview College offers adults a formal qualification and hands-on experience:

  • Diploma of Ministry (10574NAT), accredited through Vose (RTO0145),
  • Leadership development, through workshops and internship.

Continue reading “Exciting announcement: Riverview College”

Trained for kingdom business (Matthew 13:51-52)

Can Jesus teach us to present his kingdom in our setting?

Open Matthew 13:51-52.

The final parable of Matthew 13 would be the most relevant and practical of all, if we understood it. It’s the final application, the “so what” of the kingdom parables. Jesus commissions us to do something with the kingdom.

But what is he asking us to do by telling a story about a householder laying out his new and old treasures? Continue reading “Trained for kingdom business (Matthew 13:51-52)”

Best commentaries

A commentary might help you study better. But how do you know what to choose?

For serious Bible study, you benefit from hearing what others say about the text. But how do you know which commentaries to buy?

Several commentators have chosen their favourites at BestCommentaries.com. Like everyone, they have their bias (Evangelical, with a Calvinistic bent), but it’s still a good indicator.

And the good news is that you’ll find many (not all) of the top commentaries for each book of the Bible on sale at Logos this month (May 2018).

Which Bible book will you study next? Pick up the commentary. Continue reading “Best commentaries”

Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)

If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he sort out injustice now?

Open Matthew 13:47-50.

Why is the world such a mess if it’s God’s kingdom? How can so much evil and injustice exist in the kingdom of God?

Why doesn’t our heavenly king sort out his earthly realm? Is this really the best God can do?

That’s no theoretical question. Ask the people in pain. Ask the parents of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. Why doesn’t God act? Philip Yancey calls it, “the question that never goes away.”

Megaphones blare, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!Continue reading “Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)”

What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)

What would it be worth to have God reigning over us?

Open Matthew 13:45-46.

Did you hear the one about the art lover who found an original by someone she and her husband admired? She texted the details to get his opinion. Between meetings, he rushed back a reply, “No. Price too high.” But his fumbling fingers missed the full stop. The text she received read, “No price too high.”

Did you hear the one Jesus told about the pearl merchant? He found the one he’d been waiting for, the elusive pearl with flawless shape, glistening tone, and perfect lustre. He traded everything away to have the thing he’d been waiting his whole life to find.

For Jesus, God’s reign over the world is that one thing worth trading everything for. Like the pearl merchant you might recognize it as the thing you’ve been searching for. Or you may not have been searching; perhaps you just stumbled on it, like treasure buried in a field. Either way, when you see it for what it is — the possibility of everything on earth functioning as beautifully as it was designed to do — what value do you place on it? Continue reading “What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)”

Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)

What’s your dream? And what will you do to get there?

Open Matthew 13:44.

What’s your dream? And what would you do to get it? Your honest answers to those questions reveal more about you than you realize.

Someone caught up in the first euphoria of love dreams of a beautiful life with that special someone, whatever it costs. The entrepreneur dreams of owning the Monopoly board, driven by a plan that just might give it to him.

But our best dreams are bigger than ourselves. Dreams like clean drinking water for Africa, empowering locals to transform Cambodia, or A21’s audacious vision to end modern slavery. Syrians dream of living in a country where they need not fear being shot, and some young Americans do too. Martin Luther King Jr still speaks, “I have a dream …”

The trouble with dreams is that the how is more difficult than the what. Continue reading “Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)”

What’s the Bible’s main theme?

What is the Bible about? What picture do you get when you put the pieces together?

Say your niece is reading The Chronicles of Narnia. You ask, “What do you think the story is about?” and she says, “I think it’s about the wardrobe.”

“What about the lion? Was the story about him?”

“Well he’s in the story, but the wardrobe is important. Don’t you see? That’s how you get in. That’s why it’s the final word in the title.”

You might wonder how much of the story she’s read. But how do you go about identifying the core theme of an extended story like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or the Bible.

What is the Bible’s message? Is personal salvation the main theme? Or is that just the bit about how you get in? Continue reading “What’s the Bible’s main theme?”

Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)

Wisdom: learning from where we’ve been, to end up in a better place.

Open Matthew 3:34-35.

So why did Jesus speak in parables? He was revealing divine plans that had been confidential since the world was founded.

That’s how Matthew’s community understood him, based on Psalm 78:2:
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world (quoted in Matthew 13:35).

But why did they think that Psalm was about Jesus? Was it just because the Psalm used the word parable? Continue reading “Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)”

Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)

How is the kingdom of heaven like a woman baking bread?

Open Matthew 13:33.

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread in the morning. Flour, water, and yeast go in the bread maker in the evening, and in the morning the aroma of fresh bread helps you rise to a new day.

We have it so easy. Back in Jesus’ day they kneaded the dough by hand, kept aside some sourdough as leaven for tomorrow, waited for it to rise, punched it down again, waited some more, and then built a fire to bake it.

Jesus told a story about a woman who must have been baking for a party. She took her leaven and hid it in three big 8 kilogram batches of flour. How on earth is the heaven’s kingdom like that? Continue reading “Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)”